|ESPN's 04-05 war against tOSU and Tressel ESPN, the war they've decided to wage against all Buckeyes everywhere, Maurice Clarett, his allegations, his suspension, his lawsuit against the NFL, his upcoming draft position, etc. This is a temporary isolation forum until the latest bad weather|
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The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
In this thread I will attempt to keep the whole Maurice Clarett/ESPN saga defined and the information at our collective fingertips. As you are aware, this Tuesday, ESPN began running a series of articles critical of the Ohio State University, Coach Jim Tressel, and others in the OSU Athletic Department. This thread will (hopefully) be used as reference material for the whole ordeal, helping to keep the timelines organized and the proper statements attributed to the correct persons. I will focus on the "printed" material for which there is a direct link and verifiable sources. If we are to (once again) defend our University and Athletic Department from the Maurice Clarett scandel, let's get the facts straight and view both sides of the argument, something that has been lacking with ESPN.
This thread lists ALL the ESPN articles along with Jim Tressel's and Andy Geiger's statements in whole. So the first 13 (or so) posts are articles that you might have already read. I also thought having the entire ESPN texts on site would cut down "hits" on their site. After the listing of articles, there are quotes from different sources (some positive, some negative) categorized by the day the quote was used by a news source.
So read on and judge for yourself. It's a facinating study on what people originally told ESPN for their series of articles and what position they are taking now.
Last edited by 3yardsandacloud; 11-12-2004 at 09:21 PM.
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article #1. ESPN begins running a series of articles detailing the allegation of former OSU running back Maurice Clarett.
My Side - ESPN •FB
Tuesday, November 9, 2004
By Tom Friend - ESPN The Magazine
He left on a Greyhound bus last May, without a goodbye, without anyone even flipping him the bird. He left unceremoniously, in the middle of the week, with one suitcase, one jacket and one championship he doubted was worth its weight in paper. He left behind the car dealerships, where he says the head coach got him SUVs. He left behind the library, where he says tutors got him bogus A's. He left behind the two-story homes, where he says he got paid for watching paint dry.
He left behind the stucco mansions, where he says boosters slipped him cash for playing Sega with their kids. And he left behind the horseshoe stadium, where he says one man in particular "sold me out".
He never told his mother he was fleeing Columbus, fleeing Ohio, fleeing the racist hate mail she'd already handed over to the FBI. He was too depressed to tell her, but too persona non grata to stay.
He sat alone on that bus for four days. Sat there clearing his mind. Sat there until he saw the Pacific Ocean. He pressed his head against the window and stretched his legs across two seats, and replayed all of his thoughts: the NFL won't let me in. They hate me. They think I don't work hard. They think I'm poison. They don't know the half of it. They don't know the lie.
He got to Hollywood and liked that he could actually walk the streets and not hear: There goes Maurice Clarett. He slept on a buddy's floor, and laid off the carbs, and hoped by this autumn, his second season away from football, his name wouldn't still be synonymous with scandal. But no chance. His associates called several NFL GMs this October and asked them, "What's your perception of Clarett?" And the consensus was the same: immature. Risky. No work ethic. Fourth round.
It angered him, because he thought his college coach, Jim Tressel, the coach he claims he protected in an NCAA investigation, would have set those GMs straight. Would have told them how Clarett used to close down the weight room, how he once returned from knee surgery like it was the flu, how they never would've beaten Miami without him.
"I thought he'd give me the NFL," Maurice Clarett says. "I thought he'd say, 'You took from me and you didn't tell on me, so here's the NFL.' He could have painted me as the first pick in the draft, as the world's greatest everything. He wound up selling me out."
Now, Clarett is a football pariah, denounced by his own school, a school he carried to a national championship almost two years ago. According to one NFL GM, Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger disparaged Clarett's character to league officials last spring, leading some teams to take Clarett off their draft board. "The AD just didn't like Clarett, for whatever reason," the GM says.
But few know why Clarett kept answering "I don't know" to the NCAA's questions. The NCAA kept asking where he got his cash, cars and trinkets, and Clarett claims he kept saying "I don't know" or "I just magically got them" or "I don't remember." Geiger was furious with him for that, and the NCAA ran him out for that. But Clarett says he lied to save his coach's hide, lied because he thought his coach would convince Geiger to keep him eligible, lied because he didn't want to implicate the men in Columbus with deep pockets.
"He's ineligible because he declined to tell the truth 17 times during an investigation," Geiger says, while refusing to comment on Clarett's specific allegations. "If you want to give him credibility when he's been unable to tell the truth under any circumstance since I've been around him, I'm not going to respond."
But, says Clarett, "what would've become of Ohio State if I said everything? Half the team would've been suspended, and it would've been worse for everybody. I was like, why don't I just take it?"
He thought Tressel would return the favor and protect him, but instead he was suspended indefinitely. Then, he says, he was stripped of teachers, tutors and perks. He calls it an institutional "blackball." That's why he sits in front of a tape recorder now, 14 months later, so he can tell the NFL GMs that there's another side to this story. That's why he's making claims about free rides, free cash, free grades and an Ohio State system that he says lined his pockets and then methodically tore him down.
"Ohio State created me," Maurice Clarett says right off the top. "They created what they suspended."
TO HEAR him talk, his college classes were a sham. Maurice Clarett graduated from high school a semester early and arrived at Ohio State in January 2002. Before long, he says, his grades were literally guaranteed. He describes a system that kept him and other players eligible and was overseen by the football program. He says his "grades were messed up" early on, that he wasn't supposed to be eligible for spring practice or the opening of training camp, but that his coaches simply fixed the problem. "As soon as they'd seen me struggle, they switched academic advisers for me," Clarett says. "He turned me on to a tutor, and then we were cool.
"The tutor is a professor at the school. I'd sit there with a notepad, and I'd be playing or talking on the phone, and he'd just outline everything in the book, and say, 'This is what you write for your paper.' He'd take a notepad and say, 'Write this, write that.'
"And they'd tell you like, the old test from winter '02 is going to be the test for January '03. Or the fall of '01 is going to be the next test. They tell you how the tests rotate."
As Clarett moved into his debut season in the fall of 2002, about to be the first true freshman running back to start a season opener at Ohio State, he realized everything was aligned to prevent his academic failure. If it wasn't tutors doing "research" for him, it was academic advisers registering him in courses friendly to the football program.
"My classes were all independent study," he says. "So I'd show up in like the eighth week of the quarter and do something for the last two weeks, and I'd be fine. A lot of times, during classes, I'd be in the weight room lifting. The coaches would be like, 'You get your class done?' I'd be like, 'I'll get it done the last two weeks.'"
Clarett says his adviser mapped out his course schedule, put him in easy classes and told him which teachers were on his side. For example, he says he almost never attended one African-American and African studies class, and when he did, it wasn't difficult to cheat. "It was probably like a 40-person class, and 30 of them were football players," he says.
A former member of OSU's academic support staff, who requested anonymity, confirms Clarett's initial grades were "in bad shape," and that Clarett was given a tutor who "only had a few weeks to get him ready for exams" and keep him eligible. "We helped Maurice with, 'How can I survive, how can I get a good grade on a test,'" the former staffer says. "We understand the system. But that doesn't mean we did his work. Players like to brag that people are helping them out. It's a sign of status."
Clarett wasn't naïve. He had suspected before he arrived in Columbus that he'd have privileges. "Any kid from Ohio will know," he says. "It's kind of a tradition. If you play good at Ohio State, you get taken care of." But living it was another experience. The favors, he says, began his first day on campus, in January 2002. There were no unoccupied dorm rooms that day, he says, and a staff member told him to stay in a hotel. "I ain't got no money," Clarett said. He says the staff member simply put it on a credit card.
That summer, Clarett says, the staff began finding him phantom jobs to put money in his pocket. He says it was the responsibility of running backs coach Dick Tressel, Jim's brother and then associate director of football operations, to find jobs for guys on the team. "If you're a walk-on, you're going to get a real job," Clarett explains. "But if you're a player, you go water some flowers for like four hours, and they pay you like a couple hundred. Sometimes you don't show up and you still get paid.
"That was my introduction to 'here comes all the free money.' I did show up at first. But I was like, this is boring, I ain't doing this. I used to go watch 'em hang drywall or something. I'd just hang out, go to McDonald's, come back, watch, leave, be gone. I made a couple grand."
By the fall, he says, the staff was "aligning" him with boosters who'd give him money for food, or for the shopping mall. He says coaches would tell him, go eat here and say hello to this person, or go to this school and talk, or go to this event and speak. Do this and when you leave, someone is going to set you straight.
"They got a little thing where you read books every Friday for kids. And you'll magically meet somebody there. Mr. Such-and-Such will be there. And then you meet Mr. Such-and-Such, and Mr. Such-and-Such becomes your friend for a while."
And how much cash would Mr. Such-and-Such pass along?
"Depends how you played that week," Clarett says.
After a 175-yard game? "It was in the thousands," says Clarett, who had 175 yards in the 2002 season opener against Texas Tech. "That was cool."
How would the cash change hands? "It'd get filtered down," Clarett says. "Me and a player would go into a coach's office. And the coach would be like, 'You met my friend Such-and-Such? He's a good friend of the program. You should check him out sometime.' You go over to his house, you meet him for dinner. You go play with their kids, meet their kids. The boosters know you're in college and need help. They're like, 'You got any money in your pocket?' They make sure you're straight."
Clarett lived 15 minutes from campus, so he also needed a car. He says he took that request right to the head coach. "My transmission blew in my car, a Cadillac. So I'm like, 'Coach Tressel, I can't get back and forth to campus.' This is probably after practice, 6 o'clock, 5 o'clock one night. He gets on the phone and says, this is where I get my car from. He called the man from McDaniel Automotive. He's like, 'I got a player here, Maurice Clarett. He needs a car. Do you have a car out there he can use?'
"So the man gets on the phone with me and says, 'What kind of cars do you like?' I say, 'Got any trucks?' He says, 'Yeah, I got two trucks. I got an Expedition and I got a Tahoe here right now.' He's like, 'I'll be there tomorrow morning.' They drove down to give me the car."
Clarett says he kept the Tahoe for 11 days, then switched to the Expedition. NCAA Rule 220.127.116.11 states that an institutional employee or representative of the institution's athletic interests is not allowed to provide a student athlete with the use of an automobile. According to Clarett, that is exactly what his head coach did. "This is what Jim Tressel arranged," Clarett says.
