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Clarett ruled ineligible for rest of season

Nobody said that winning a national championship - or recruiting Maurice Clarett in the first place - would be easy.

The attention the Ohio State Buckeyes received for beating Miami in last season's Fiesta Bowl for the national championship seems like a distant memory, overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Clarett.

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It ultimately led to yesterday's announcement in Columbus, Ohio, that the talented sophomore tailback has been ruled ineligible for the season.

In announcing that Clarett had been suspended for accepting thousands of dollars of improper benefits and later lying to investigators from the university and the NCAA, Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger didn't quite close the door on a Buckeyes career that most believe is over.

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While Ohio State can appeal to have Clarett reinstated next season if he makes a donation to a charity of his choice, comparable to the value of the items he received, many believe he will leave the university to play at another school or play professionally in Canada. Clarett can remain at Ohio State on scholarship, Geiger said.

"We hope the NCAA considers a suspension for this season to be sufficient," said Geiger, the former athletic director at Maryland. "More importantly, we hope that Maurice will remain in school to pursue his degree and that conditions will warrant our application for reinstatement to play Buckeye football next season."

It has been reported that Clarett could transfer to Grambling, a Division I-AA school trying to revive its rich football history under former NFL quarterback Doug Williams, now the team's head coach. Clarett would be eligible to play immediately for Grambling after he is reinstated.

Williams was holding a No. 13 jersey - the number Clarett wore at Ohio State - during a news conference Tuesday.

Clarett was unavailable to comment, but his attorney, Scott Schiff, said that "he's considering his options right now."

If Clarett decides to transfer to another Division I-A school, he would have to sit out a year and the school would have to apply for his reinstatement. It's also possible Clarett might try to challenge the NFL eligibility rule regarding collegiate players, which states that a player must wait three years after graduating high school before making himself available for the NFL draft.

Ohio State found Clarett guilty of 14 violations of ethical conduct bylaw and two violations of receiving preferential treatment or benefits because he is an athlete. Geiger said that each student-athlete is given a copy of NCAA Bylaw 10, which deals with ethical conduct and not lying to investigators.

"You play by the rules, you have to live by the rules," Geiger said.

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Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who said he spent more time with Clarett than any other player during the coach's first two years in Columbus, called yesterday's ruling "very distressing because I happen to think that ... the sky's the limit as to what he can be."

Tressel second-guessed himself regarding his relationship with Clarett.

"The question would be, 'Could I have spent more time with him, could I have done a better job in some areas?' " Tressel said. "Those are things I think about often ... perhaps I didn't do as well as I could have done."

Since arriving on campus as a highly touted freshman from Youngstown, Ohio - the same city in which Tressel made his reputation as coach at Youngstown State - Clarett has been the focal point for controversy.

Before playing his first game, Clarett blasted his more experienced teammates for not working hard enough in the preseason.

Clarett, who also had a number of heated discussions with one of his assistant coaches during games, gained 1,237 yards in the regular season as a freshman. After leading the team to an undefeated regular season, Clarett scored the winning touchdown in Ohio State's 31-24 double-overtime win over Miami. That 5-yard run would be his last carry for the Buckeyes.

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The controversy surrounding Clarett began to flare early in the summer, when a former university tutor said Clarett had received special treatment in taking a test. That claim, made public in a New York Times article, was denied by Geiger and other school officials.

Some of the alleged benefits involving Clarett occurred during his freshman year, prior to the Fiesta Bowl. But even though the infractions date back to 2002, the school is not in jeopardy of having its national title stripped. Because the NCAA is not in charge of the bowl system, it does not have the power to strip a school of a national title.

"If the university was unaware or uninvolved, then the university is not culpable," Geiger said yesterday.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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