Tressel: Ohio State ready to cut ties with Clarett after indictment

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 10, 2003

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel won't stand in the way if suspended running back Maurice Clarett wants to leave.

On the same day Clarett was charged with lying to police about items stolen from him out of a car, Tressel said he didn't expect the star player would return to the defending national champions this season.

Asked Tuesday if he would be in favor of releasing Clarett from his scholarship if the sophomore sought to change schools, Tressel said, ''My recommendation would be yes.''

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Clarett was charged with misdemeanor falsification. If convicted, Clarett would face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. But probation is likely the harshest sentence a judge would impose, city prosecutor Stephen McIntosh said.

Tressel said he has been too busy to devote much time to Clarett's case.

''I haven't spent any time on it, you know, outside of maybe a minute or two prayer every day for Maurice and his family,'' Tressel said.

Ohio State and the NCAA have been looking into Clarett's finances since spring. Clarett acknowledged earlier this summer that he filed an exaggerated theft report after his car was broken into in April. The car, a 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was borrowed from a local dealer.

Clarett stated he had lost more than $10,000 in items in the theft, including $800 in cash, $300 in clothing, hundreds of CDs and thousands of dollars in stereo equipment.

Clarett has until Oct. 10 to enter a plea. He only has to appear in court if he pleads guilty or no contest, McIntosh said.

Alan C. Milstein, the Clarett family attorney, said he wasn't surprised by Tressel's comments or the misdemeanor charge.

''Nothing Ohio State does surprises me,'' Milstein said. ''I don't think the family recognizes what Ohio State's actions and motivations are, either.''

Milstein declined to comment on whether Clarett would consider transferring.

Asked if Clarett had played his final game for the Buckeyes, Milstein said, ''I think that's up to Ohio State.''

If Clarett's Ohio State career is over, his last carry would rank among the most memorable in school history. He scored on a 5-yard run in the second overtime to give the Buckeyes a 31-24 victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl and their first national championship in 34 years.

Clarett set Ohio State freshman records last season with 1,237 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.

NCAA spokeswoman Kay Hawes would not comment on Clarett's situation. Generally, if a suspended or ineligible player transfers, the new school would have to declare him ineligible, then seek his reinstatement through the NCAA, she said.

If Clarett transferred to another Division I-A school, he would have to sit out a year in addition to any suspension or ineligibility handed down by the NCAA. He could transfer to a Division I-AA, II or III school and be available to play after fulfilling any possible penalties.

Doug Williams, the coach at I-AA Grambling, joked Tuesday that he would welcome Clarett to his campus. Williams even brought a No. 13 jersey -- Clarett's number at Ohio State -- to his weekly news conference.

Clarett's mother, Michelle, and lawyer Scott Schiff, who will represent Clarett on the misdemeanor, did not return phone messages seeking comment on the charge. Former NFL star Jim Brown, a family friend of the Claretts, declined to comment when contacted.

Ohio State has been working for more than two weeks on a response to ''several pages'' of allegations sent by the NCAA to the university. Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said Tuesday that he didn't know when the response would be finished.

The university does not have a set punishment for athletes charged with misdemeanors, Geiger said. The charge will not factor into the length of a suspension the university will recommend to the NCAA, he said.

Unrelated to the suspension, Clarett also is being investigated by an Ohio State panel looking into allegations of academic improprieties involving Buckeyes athletes.