He says as long as he was running the football well, Tressel was attentive, asking, "You cool? How's your living situation?" He says they talked three or four times a week, always behind closed doors. "We never talked in front of anybody else," Clarett says. "It was always, 'Come to my office.'"
As the season wore on, he says the car swapping escalated, and the dealerships had no qualms about accommodating him. "When you're hot in Columbus, you just go," Clarett says. "Somebody's going to recognize your face. You say, 'I need to use a car.' 'Okay, here you go.'"
He says he'd keep the cars "for weeks, until I got tired of 'em." His favorite was the Lexus SC 430 sports car, but he tried to borrow anything that was new at the time. "Put it like this," he says. "There's a dealership on Morse Road, The Car Store. They've got a used car lot. You just go to the dealership, and go and go and keep on going. That's the car dealership Coach Tressel introduced me to, that and McDaniel Automotive. Both places set me up. I wouldn't have known these places if it wasn't for Ohio State."
The perks made for a plush season. It didn't hurt that the Buckeyes were on their way to the national title game. The week they defeated archrival Michigan was Clarett's favorite week. He says coaches excused players from classes leading up to the game, and that after the 14-9 victory, boosters stopped by flashing their money clips.
"I couldn't have asked for more," Clarett says.
"I had the money I wanted, the car I wanted. I literally, literally had everything. My freshman year, being 19. If I wanted to call a girl, I could've called any girl I wanted, probably, in Ohio. If I wanted any car to drive, I could go to a dealership and get it. If I wanted some clothes, I had the money to put clothes on my back.
"And then, within a matter of months, everything got taken away. Every single thing. I'm talking from A to Z. I'd call people and they're, 'Uhhhh, I'm too busy right now.' The clubs that used to let me in? 'Uhhhh, not today.' The girls? 'Uhhh, I'm too busy right now.' Everybody became unavailable.
"I had nothing."
THE FALL was in stages, and was in part self-inflicted. Maurice Clarett knows he was wrong to have his hand out. And he also knows now he was wrong to assume Ohio State would always have his back, especially after he called them "liars" before the biggest game of his life. When he asked to attend the funeral of a childhood buddy in the week leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, he says he had initial approval to take a red-eye from Phoenix to Youngstown. But, he claims, Ohio State pulled the plug on the trip just hours before the flight. The school contended that Clarett hadn't filed the necessary paperwork to get permission to go. Clarett-who says he knocked on Tressel's door crying that night-told the media that Ohio State wasn't telling the truth.
"It was real big," he says. " 'Clarett calls Ohio State a bunch of liars.' "
Ohio State went on to win the national title, and Clarett scored the winning touchdown. But as far as Clarett is concerned, the minute he called out his school was the minute he was sent to an island. The boosters were the first to abandon him. "They didn't help me out," he says, "because I ran my mouth."
But he was still "switching cars like crazy." On the night of April 16, 2003, he borrowed a luxury vehicle from The Car Store, a loaded black 2001 Monte Carlo, just purchased at auction. He drove it to practice the next morning, and while he was working out he learned it had been burglarized. He says he called Tressel, asking him what to do, and says Tressel advised him to phone campus police. Records show he called them from a phone in the football office.
He met a campus policeman at the car. When he was asked what was missing, Clarett says he told him assorted TVs, radios and CDs, plus his wallet and some clothes. The cop asked how much the TVs and radios were worth, and Clarett says he could only guess because it was a borrowed car, a car he'd had for only 12 hours. He says the cop also asked how many CDs were in the car, and Clarett guessed there were two cases containing up to 300. The cop, agreeing with his guess and assuming each CD cost $15, added it all up.
So the unsigned police report listed the following stolen items: cash ($800), various audio components ($5,000), clothing ($300), two CD cases with a total of 300 CDs (estimated $4,500) and a black leather bi-fold. Total: $10,150.
Clarett thought the news of the break-in might go public, but it didn't. He never filed an insurance claim because the stolen items weren't his. When school ended in the spring, he simply moved on, leaving the team's practice facility to work with a personal trainer in Cleveland. He soon sensed Tressel and his staff were riled, thinking they'd lost control of their star.
"I didn't care," Clarett says. "I was like, the hell with them. I'm not saying it to be cocky, but people in town thought I had become bigger than Ohio State. The thing at the Fiesta Bowl had made everything real big, and they thought I needed to be brought down."
Soon he received an urgent phone call from the athletic department. The NCAA wanted to see him. They told him to bring an attorney.
MAYBE IT was all the buzzing around in that Lexus. Or maybe it was the costly break-in. But by the spring of 2003, the NCAA had serious problems with Maurice Clarett.
On May 5, the NCAA first contacted Ohio State about him, and on June 26, Clarett and the only attorney he knew-personal injury lawyer Scott Schiff-first met with investigators. They asked about the break-in. Tressel, according to reports, was vague about his knowledge of it.
Soon, the leaks started. On July 12 The New York Times reported that Clarett and other players had received preferential academic treatment, that Clarett had walked out of an exam and been allowed to take an oral retest. The school responded by saying it would investigate academic standards for athletes (they ultimately said they found no wrongdoing). Geiger said there had been no special treatment for Clarett or any other athletes at the school.
On July 29, news of the Monte Carlo break-in finally went public, and the next day Tressel and Geiger announced that Clarett couldn't rejoin the team until issues about his eligibility were settled. By Aug. 22 the punishment had become a "multigame" suspension. Then on Sept. 10, Geiger announced that Clarett was done for the year for violating NCAA Bylaws 10.1 (not giving forthright answers) and 12 (taking benefits).
After Geiger made his announcement, Clarett refused comment-he claims Ohio State asked him not to talk-but he now claims he violated Bylaw 10.1 to protect Tressel and violated Bylaw 12 because of Tressel.
He says during the investigation that the NCAA rifled through credit card statements and asked, "How are you affording $800 worth of clothes from Macy's?" He says he told them he "magically" got the cash from his mother. When the NCAA asked how he paid for his food and gasoline, he started with the "I don't knows."
The NCAA asked about the Chevy Tahoe, the one he'd kept for 11 days, and he played dumb. "They asked, 'How did you get the car?'" Clarett says. "I said, 'I looked up the dealer's number in the phone book.' So they go investigating and find out the number isn't even in the phone book. They said, 'Did you get this car through Coach Tressel?' I'm like, 'Nah.' They suspended me for that." They also suspended him for the break-in, claiming he'd lied about the cost of the stolen items. "I didn't lie, I guessed," he says.
But by then he had begun to see the hypocrisy of it all. He was also being suspended for his relationship with Bobby Dellimuti, a caterer and family friend from Youngstown who gave Clarett and his mother upward of $2,000 while he was still in high school. At first Clarett lied and told the NCAA that Dellimuti gave him nothing. But eventually he came clean about a $500 check and $1,000 worth of cell-phone bills Dellimuti had paid for him since the 11th grade. Because Clarett hadn't known Dellimuti before his recruitment by Ohio State, these gifts were a violation of NCAA rules. This confounded Clarett. He says Ohio State gave him much more money than that, but, in the end, these cell-phone bills were what was helping to derail his sophomore season.
Sitting in the room with Geiger and NCAA officials, Clarett says he nearly lost his cool: "I said, 'If you're suspending me for stuff I did back in high school, I was never eligible to play anyway. So the trophy should be taken back, right?'
"Geiger just said, 'No, no, no, no. That has nothing to do with it. Just answer the questions.'"
And that was the hang-up; Clarett wasn't answering questions. "I was trying to protect Coach Tressel, the boosters and everybody," he claims. "There were all kind of bills I had run up that boosters just gave me cash for. And I couldn't explain to the NCAA where I got it from.
"During the investigation, they started asking, 'Did anybody else get benefits?' And I'm sitting there thinking to myself, 'I'm going through four-hour interviews. If I tell on anyone, you're going to bring him in, and he's going to have four-hour interviews. It was more than 10 people. It was more than 20 people.
"The NCAA was, 'Are you sure you don't want to say anything about anybody else? And Mr. Geiger was like, 'Are you sure?' Inside, I'm like, 'Are you crazy?' The only thing that matters at Ohio State is football. Everybody knows what's going on, but everybody doesn't want to act like they know."
In September, the Columbus City attorney began to prosecute Clarett for the police report. The attorney said Clarett had falsified it. Clarett maintained he'd guessed at it, but rather than go to trial he accepted a plea bargain and paid a $100 fine to put the ordeal behind him.
But he was being vilified in town, and by December, he says, he'd received hate mail and a death threat. He was sure it was all payback for his one big mistake: dissing Ohio State at the Fiesta Bowl. "They were thinking, 'How do we get him back?'" Clarett says. "They called me a liar. 'He lied about his police report. He lied during his investigation.'"
Clarett thought there was one person who could help. But he couldn't get that person on the phone. "I couldn't talk to Coach Tressel," Clarett says. "He was making himself unavailable.
"We had so many meetings before that Coach Tressel just saved me in. I think he knows in his heart he sold me out. He sold me out to keep his integrity. I don't know if it was the pressure from the athletic department saying, 'You got to sell him out.' But he sold me out.
"Coach Tressel, he made everything easy ... until he wanted to make it hard."
CLARETT BEGAN to believe that Ohio State was squeezing him. He was allowed on the sideline for the 2003 home games, then he wasn't. He could play on the scout team, then he couldn't. He had his tutors, then he didn't.
He says he went to Tressel in January 2004, asking for a scenario that could land him back on the field. Months before, Tressel and Geiger had said publicly that the door was open for a return if he paid back the Dellimuti money to charity, stayed eligible and showed "personal growth." But in January, he says, Tressel told him he wouldn't consider a reinstatement unless Clarett met two more conditions. He had to work out every day at 6 a.m. for the next two months. And he had to maintain a 3.5 GPA.
Clarett has never been a morning person, nor had he ever had to pay much attention to his GPA. "For me, it was either eligible or not eligible," he says. But he went to his academic adviser to ask what classes to take. He was surprised at the response: "Maurice, you have to sign up for your own schedule now."
He enrolled in another African-American and African studies class with the teacher he had before. But after a week, he says this professor barred him from the course, and Clarett claims she told him "somebody from a higher power" had instigated the move. "They blackballed me," Clarett says.
With no tutors or teachers in his hip pocket, he felt a 3.5 GPA was improbable if not impossible. And when he told Tressel the 6 a.m. workouts were too extreme, he says Tressel's response was, "If you make that decision, you have to make another decision." So Clarett quit school in February 2004 and applied for early entry into the NFL draft.
We all know the rest. A court ruling put him in the draft, another court ruling took him out, and when the Supreme Court wouldn't overturn the final ruling, Clarett was in limbo. No school, no NFL, no nothing.
His mother, Michelle, was despondent. She remembered the day Tressel sat in her home and promised to treat Maurice like his own son. What did she think of Tressel now? She doesn't know where to begin. "Is it betrayal? Is it disrespect? Is it dishonesty? Is it deceit? Is it a knife in my back?"
SO HE got on that Greyhound. By this time, so much more was in his head. A gun shot had been fired into his mother's home. Then, in February, ESPN reported that Dellimuti had made frequent calls to online offshore bookies, and Clarett was forced to answer questions about his friend's betting.
He likes that no one in Columbus knew where he was headed. And as the miles rolled by, he devised a plan. He needed NFL GMs to know that he hadn't been the nuisance at Ohio State that he was made out to be. And the best way to convince them of that was to open his mouth. "It wasn't like I stole something," he says. "Not like I was running from the law or dragging a girl down the stairs. But I have to clear myself up now, because it's affecting the minds of the GMs. I didn't say anything before, because I didn't think it'd be a problem."
So that's why he's sitting in front of a tape recorder. He says he wants to make it clear he didn't do it to get Ohio State in hot water, that he is "still a Buckeye at heart." But that said, he also thinks Ohio State "is going to try to ruin me now," that they will "bring in their high-powered lawyers and alumni" to discredit him, that they may badmouth him again to the NFL, that they may try to get his mother fired from her job as a county clerk.
He says that would hurt, but the story's out now. He's hoping to play in the East West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl this January, his first games in two years, and he also hopes to show off his reinvented body at the NFL combine in February. At last year's combine, his body fat was a flabby 16%, but this time he plans to pare it down to under 5%. "I'm working," Maurice Clarett says. "I'm up every morning at 6 a.m."
Last edited by 3yardsandacloud; 11-17-2004 at 12:09 AM.
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article #2
Clarett claims cash, cars among benefits - ESPN •FB
Tuesday, November 9, 2004
Clarett claims cash, cars among benefits
By Tom Friend and Ryan Hockensmith - ESPN The Magazine
Ending six months of silence, former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett has told ESPN The Magazine in this week's edition that he "took the fall" for the school during a 2003 NCAA investigation and that he's talking now because he wants to "clear his name" with National Football League owners and general managers.
Clarett says that while he was at Ohio State in 2002 and 2003 head coach Jim Tressel, as well as certain members of his staff and boosters, provided him with improper benefits. He says he covered up Tressel's improprieties during the NCAA investigation and afterward, Ohio State "blackballed'' him from the football program.
According to Clarett, Tressel arranged loaner cars for him and Tressel's brother, Dick, found him lucrative landscaping jobs that he did not even have to show up for. He says members of Tressel's staff also introduced him to boosters who'd slip him thousands of dollars, and the better he played, the more cash he'd receive. He says boosters eventually began inviting him into their homes or would meet him out in the community.
"When you'd leave, [the booster] sets you straight," Clarett told The Magazine. "They say, 'You got any money in your pocket?' They make sure your money's straight."
Clarett also says he likely would have been ineligible for Ohio State's national title season of 2002 if the football staff had not "aligned'' him with an academic advisor whose goal was simply to keep him eligible. He says the academic advisor enrolled him in Independent Study courses and also put him with hand-picked teachers who would pass him whether he attended their classes or not. He says his advisor also introduced him to a tutor who prepared outlines and told him what to write for assignments.
Another former Ohio State player, linebacker Marco Cooper (2000-01; Spring 2002), corroborated many of Clarett's comments. Cooper, who was suspended from the team following two arrests for drug possession, says he also had bogus landscaping jobs, that a booster helped furnish his apartment, and that he was able to borrow cars from local Columbus dealerships in exchange for signed OSU memorabilia.
In a story separate from the Clarett issue, another former Ohio State player, current Maryland running back Sammy Maldonado, says he was placed in so many courses that did not put him on the road to graduation that only 17 of a possible 40 credits earned would transfer to his new school.
Ohio State officials have declined to comment on many of the allegations. School President Karen Holbrook, Jim Tressel and Dick Tressel refused to respond through spokespersons, while Athletic Director Andy Geiger said he would not answer questions until after the magazine story appeared, if then.
Maurice Clarett says he received improper benefits during his time at Ohio State.
"We went through a yearlong investigation of our academic programs, everything that [Clarett] has to allege,'' Geiger said. "He vowed to me that he would do something to try to get us and this may be what he's trying to do. So he's on his own.
"We dealt with this guy [Clarett] for 18 months. I just hope you've checked into the background and history of who you're dealing with.''
Clarett's former academic advisor and tutor also declined comment. The NCAA, which investigated Clarett for potential academic and financial irregularities in the summer of 2003, said it is against its policy to discuss the Clarett case.
Clarett, 21, who gained 1,237 yards and scored 18 touchdowns in 2002, his only collegiate season, says he was asked during the 2003 NCAA investigation whether he received a loaner car from Tressel, and, to protect the coach, he says, he answered no. He says when he was asked about other indiscretions, he answered, "I don't know" or "I don't remember," which was a violation of NCAA Rule 10.1, requiring forthright answers.
"What would have become of Ohio State if I said everything?'' Clarett told The Magazine. "Half the team would have been suspended, and it would have been worse for everybody. I was like, 'Why don't I just take it?'"
The school suspended him for the entire 2003 season, and when Clarett asked to be reinstated for 2004, he says the athletic department systematically "blackballed him" by taking away the teachers and tutors.
Clarett then tried applying for the 2004 NFL Draft, and was first ruled eligible and then ineligible, because he wasn't the requisite three years removed from high school. He says he was "depressed" by the court's ultimate decision to ban him, but is now working out in anticipation of the 2005 draft in April. He says he is hoping this winter to play in this winter's East-West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl, all-star invitationals that would be his first football games in two years.
Several pro executives say, as of now, the running back could go as low as the fourth or fifth round. Clarett contends he will change any negative perceptions at the NFL combine in February.
"I'm thinking, 'NFL GMs know college players take money,' " Clarett says. "It was nothing like I stole something. Nothing like I'm running from the law or I'm dragging a girl down the stairs. No domestic violence. No nothing. [But] I got to clear myself up now, because it's affecting the minds of the GMs."
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article #3. It is important to note that everyone interviewed for this article could be seen as having an "axe to grind" with OSU. The telling point in this scenario, is that NONE of the participants that represent the other side of this story are interviewed or given a chance to state their side of the story. As far as I'm aware, only Andy Geiger was ever contacted and given a chance to answer questions about this series or articles. That offer was to be conducted in front of TV cameras for the ESPN show Outside the Lines, and Mr. Geiger would be given no warning what the questions would be or topic of conversation. Andy Geiger declined to participate under these conditions
Buckeyes chime in - ESPN •FB
Tuesday, November 9, 2004
Buckeyes chime in
By Ryan Hockensmith - ESPN The Magazine
Maurice Clarett isn't the only ex-Buckeye to allege improprieties at Ohio State. A number of players tell of similar experiences.
Marco Cooper, a linebacker suspended after two drug-possession arrests, says he enjoyed perks described by Clarett. When Cooper needed wheels, he says he went to a local Dodge dealer, got keys to a car and was allowed to return it whenever. Cooper never paid or signed papers. "There's no records for that stuff," he says. "There can't be." Just as there are no records for signed helmets and balls he says players use as currency around town for cars and clothing. "It starts at the No. 1 locker and goes all the way around the room," he continues. "You don't even know who you're signing for."
Cooper says a teammate once came home with a friend and some furniture for their apartment. The friend, an OSU student, was the son of a prominent booster. "He gave us furniture all the time," Cooper says. "At least $2,000 worth of nice tables and couches." In an interview last December, Curtis Crosby, an ex-Buckeye cornerback from Columbus, said he and other players accepted the same friend's generosity. He claimed that five to 10 teammates would go out to eat, none of them seeing the tabs for meals that cost hundreds of dollars. Several former players say there are benefits to playing for OSU and coach Jim Tressel.Like Clarett, Cooper says he worked a no-show landscaping job set up through the football staff and would come and go as he pleased. He says he was paid $10 to $12 an hour and always put down in for 30 hours. "I never worked 30 hours." He adds that he received at least $2,600 in cash and never filed paperwork or went through the compliance office. He knows at least eight teammates who did the same. Crosby also says he worked bogus jobs.
But Cooper's account differs from that of Richard McNutt, a cornerback who worked on another landscaping crew. McNutt says he did anything his crew manager asked. "I can only speak for myself. All I know is I worked." (After an ankle injury ended his career, McNutt became a student-assistant for head coach Jim Tressel; he now coaches the secondary at D3 Washington & Jefferson in Pennsylvania.) Chris Vance, a star wideout in 2001-02, also denies seeing any improper benefits but says he believes Clarett. "I don't think he's lying. If he feels it's right to speak out, then I'm behind him 100%."
Cooper is back at Ohio State, taking 10 credits a quarter and hoping to return to the team or to transfer. But transferring won't be easy. After Crosby became academically ineligible, he left in 2002 and spent two semesters at Columbus State CC. He then met with officials at Grambling, who saw a transcript that included Officiating Basketball and Officiating Tennis and denied nearly half of his credits. "What are they doing up there at Ohio State?" he says an adviser asked.
They're doing some things competitors aren't, according to an ESPN poll of the Big Ten and of the BCS top 15 from 2003. Four of the 23 schools surveyed offered officiating courses, but only Ohio State has sport-specific classes. Nine schools gave credit for playing football, but OSU topped the list with a maximum of 10 career credits. Seven schools offered a football coaching course, but only four (Indiana, Miami of Ohio, Mississippi and Ohio State) let their head coach teach it.
In two years at OSU, LeAndre Boone says he took whatever courses his athletic adviser suggested: "He'd say, 'Take this class; this professor loves football players.'" After two years Boone left for D1-AA Hampton, where he could play right away. But he went from academic junior at Ohio State to barely a sophmore at Hampton. After playing one game he was found to have a career-ending heart condition, and he's since moved with his wife and two daughters to the one place he knew he could get a degree: Ohio State.
Despite acing courses like Officiating Softball and Power Volleyball, Fred Sturrup (in car, left) became academically ineligible for 2001 and lost his scholarship. He thought about leaving and met with Youngstown State coaches, but after hearing transcript horror stories from teammates, he asked for a chance to stay. To get through spring ball while he got his grades in order, he unloaded furniture for $7.50 an hour. He'd ask teammates for quarters to make phone calls, then spend them once a day on Wendy's 99-cent menu. For four months he lived in his 1971 Cadillac. If Sturrup made a mistake, he says, coaches ran him until he was exhausted.
"I thought they were going to kill him," Crosby says.
Sturrup has given up on being a Buckeye, but not on his education. He hopes to graduate from Ohio State this spring. "They stuck their foot in my ass," he says. "But I'm not letting them stop me from getting my degree."
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article #4. It is important to note that Sam Maldonado was unaware that ESPN was intending to publish this article in support of the Maurice Clarett accusations. As far as Sam knew, the piece was entirely about his trials and tribulations.
Extra Credit - ESPN •FB
Tuesday, November 9, 2004
By Ryan Hockensmith - ESPN The Magazine
In the fall of 1999, nearly every program in the country wanted Sammy "The Bull" Maldonado. What coach worth his whistle wouldn't? He was a Parade All-America with 99 touchdowns and a then-state-record 7,581 rushing yards for Harrison (N.Y.) High. He had to sift through 3,000 recruiting letters-all of which still rest in a U.S. Postal Service bin in the family's basement-before narrowing his list to Ohio State and Syracuse.
On a fall Friday morning, Buckeyes coach John Cooper sat down with Sammy's family in their living room. Rafael Maldonado, a street-tough native of Puerto Rico who'd gone from washing cars to owning a chunk of 55 New York City parking garages, didn't pull any punches. "You're getting a very good football player," he said. "But you're also getting a pain in the ass."
Cooper belly-laughed; he knew the type. Sammy, a B-student with 960 SATs, was a good kid, if a bit aloof. That didn't deter Cooper. A few weeks later, there was a press conference at Harrison High. Maldonado was going to become a Buckeye.
That fall, Maldonado lugged his first handoff seven yards off tackle for a touchdown against Penn State. He would rush 22 times for 50 yards as a freshman behind senior Derek Combs and junior Jonathan Wells. Buckeye fans chanted for The Bull whenever he saw the field, and even pestered his parents for autographs after games.
But after another loss to Michigan, Ohio State fired Cooper, and Jim Tressel-architect of four national titles at Division I-AA Youngstown State-took over. Within a year, Maldonado would be roadkill, unwanted by the team he played for and unable to play for anyone else.
Despite a solid spring and summer that got him up to No. 2 on the depth chart before that next season, Maldonado was on the sideline when August camp opened. He was asked only to participate in sprints at the end of practice, while Wells, now the starter, and freshman Lydell Ross, one of Tressel's first recruits, shared the running back duties. "I didn't know what I'd done wrong," Maldonado says. "I think Tressel wanted the guys he recruited, not the players who were already there."
Sammy's mother, Nereyda, came to campus in September and videotaped two weeks of her son standing with his arms crossed during all the drills. Then Rafael flew to Columbus for a face-to-face with the coaches. He says when he asked Tressel why his boy wasn't playing, the coach told him Sammy made too many mistakes in practice. Pressed again, Tressel insisted the kid sat because of blunders.
"You're a liar," Rafael shot back. "I've seen two weeks of tape, and Sammy hasn't even put on his helmet."
The Maldonados say that Tressel looked stunned when running backs coach Tim Spencer (now with the Chicago Bears) confirmed that Nereyda had attended practice, and they add that the head coach quickly shuffled them out of his office. Sammy barely spoke with the staff the rest of the season; he finished with 39 carries for 168 yards. "I was just some body," he says, "basically a walk-on." (Ohio State has declined to discuss anything about Maldonado.)
He was at a loss. A superstar talent from a privileged upbringing, Sammy wasn't used to not getting what he wanted. On a bleak February day in 2002, increasingly worried about a son who seemed defeated, Rafael Maldonado called Sammy's cell phone. Sammy had slipped into his own world, most days rarely leaving the couch in his off-campus apartment. He got up in time to watch Jerry Springer at 11, then played video games the rest of the day. Football was a past life. Sammy answered his phone but told his dad he couldn't talk because he was in class. "No you're not," Rafael said. "You're on the couch beside your roommates."
A minute later, Rafael was barging into the apartment. He shut off the PlayStation and chased the other guys out. Then he presented two options to his son: find a D1-AA program, where he could play right away, or transfer to Maryland, where Rafael could try to mine connections with coach Ralph Friedgen, a Harrison native. "I don't know," Sammy told his dad. "You decide."
Rafael asked Cooper, who'd become a family friend since his dismissal, where he should steer Sammy. "Your son is a Division I football player," Cooper said. "Period."
So the Maldonados asked Harrison's coach, Art Troilo Jr., to talk with Friedgen. "He's the best player I've ever had," Troilo told the Maryland coaches. "And a damn good kid." Friedgen wasn't sold. "I have enough headaches," he said to the Maldonados over the phone. "I don't need your son."
Sammy Maldonado has made the most of a second chance at Maryland.
But the family and Troilo kept chipping away. Finally, Friedgen told Sammy he could come to College Park.
Then Maryland got a look at his transcript.
IN SIX academic quarters at Ohio State, Maldonado had earned a decent number of credits (his 57 were the equivalent of about 40 at a semester school). He compiled a 2.3 GPA and had never lost his eligibility. But his coursework included four credits for playing football, three for Tressel's Coaching Football class, 10 for remedial reading, 10 for remedial math and three for Issues Affecting Student Athletes. Six other credits wouldn't transfer because he earned D's in two classes. Maldonado couldn't understand how he had earned only 17 transferable credits in two years. Even today the number pinballs around his head. "What kind of degree can you get from Ohio State if none of your classes count at other colleges?" he asks.
Not much of one, according to The Drake Group, an NCAA watchdog. Members of the organization refer to schools like Ohio State as "football factories" that offer soft courses designed to keep players on the field. "The purpose isn't to educate and graduate," says Drake Group associate director David Ridpath. "They're eligibility mills."
Maldonado figured that Friedgen wouldn't even offer a spot once the coach got wind of his transcript. The player needed to crunch the equivalent of 43 semester credits into one year just to become eligible at Maryland. He underestimated Friedgen, but just barely.
When the Maldonados flew to College Park for their first meeting with the skeptical coach, he delivered an ultimatum the family now calls Friedgen's Ten Commandments, establishing the uphill path Sammy had to travel. "We'll take you on a conditional basis," he said. "You have to pay your own way, you will go to class, you will go to study halls and you will get good grades. Do it my way or get lost."
The coach told Sammy he had to get B's in six credits of summer coursework. If he was late, or missed one class or a study hall, there would be no scholarship. Assistant coach Dave Sollazzo, another Harrison native, repositioned his desk to overlook the steps outside Byrd Stadium. Every morning at 7, Maldonado climbed down the 50 steps from the street above, gave a tired wave, then wobbled over to study hall. Sammy got his B's-and his scholarship.
Friedgen was impressed. He had seen his share of transfers over the years, but none with such a barren transcript. "It wasn't his fault," the coach says. "They had him in a bunch of classes that he shouldn't have been in."
Maldonado says the curriculum was not his idea. "Over there, they just put you in classes," he says. "I let them take care of my schedule.
I wish I wouldn't have."
But even after Maldonado worked his soft body and softer academic record into shape, Friedgen still regarded him as little more than a favor. Relegating him to the scout team, the coach decided to make Sammy despise him, to keep The Bull on edge. He made sure Maldonado became well acquainted with Maryland's Dawn Patrol, in which every slip-up, on or off the field, was rewarded with a 6 a.m. exploration of Byrd's lower bowl. "Twenty-eight aisles, 28 steps each," Maldonado moans.
After one unfocused midseason practice, Friedgen called Sammy into his office. "You're not good enough to play here; go to UMass," he said, dropping his eyes to some paperwork on his desk. A seething Maldonado stomped to the doorway before spinning around. "I'm not a I-AA player," he spit out. Friedgen didn't look up. "Talk doesn't go far with me," he said. "Show me, don't tell me."
Maldonado ran hard the next day, and the day after that, and damn near every day since. "I still get mad about it," he says. "I love the guy, but I look at Coach Friedgen and I'm afraid."
That's how Friedgen wants it. Maldonado surged to third on the depth chart, but when he bombed his first round of exams, Friedgen reverted to his drill-sergeant pose, suspending him for two games in the middle of the 2003 season. In the three games after the benching, Maldonado made the most of his 13 carries, rushing for 91 yards. But on the final play of the first quarter against North Carolina, he took a pitch, cut inside and felt his left knee give. He had torn his ACL.
Sammy's parents, worried that their son's confidence would sink again, checked him into a hotel after the surgery and took turns fetching ice and pain-killers. After a few days, Friedgen showed up with his wife, Gloria. She offered home-baked brownies, Sammy's favorite, and some encouraging words. But her bad-cop husband figured this wasn't the time to stop riding The Bull. "I told him he was a baby and he should suck it up," Friedgen says.
Sammy stewed for the rest of the week. The next Monday, though, he hobbled to a morning study hall in the mid-November chill before heading to class and practice in the afternoon.
He kept up with his school work and hammered rehab every day. This past summer he dropped eight pounds-he's down to 227-and opened preseason camp second on the depth chart behind Josh Allen. In the season opener against Northern Illinois, Maldonado churned out 84 yards and scored Maryland's first touchdown of the year. He got his first 100-yard game a week later against Temple. After nine games, he leads the Terps with 486 rushing yards and five scores. Most impressive, he's on target to graduate in May.
Maldonado doesn't need to read the stat sheet to know how far he's come. Walking to the football offices earlier this fall, he heard a bellow from across the street. "Yo, Bull!" He looked over to see a student wave and raise a fist in the air. Sammy was stopped in his tracks. "That felt good," he says. "Showed me people know what I went through."
Friedgen called him into his office the week before the Terps faced No.7 West Virginia in October. "Because I've been ripping you for three years now, I figured I'd tell you how good you've been doing," the coach said. "I want you to be a captain this week." Maldonado could barely speak; after the way that Friedgen always treated him, praise seemed too good to be true. He mumbled a meek "thank you" and began to rise from his chair.
But Friedgen wasn't through. "You gotta promise me one thing," he continued. "I don't want to hear that some NFL agent came in after the season and fed you a line of BS about getting your degree later on. Get it done." Maldonado stalked out, motivated all over again to show his coach what he could do.
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article/poll #5.
Vote: Maurice Clarett Talks - ESPN •FB
Tuesday, November 9
Vote: Maurice Clarett Talks
Do you believe him?
In the latest edition of ESPN The Magazine, former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett levels some severe allegations against his former school, including cash payments, academic fraud and the free use of cars, arranged by head coach Jim Tressel. The alleged NCAA violations took place during Ohio State's 2002 national title season.
Buckeyes Athletic Director Andy Geiger has responded to the allegations by saying "We dealt with this guy [Clarett] for 18 months. I just hope you've checked into the background and history of who you're dealing with.''
Do you believe Clarett's allegations? Are these kinds of problems commonplace in college football? If you were an NFL GM, would you take a chance of Clarett in the 2005 NFL Draft? Cast your vote now!
1) Do you believe Maurice Clarett's allegations against Ohio State?
2) Which of Clarett's allegations is the most disturbing?
• Cash from boosters
• Jim Tressel arranging for free use of cars
• Being paid for bogus jobs
• Abuse of academic advisor
3) Is it possible to run a program free of major violations and still win consistently in a major conference?
4) How would you feel if you knew your favorite team was committing NCAA violations, paying players, etc.?
• If it helps us win, anything is fair game.
• I don't see a problem with minor infractions like spending cash, buying dinner, etc.
• It's wrong.
5) Do you think the kinds of allegations Maurice Clarett has made against Ohio State happen at other Division I schools?
• Yes, it probably happens with most major programs.
• Yes, but probably just a handful of schools.
6) Should college athletes be paid?
7) If you were an NFL GM, would you take a chance on Maurice Clarett in the Draft?
• Yes, early rounds
• Yes, late rounds
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article #6.
Holding Fire - ESPN •FB
Tuesday, November 9, 2004
By Tom Friend - ESPN The Magazine
What does Ohio State have to say about Maurice Clarett's accusations that he received free use of cars, bogus grades, no-show jobs and cash from boosters during his controversial stay in Columbus?
President Karen A. Holbrook, head coach Jim Tressel and assistant Dick Tressel refused comment through spokespersons, and AD Andy Geiger says he'd have no official response until the story appeared, if then. But Geiger did give a preview of the school's potential counterattack.
"He's ineligible because he declined to tell the truth 17 times during an investigation," Geiger says. "If you want to give him credibility when he's been unable to tell the truth under any circumstance since I've been around him, I'm not going to respond.
"Clarett vowed that he'd do something to try to get us, and this may be what it is. I hope you've checked the background of who you're dealing with."
Clarett's academic adviser and tutor also declined comment. The NCAA also refused comment, as did the owners of two auto dealerships-McDaniel Automotive in Marion, Ohio, and The Car Store in Columbus-accused of loaning cars to Clarett at Jim Tressel's request.
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
Andy Geiger Responds
Transcript of Andy Geiger's Statement at the November 9th Ohio State Football Press Luncheon - Ohio State Buckeyes
Nov. 9, 2004
Transcript of Andy Geiger's Statement at the November 9th Ohio State Football Press Luncheon
GEIGER: I guess I'm part two. Greetings, everybody. Obviously many of you have seen and probably have in your possession the story that broke this morning on espn.com. We have known for a while that they were working on something. Every time they come to town, somebody calls me and says, so and so showed up at our place and wanted to interview us. So we're not shocked by the story, what was said, many of those kinds of things. I would like to set something of a context, if I may. I heard some of the questions that were asked of Coach Tressel and his responsibility and how he would respond to the allegations.
Let me remind everybody that there was an exhaustive, thorough investigation conducted by the department of athletics and the NCAA into Maurice Clarett's career at Ohio State. It was thorough. I have full confidence in Coach Tressel. I think he's done a marvelous job leading our program. I believe in his values. I have tremendous confidence in our compliance program and the thoroughness of our compliance program and the values orientation that we have in our program.
The 2000 football team that played in the first Outback Bowl, if that game had been played in January, if it had been, for example, the BCS championship game, 23 players would have been ineligible to play. The chaos in the program in terms of the academic quality and other things caused us to bring Coach Tressel to Ohio State.
Compliance is a shared responsibility. It's shared by all of us that work at Ohio State and it's shared by the student-athletes, and all of us sign affidavits annually that we understand the rules, that we know the rules, and that we comply with the rules. That includes players and staff, and it includes academic and nonacademic activities.
Since Jim Tressel has been here, we have been through a two-year study of our program through the NCAA recertification process followed by a visit by a five-person peer review team. Faculty, staff, and students were all interviewed as part of that process and many participated in the process, and we got exemplary marks in that. In the wake of the story that appeared in the New York Times, an independent faculty investigation with an outside consultant was conducted and it took quite a bit of time. Because it involved academic issues and specific student records, much of that report had to be redacted, but I can assure you that it was thorough and complete and that, once again, our academic support unit and the conduct of our staff got exemplary marks.
As a result of that study, and as a result of the self-study that we did with the NCAA recertification program, we did change the reporting relationship of our student-athlete support services organization just to make sure that there is independence in our academic activity, and they now report to the provost in the office of academic affairs.
In the story, there's discussion of independent study. Let me tell you how independent study works. Some of you may have gotten degrees from Ohio State and in the course of going to school, may have taken an independent study course or two. If you take an independent study course, you have to go to a professor and apply for that professor to register you for an independent study course. An academic counselor cannot sign you up for one of those. You have to get that done through a faculty member. Mr. Clarett, in his first three quarters at Ohio State, took one independent study course.
Remedial courses, you'll hear more about that, I think, in subsequent reporting by ESPN. Remedial courses are not selected by the student or by any academic counselor. Students place themselves in remedial courses through placement testing. There are four remedial courses at Ohio State, a math course 050, a math course 075, and English 109A and English 109B, and the students are assigned to those if their scores on placement testing or writing samples warrant their placement in those courses.
In order to take the college level math and English courses, you have to pass the remedial courses. Usually -- well, always remedial courses don't transfer and remedial courses don't count towards degrees, but if you are registered in such a course, you have to work extra hard to maintain normal progress so that you can continue eligibility.
During the time that Coach Tressel has been here, we have seen steady increase in graduation rates. This year the overall athletic department graduation rate 63% as compared to the university's 58%. And football's up from a low of 16% to 50% and will continue to increase. We lead the Big Ten academically in academic Big Ten recognition and we have four players on our team nominated for academic nomination. I think the program is doing better on and off the field. In a climate where 28 players graduated from the program and three staff moved on to other pursuits, with that large a change in the program, we still have a record of 31-5 in the win/loss column over the last three years and much, much better academic and other conduct with regard to the team.
As I mentioned earlier, our compliance program is vigorous, and each team goes through a seminar session before practice can start. And one again all players and staff are required to sign affidavits as part of the application of bylaw 10 which is ethical conduct in the NCAA bylaws. Every summer job needs to be registered and every employer is called and read the rules and told what the players must do during their summer job program. They cannot be paid for doing nothing. Every car has to be registered with our compliance area, and every car dealer is called. Every loan is chased down. Every circumstance with regard to the transaction that caused the player to achieve that car is chased down as vigorously as we possibly can.
A particular allegation concerning a demonstration car is well known and all of this that I'm talking about was covered as part of the NCAA investigation. There is nothing new in any of this. If new allegations arise from coming stories that come out and things that former players have to say, we will always investigate, we will investigate thoroughly and we will be the first to admit if there's wrongdoing and we will certainly be the first to call the NCAA. I am extremely confident in the conduct of the football program and the rest of our athletic program. We will watch coming events with great interest. I'm sad that former student-athletes who had difficulty, much of it self-imposed, are choosing this way of exposing their issues. I would remind you that the lead individual involved in this story had 17 areas of violation of bylaw 10, which is ethical conduct, and clearly, that behavior continues. We have tried to support them while they were here and we do not really harbor ill will toward them in whatever they are currently pursuing, and there certainly was not any reduction of services to any individual whether they were eligible or ineligible, in fact, we went out of our way to do the opposite.
ESPN did offer an interview opportunity for the television program "Outside the Lines," I said that in order for me to participate in that program, I wanted to have some airing or understanding of what the allegations are, and I wanted their questions in writing beforehand. They refused to do that, so I declined to be interviewed. So if you read or see that we didn't wish to be interviewed, that's the context in which we chose not to be interviewed.
We don't duck. We're not afraid of what's coming. We're not afraid of what's here. Again, I have full confidence in our coaching staff and confidence in where all of this will head. I'd be pleased to take a few questions.
REPORTER: Andy, are you saying that Maurice Clarett, in the interviews he did, lied about getting cars provided by the coach, a job that he didn't work at provided by the coach's brother, and cash from boosters, and why would he say these things?
GEIGER: Why has he done almost all of the things that he's done? I can't answer, you know, you'll have to ask him.
REPORTER: You're calling him, though, basically a liar?
GEIGER: I'm saying that I don't think those allegations are true.
REPORTER: Did he have a landscaping job?
GEIGER: He might have. I don't know that specifically. I read the article about half an hour ago so I haven't done quite all the research that perhaps I should, but he may have worked with somebody in the summer who had that sort of a job. It would not be unusual.
REPORTER: Andy, I think you said that nothing in here is new.
GEIGER: Very little is new.
REPORTER: I just wondered, in the extent that Maurice makes allegations that Coach Tressel lined him up with some loaner cars and things like that, is that new or is that something you guys have looked into?
GEIGER: Coach Tressel lined him up with a car from McDaniel Automotive in Marion, Ohio. It happens to be Jim Tressel's car dealer. He gets a car from that company and so do I, in fact. Maurice and his mother were supposed to show up at the car dealership or some place to make an arrangement to buy the car. They failed to show, and McDaniel, after eight or nine or 10 days, I forget what the date was, had to come down to the Woody Hayes facility and repossess the car. That's the only car that I know of that Coach Tressel had any hand in trying to arrange, and he took a hand in trying to arrange it because he knew the people at McDaniel would do it the right way, since he has a relationship with them, said to them, no favors. It has to be straight.
REPORTER: Is that okay for a coach to do that?
GEIGER: Sure. It was all part of the NCAA investigation, it was all part of what was disclosed and we disclosed it.
REPORTER: Has he done that with other players, Coach Tressel?
GEIGER: On occasion he or other members of the staff will refer him to people, if the guys come up and ask, where might I go to get, to talk to somebody about a car or what have you, the coach might give some recommendations, but any car dealer that we have any relationship with understands the rules because it's part of out compliance program that we check with all the car dealers that we know about.
REPORTER: Ohio State completed its investigation, you say, Andy, but what about the NCAA? Where does that stand?
GEIGER: As far as I know, it's complete. We never applied for reinstatement for Maurice, so it's a moot point.
REPORTER: Have they contacted you since this came out?
REPORTER: They have not?
GEIGER: It's been out for, I don't know what the time is on this.
REPORTER: They haven't contacted you today?
GEIGER: No. And they won't. We will probably contact them.
REPORTER: Did they look at the landscaping job in the course of the NCAA investigation?
GEIGER: Yes. Yes, they did. All of his employment arrangements were looked at.
REPORTER: Who was the employer?
GEIGER: I can't disclose that right now.
REPORTER: Andy, you said that 23 players were ineligible from that 2000 team.
GEIGER: Academically. Would have been.
REPORTER: Would have been. You changed coaches, but you didn't change any academic counselors or anybody else. There's no complicity at all that they shouldn't have known that there was going to be academic casualties?
GEIGER: I think the climate in the program has changed dramatically, and I think the emphasis on class attendance and the responsibility of the student-athletes is probably the single thing that's changed the most.
REPORTER: But I think if I recall, when we asked Coach Tressel about class attendance during the New York Times thing, he said that they don't monitor class attendance because that's outside of their purview, they don't want to be caught doing somebody else's job or considering to be interfering. Are they getting credit for class attendance if they're not doing anything to really monitor class attendance?
GEIGER: We urge them very strongly to go to class and there is now much more strong class attendance monitoring, and that's done jointly by SASSO and the football staff but led by SASSO. But we regularly communicate with faculty members on progress of students in the classes.
REPORTER: Andy, if Jim Tressel specifically named in a magazine article, why is it the school's philosophy that he doesn't address that issue?
GEIGER: It's not the school's philosophy.
REPORTER: Why was that decision made then?
GEIGER: He decided to defer to me.
REPORTER: Andy, you said in subsequent articles, do you expect ESPN the magazine to also have something?
REPORTER: Do you know for sure?
GEIGER: I'm told that they will have something.
REPORTER: Could I explore one other thing I asked you earlier?
REPORTER: In this comment you made that nothing was new in here, I'm wondering, have you looked into allegations before that Maurice received money from boosters, is that a new thing?
GEIGER: That's not a new thing in terms of our asking him about those kinds of things, it's new that he's now saying this, but it's not new that the subject was brought up.
REPORTER: I wonder, because he's changed his answer here that he gave, like a different answer, I guess, to the NCAA, do you feel now that he's changed his answer that this is something you guys need to investigate?
GEIGER: We are sad that he would do something like this, we're not surprised at all, he said something was going to happen, so here we are.
REPORTER: I wonder, you have to frame what he said before, which you can take as a threat or a promise or whatever you want to say and evaluate the context of what he's saying now, if you feel like his quote, end quote, threat completely neutralizes what he's saying now and it's not worth looking into it.
GEIGER: Oh, I didn't say we wouldn't look into it. We look into things hourly and in this community, with the hysteria that goes with at least hysteria when we lose three in a row, that goes with Ohio State football, we are ever vigilant with regard to the program and in some ways, we'll be starting over on this case again.
REPORTER: That's what I wondered. In the sense of, can you give us a statement, I guess, on what you do with what is in this story at this point in time?
GEIGER: I work at it. I work at it as hard as I can. I look at all the people in this room, many of whom live and work in this community and some of this may or may not be news to you. I don't know how you would not know if some of these kinds of things were happening in our program. I frankly don't know how you would not know, but it's our responsibility, not yours, to find out about it and we will. Although I fully expect that many of you will start digging diligently and that's fine. George?
REPORTER: You mentioned earlier that you would probably be contacting the NCAA. Could you amplify on that, please?
GEIGER: I will dial their number and talk to Bill Solm or David Price or somebody in the compliance department and tell them that, here we go again, and if they want to assign somebody to work with us on this, they are more than welcome. We are partners with them. We try to do as many of these kind of things as partners with them as much as we can, as much as we are doing with the basketball situation and we will continue to operate in that way. Again, I don't mean to sound Nixondian, but I think we run an honest ship and intend to run an honest ship and will intend to do so in an open and participate I have kind of way so we'll work with the NCAA as much as we can if that's what it comes to.
REPORTER: What do you think of Maurice's comments that he lied the first time or didn't tell the truth the first time to protect the university and others, teammates, others, in compliance or whomever, thoughts on that?
GEIGER: I don't have any thoughts on that. I don't have any comment on that.
REPORTER: Does it trouble you that more than one player --
GEIGER: I can only do one at a time.
REPORTER: If the allegations against Coach Tressel are false, they would be actionable because they defame him and cast him in a very bad light nationally, would you encourage him to file a lawsuit over this where he would be --
GEIGER: I can't comment on that. That wouldn't be really any of my business. But usually a person in a public position is not eligible for such action, can't take such action, political figures, football players, athletic directors, folks like that. Because I've thought about it before and the lawyers have said, forget it, you don't qualify buddy, you're a public person.
REPORTER: Was there ever a time when Maurice said to you in so many words that as you've said, that he vowed that he would get you or get the university?
GEIGER: You know, in moments of frustration during investigations, he might say something like, I can blow this whole program up or something like that, and so we would then say, okay, blow it up. Tell us what you know.
REPORTER: What do you make of the fact that it's not just Maurice, it's more than one player that's kind of making these charges?
GEIGER: Well, I know who the players are and what their experience was at Ohio State. I know Marco Cooper and Sammy Maldanado are mentioned in the story. You guys can look up their activities.
REPORTER: Given you were blindsided I know earlier with Jim O'Brien and some of those allegations, obviously you'd always been very -- believed in him. Is there any emotional concern here that there's something out there that's going to come out with Jim Tressel similarly?
GEIGER: I don't really believe there is anything, either emotionally or intellectually, I don't think so. Okay, one more.
REPORTER: Did he make a good faith effort after September of last year to stay in school? I mean, I think that's one of the allegations he's making that he didn't get help with stuff. What can you tell us about that?
GEIGER: It's simply not true.
REPORTER: What's not true, that he didn't --
GEIGER: He got lots of support and help and advice from the appropriate people at the university.
REPORTER: You said you were convinced the program is getting better on and off the field. In the last year off the field, you've had instances with Louis Irizarry, Ira Guilford, Lydell Ross --
GEIGER: I thought Lydell Ross was cleared of wrongdoing.
REPORTER: Is that improvement?
GEIGER: That he was cleared? Is that improvement? What's your question? I think that the program has vastly improved, and I know what I know and believe what I believe because I'm there every day and there is no comparison.
REPORTER: Will the university have any future relationship with Maurice Clarett?
GEIGER: Sure. If he wants to come back and start to school again, he'd be more than welcome, I'm sure. I don't know what his standing is academically right now because of work that wasn't completed, but I'm sure that could be worked out. At least I hope it would. Thank you all very much.
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
Jim Tressel Responds
Statement by Ohio State Football Coach Jim Tressel - Ohio State Buckeyes
Nov. 9, 2004
Statement by Ohio State Football Coach Jim Tressel
"I have read the story that appeared earlier today on ESPN.com. I can say without any reservations that all of the allegations made against me in that story are totally false."
"Additionally, I have spoken to Dick Tressel and the allegations directed toward him, as the mentor of our summer jobs program, also are false.
"I have nothing but the utmost respect for college athletics in general and college football in particular, and I would never do anything to tarnish the image of this great game or The Ohio State University."
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article #7. With it's title, ESPN implies that Andy Geiger knew Maurice Clarett would be making these allegations. Fact of the matter is that Mr. Geiger was not surprised by the actions of Maurice Clarett, after seeing first hand how difficult and dishonest he has been.
Geiger says he's not surprised by the accusations - ESPN (AP) •FB
Tuesday, November 9, 2004
Geiger says he's not surprised by the accusations
ESPN (Associated Press)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Former Ohio State star Maurice Clarett accused coach Jim Tressel, his staff and school boosters of arranging for him to get passing grades, cars, and thousands of dollars, including for bogus summer jobs. The school immediately denied the claims Tuesday.
Most of Clarett's charges, made in an interview with ESPN The Magazine, were addressed as part of an NCAA probe that found the running back lied to investigators, leading to his suspension from the team he helped win the 2002 national title.
"He's ineligible because he declined to tell the truth 17 times during an investigation," Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger told The Magazine. "If you want to give him credibility when he's been unable to tell the truth under any circumstance since I've been around him, I'm not going to respond."
Geiger was not surprised by the accusations, saying Clarett had vowed to try to hurt the program.
"In moments of frustration during the investigation, (Maurice) might say something like, 'I can blow this whole program up,' or something like that, and so we would then say, 'OK, blow it up. Tell us what you know," Geiger said.
Friends and family members say Clarett has been working out with a personal trainer in preparation for the 2005 NFL draft. He has not spoken publicly in months.
"I have had a chance to read the article, and the allegations as they were mentioned are, simply, untrue. Period," Tressel said.
According to the magazine, Clarett said Tressel set him up with a loaner car.
Geiger said Tressel did try to help Clarett buy a car through the dealership that leases cars to several Ohio State coaches and administrators. But Clarett and his mother did not meet with the dealer to make arrangements to buy the car, and the dealership came to Columbus several days later to repossess it.
Geiger said Tressel's actions did not break NCAA rules, adding that the coach put other players in touch with the dealership, too.
Former Ohio State linebacker Marco Cooper also told the magazine he had bogus landscaping jobs, received furniture from a booster and borrowed cars from Columbus dealerships in exchange for signed OSU memorabilia.
Geiger said many of the claims were found to be baseless in investigations by the NCAA and the university. He pointed out that Cooper was kicked off the team for drug possession.
Clarett told the magazine he took "the fall" for Tressel and Ohio State when meeting with the NCAA investigators but was subsequently "blackballed" when he tried to return to school.
Geiger expressed faith in the Ohio State coaches, compliance officers and academic counselors.
"We don't duck. We're not afraid of what's coming. We're not afraid of what's here," Geiger said.
Thom McDaniels, Clarett's high school coach in Warren, said Clarett will only hurt himself by making the accusations.
"I don't know how his coming forth with these comments helps him with his stock in the NFL. I think behaving that way only hurts his reputation and his marketability," McDaniels said. "That is not honorable behavior. At this point, who knows if it's fact or fabrication."
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article #8.
'Somebody will take a shot at him at someplace' - ESPN •FB
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
'Somebody will take a shot at him at someplace'
Editor's Note: Maurice Clarett says he came forward with his allegations against Ohio State so he could tell his side of the story and possibly raise his stature among NFL general managers who questioned his character. So we asked a current GM to give us his take on Clarett, character and all. In it, Clarett doesn't sound so different from other young athletes; he also sounds like a guy who won't be playing for our anonymous GM's team.
A follower. Immature. Irresponsible. Spoiled from junior high school on. Doesn't feel any accountability to anything. Everything should be given to him. Another Tak
Not a great work ethic. I don't remember what he ran in the spring. I think he's a 4.6 guy. I thought off the tape the guy was a good runner, but not a speed guy. Probably a second-round ability guy. There ended up being some medical issues with the guy, too.
So I know we had some issues about that. In the end, we weren't going to bother with the kid. Too much baggage. Now it's totally on his shoulders to come and go work out.
The lawsuit [against the NFL] in itself, that wouldn't bother me. What bothers me is the guy thinking he's good enough to play when he's got all these other issues. And here's the thing on the injury-prone. This guy, I don't think, has ever played a full season in high school or college without missing time. So here's a guy, durability's a question on him. Work ethic is a question on the guy. So those are two big questions.
The AD (Andy Geiger) did not like Clarett, for whatever reason. They thought he was always going to have a problem getting eligible again ... I didn't talk to Tressel about him, but I talked to some of the [coaching] staff there, and they were more positive than negative on the kid, really. Yeah. They were more positive than negative on the kid. Saying he really isn't a bad kid. That he was a hell of a worker. But there's just a lot of stuff there when you come down to it. There's the injury-prone issue. The work habits on the guy. All this stuff about being a follower, and never having to work for things and it just starts adding up after a while.
I know the guy was spoiled the whole way through. In high school. Just not having the good sense to be able to say no to things maybe.
Him being out of football, you can argue that two years he saved his body. But he's gonna be rusty as hell&I just think he's got a belief he's a lot better than he is.
The highest the guy goes is the second round, and the lowest could be probably the fourth round. Fifth round maybe. Somebody will take a shot at him at someplace.
But when get down to it, there's a lot more questions about this guy. I just remember in the spring, we took him off the board. We're just not going to bother with all this stuff.
This is all opinions. This is all opinions. But, for us, we don't bother with issues like this. Let's move on to the next guy. Because there's a durability issue here that probably is the single most important question. This guy's never played a full season. At any level. High school or college. So, as a running back, with his style, who's a physical runner. This guy takes hits. I don't know if that's a positive.
Scouts, Inc. on Clarett
Strengths: Has good size and power as an inside runner. He lowers his shoulder, creates his own running room and pushes the pile in short-yardage situations. He has impressive vision and patience, allowing him to find backside creases and exploit defenses for over-pursuing him. Most impressive asset is his burst through the hole. Few running backs, even in the NFL, match his ability to get through small creases in the line. Once through the hole, his ability to bounce outside and accelerate is uncanny. He is a smooth route runner with very good awareness in the short-passing game. Shows soft hands and the ability to adjust to the poorly thrown ball. Will snatch on the run and does a nice job of getting upfield right away. Is technically sound, aware and physical as a blocker. Is surprisingly efficient in this area for such an inexperienced player. Shows lateral movement skills to pick up the blitz. Shows good leverage at the point of attack and has good initial pop.
Weaknesses: Character and maturity are major concerns. Has adequate but not great speed. Has enough speed to turn the corner from time to time in the NFL, but is a better inside runner. Is not overly elusive in space and won't make a lot of defenders miss. Is not a huge matchup threat as a receiver. Does not have elite speed and is not the type of back you split out in order to create mismatches. He has not taken a lot of shots to his body, but durability is still very much a concern. He really struggled to stay healthy in his only full season at OSU. Missed three games and most of two others with knee and shoulder ailments. Has not proven capable of handling the full load as a premier back.
Bottom line: Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and 18 touchdowns in his lone collegiate season in 2002. His talent is tough to deny. He has a very good combination of size, speed, burst, vision, change of direction skills and patience as a runner. Clarett also has the potential to be an every-down back, assuming he has the durability to do so. He can't create passing-game matchup problems like the Rams' Marshall Faulk and the Chiefs' Priest Holmes can, but he is a receiving threat. Clarett is similar to the Colts' Edgerrin James in the sense that he catches the ball smoothly and is tough to bring down in the open field because of his size and burst. He also can be an outstanding blocker on blitz-pickup situations. However, while Clarett has the talent and potential to develop into a starting running back in the NFL, his road will be extremely tough. He is inexperienced after playing just one season for the Buckeyes and will have missed more than two full years. He has major off-the-field issues, as well as character and durability concerns. In our opinion, he's a late-first- or second-round talent who, as a result of all of the question marks surrounding him as a player and person, will more than likely slip to Day 2.
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article #9. Again, a misleading headline from ESPN, implying that money is given out (by boosters) at OSU. In fact, there (once again) is no smoking gun. Only second hand information, innuendo and rumor offered as proof.
Booster money train at OSU - ESPN •FB
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Booster money train at OSU
By Seth Wickersham - ESPN The Magazine
Former Ohio State running back Robert Smith believes Maurice Clarett is telling the truth about receiving cash from boosters and other powerful fans of the Buckeye football team, but stopped short of indicting the university's coaches or staff for providing benefits deemed improper by the NCAA.
"Absolutely I think that (Clarett getting paid by boosters) happened," he said. "I believe that it's happened. But there's a difference between fans providing it or members of the university. There's a huge distinction. I don't believe members of the university provided for him."
Robert Smith believes there has been booster-player financial interaction at Ohio State.
Why does Smith believe that Clarett is being truthful about the money?
Because Smith listened to teammates talking about the same sort of payments when Smith starred as a tailback in Columbus from 1990-92.
"I know players who played there who talked about it," he said. "It's not the kind of thing that was seen, but I know players I played with that talked about it."
Smith's description of the booster culture surrounding Ohio State's football program in the early 1990s fits with Clarett's statements about the current one. In the Nov. 22 issue of ESPN The Magazine, Clarett said before he left events where boosters were present, they would pull him aside. "When you'd leave, (the booster) sets you straight," Clarett said. "They say, 'You got any money in your pocket?' They make sure your money's straight."
Now a businessman living in Florida, Smith said that he knew which boosters gave players money. He would not comment on the booster names or the names of teammates he says accepted money.
But when asked if he heard about Ohio State teammates talking about, in his words, "$100 handshakes," Smith said: "Yeah."
Smith, who twice led the Buckeyes in rushing before playing nine seasons with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, says a booster never offered him money. He believes that was because he was a pre-med major who once got into a dispute with a coach over high-level classes Smith took.
"I think that if players are looking for that kind of thing they can find it," he said. "You know what I mean? Some more than others. I really think, though, I had the kind of image at Ohio State where I may have been the whistle blower type. So that wasn't shoved in my hand."
Clarett said coach Jim Tressel helped him get cars during his playing days by calling local dealerships. Smith said that he never witnessed anything like that when he was in school, however he heard similar stories from Buckeyes who played before him.
"I heard about car dealers, but that was like back in the '80s and even in the '70s actually," he said. "I didn't hear anything about that from current guys or guys that I played with."
Clarett also told the magazine that he would have been ineligible for Ohio State's 2002 national championship season if the football staff had not "aligned" him with academic advisors who simply had to maintain his eligibility by putting him in classes with handpicked teachers and by providing him with tutors who told him what to write for assignments.
Smith, 32, did not see or hear of any of those academic allegations during his time at Ohio State.
"The only thing I ever heard about -- I mean I heard easy A's from certain classes just because they were easy classes, and I heard it from regular students as well -- but I never heard about people getting tests or anything," he said. But, he added, "I'm sure there were some teachers that liked football players."
Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger has denied Clarett's statements that Tressel or his staff provided illegal benefits for Clarett.
Smith said that he could see both sides of the argument.
"Yeah, we know this stuff goes on, but at the same time, like I said, I think that it's highly doubtful that the university was directly involved," he said
Smith said that he spoke with Clarett once, during the 2002 season, when Clarett wanted advice on handling the pressure as a player in Columbus. Clarett broke Smith's freshman rushing record that year. He also indicated he didn't believe Clarett's allegations would help a future career in the NFL.
"If he thinks it's going to help his standing with the NFL, he's got another thing coming," he said.
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article #10. An attempt from ESPN to link Jim Tressel to a pattern of behavior similar to the Maurice Clarett accusations. This focuses on the story of Ray Isaac's and Michael "Mickey" Monus while Tressel was at Youngstown State. What ESPN fails to publish is direct quotes from Isaac and Monus specifically stating the Jim Tressel did NOT know of their deeds.
Souls of the departed haunt Youngstown - ESPN •FB
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Souls of the departed haunt Youngstown
By Tom Farrey - ESPN.com
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Columbus, Ohio, is aflame now with the confessions and allegations of a former college player who was living like a pro before he ever turned pro, in the midst of a selectively aware head coach who rode the running back's talents to a national championship. Maurice Clarett and Jim Tressel were a compelling duo at Ohio State.
But the roots of the alleged scandal -- and the relationship between player and coach -- can be found far from campus, three hours away by car in the northeast corner of a politically and athletically red state. They lie in the toxic soil along the Mahoning River, a gentle, serpentine body of water that once gave life to a working-class vision of the American Dream.
The relationship between Jim Tressel and Maurice Clarett dates back to their days in Youngstown.
For much of the past century, the smallish city of Youngstown was, remarkably, one of the steel capitals of the nation. Its mills and ethnic immigrants produced the raw material for cars, bombs, skyscrapers -- just about any object that enabled the rise of the United States as a world power. Jobs were plentiful, paychecks were fat, and crime was someone else's problem, save for the occasional mob-inspired car bombing that no one seemed to witness.
Clarett never knew that city on a hill. The Youngstown he was born into in 1983 was an unfolding tragedy of historic proportions. Beginning six years earlier with what locals came to call "Black Monday," virtually every steel mill along the river for 25 miles -- twenty-five miles -- shut down as the industry shifted production to overseas plants. With breathtaking speed, the town shrunk from 170,000 residents to 80,000. City life grew post-Apocalyptic: middle-age men, homeless and bankrupt, sleeping in boarded-up brick buildings. Suicides rising, seven fold. Child abuse so rampant, counselors needed counseling.
In headier days, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin laid down the snapping rhythms of Youngstown on rotating stages in smoke-filled bars. Now it was the kind of bitter, broken place Bruce Springsteen would give voice to in a song named after the city.
Seven hundred tons of metal a day
Now sir you tell me the world's changed
Once I made you rich enough
Rich enough to forget my name.
In a cityscape more "Mad Max" than Norman Rockwell, Clarett would make himself unforgettable. By working out two or three times a day during high school. By building a man's body in the weight room. By running 20 yards past the last tackler in practice drills, so total was his commitment to excelling in football. When he left for Ohio State and it became apparent to teammates that an ungodly work ethic was his defining quality, Clarett shrugged, saying, "It's just basically where I come from. I grew up around blue-collar workers. It's just the whole struggle and getting out of that struggle."
Clarett, from early on, knew he had something rare to sell.
He would insist on being paid for his services, one way or another.
But does a sense of entitlement alone put Ohio State in the crosshairs of NCAA investigators? No. College football is full of young studs who wish schools would share more of the revenue they are helping generate, or at least support their desire to tear down the tacit NFL-NCAA agreement that keeps a player from NFL money for three years after high school. For a full-on NCAA migraine, for one player's behavior to spiral out of control, it takes an enabler.
Jim Tressel arrived in Youngstown in 1986, the right man at the right time. As head coach at Youngstown State, he would go on to win four Division I-AA national titles between 1991 and '97, using mostly recruits from the now-devastated valley. But it wasn't just the success that endeared him to the locals. It was the image he projected that stood in contrast to that of depressed Youngstown.
Tressel looked like a minister in his trademark sweater vest and perfect haircut, and played the part, too, founding a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the school. His athletes traveled in coat and tie and said "Yes, ma'am" to airplane flight attendants. He talked constantly about his players as family and about the team as a tool for community pride. As many as 20,000 fans a game filled the team's downtown stadium, cheering for the Penguins -- and for the revival of a valley's heart. "That's what kept that city alive, the university and the hospitals," said Ray Isaac, quarterback on Tressel's first title team. "We were the toast of the town. We had parades. We had it all."
Isaac had more. As the NCAA would later learn, Isaac was taking money from a booster from virtually the moment he joined the team in 1988. A few hundred here, a thousand or so there, including $3,800 during the 1991 championship season. In all, Isaac got about $10,000, plus the use of various cars, during his career. Ray "The Colonel" Isaac was Tressel's original Maurice Clarett, a Youngstown kid with quick feet and open palms who would lift his team, and coach, to new heights.
Isaac's benefactor was Michael "Mickey" Monus, chairman of the university's board of trustees and a local hero in his own right. As the dazzling, if disheveled CEO of the rapidly expanding Phar-Mor discount drug store chain, he created thousands of local jobs. Sam Walton of Wal-Mart once called Monus the only businessman he feared, for he couldn't understand how the Youngstown-based company could open so many stores (300 in 33 states) so quickly. Walton would get his answer with a subsequent federal conviction: Monus was cooking the books, Enron-style. He remains in prison on corporate fraud crimes, his empire in shambles.
Monus declined ESPN.com's request for an interview. And Youngstown State isn't eager to share the contents of its investigation into the Monus-Isaac matter. Twice, high-ranking officials at the university promised to make the school's internal report available to ESPN.com, only to later deny its release. A university lawyer said that Youngstown State considers the report as among Isaac's student records, which cannot be released under open-records law due to privacy restrictions.
But this much is certain, based on an ESPN review of legal documents and other sources: Monus was no stranger to Tressel. A huge sports fan, Monus could be found on the sidelines during Penguin games. He was on the university athletics committee that hired Tressel. And, according to court testimony that eventually brought the Isaac payments to light, it was Tressel who directed Isaac to Monus at the start of his freshman year.
"I got a call from Mr. Tressel," Monus told a jury, "and I believe the call was that he wanted me to be introduced to Ray and to work out some kind of job for him."
Jim Tressel won four I-AA national titles at Youngstown State.
In their first meeting at the Phar-Mor corporate office, Isaac told Monus he had no money to go to a local fair. Monus gave him $150 for doing nothing. An enduring relationship was formed. "I found an avenue, a guy with a soft heart," Isaac told ESPN.com.
Isaac said Tressel never knew about the payments, and the NCAA found no evidence that he did. But as would be the case later with Clarett, questions would arise about how much Tressel and his bosses really wanted to know. In January 1994, a month after winning the team's second national title, Youngstown State got a letter from the NCAA notifying the school that an anonymous tipster had blown the whistle on Monus and Isaac. Just one month later, based on assurances by Tressel and athletic director Joe Malmisur, school president Leslie Cochran informed the NCAA that there was no substance to the allegations. The NCAA promptly dropped the matter.
Youngstown State's internal investigation was a sham. So little diligence went into pursuit of truth that Malmisur never confronted Monus with the allegations, nor apparently did Tressel contact Isaac, as Cochran said he had instructed them to do. Tressel, in a December 2003 interview, declined comment to ESPN.com on most aspects of the case but said he can't remember if he discussed the Monus allegations with his former player. Isaac is more definitive: "I didn't talk to nobody."
Later that year, Isaac called Tressel. At the time, Isaac was under investigation by the FBI for tampering with the lone juror who had refused to convict Monus in his first corporate fraud trial. Facing 17 years in prison unless he squealed on Monus, his sugar daddy, Isaac wanted Tressel's advice.
"This is what I know ... " Isaac told Tressel.
His mentor, as Isaac describes Tressel, cut him off before details flowed.
"I don't want to know what you know," Tressel said. "Just tell them the truth."
Isaac would confess to trying to bribe the juror. The U.S. justice system would be served. But the wheels of NCAA justice would wait four more years to begin turning again. They would start grinding on March 4, 1998, when Monus was on trial for jury tampering. Cochran said only then, when made aware of a local television report on Isaac's court testimony that day, did he realize that NCAA rules had been broken years earlier.
Now retired, Cochran looks back on the 1994 non-investigation by his athletic director and coach with embarrassment. "I feel like I got crapped on," he said.
Youngstown State would admit to a lack of institutional control and accept minor scholarship cuts. But avoiding the truth for so long served the team and city well. With the NCAA's statute of limitations on violations having expired in 1996 -- five years after Isaac left college -- the NCAA declined to strip Youngstown State of its beloved '91 national championship
Eleven months after the NCAA issued its decision, with no reprimand for Tressel at Youngstown, Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger hired Tressel as the Buckeyes' new head coach.
Three days after that, Clarett, the nation's top high school running back, orally committed to Ohio State. Jim Tressel was a driving reason.
As a high school player in Youngstown, Clarett was hard to ignore. Tressel first became aware of him by happenstance while attending his nephew's high school game. Clarett, just a freshman, ran for 246 yards on the nephew's team, Berea. "I said, holy smokes," Tressel recalls. "You could tell he was going to be good."
Clarett had his eye on the NFL from early on. Three years later, in a foreshadowing of events to come, Clarett was on an early recruiting trip to Notre Dame. Standing in the Irish locker room after a 27-24 overtime loss to Nebraska. Urban Meyer, then a Notre Dame assistant, now Utah's head coach, turned to him and said, "Well, what do you think?"
"I want to come to Notre Dame," Clarett announced.
"Well, that's great," said Meyer, startled. "We'll count on it."
"No, you don't understand," Clarett said. "I want to come to Notre Dame right now."
"But ... you're a junior. You can't do that."
"I'll graduate early. Skip my senior year."
"But Notre Dame has never done anything like that."
"If you don't take me," Clarett said, "I'm going to Michigan."
So, according to Meyer, Notre Dame got moving on the paperwork. Then Bob Davie was fired as head coach, putting all plans on hold. And elsewhere, Tressel, Youngstown's civic hero, was hired to replace John Cooper at Ohio State.
Tressel understood what he was getting into with Clarett, and vice-versa. At Youngstown State, the coach knew the family through his recruitment of Maurice's older brother Marcus, who would later sign with the University of Buffalo. Maurice had attended Tressel's camps and gone to Penguin games. Tressel knew the area's high school coaches, heard the stories, and was especially tight with Clarett's coach, Thom McDaniel of Warren G. Harding, where Clarett had transferred to as a sophomore.
Rules, or at least norms, were going to have to be adjusted to accommodate the impatient Clarett. First up: Ohio State would allow him to enter college in January before other freshmen arrived, as Clarett had graduated high school early. By the end of summer, he had earned the starting tailback job and, unlike regular freshmen, was living off campus.
"They made a major mistake by letting him enroll early," said Myke Clarett, his father, whose relationship with Maurice began to deteriorate around the same time. "When the season started and he exploded, he was on every talk show. He was treated like a rock star. That really distorts a person's personality because everywhere you go people want to do favors for you."
Cash and car keys fell into his hands, the son now says. Clarett knew these gifts were only lamented when given to so-called amateurs. Once his friend LeBron James was permitted to go straight to the NBA, accepting the inevitable favors of fame no longer was regarded as a moral flaw. But Clarett's white-hot desire to make a living in his sport had to be deferred and then channeled through, in stubborn parlance of the NCAA, intercollegiate athletics, where a grant-in-aid allows a student-athlete to pursue the primary goal of an education.
Except class could not interfere with football practice. And counselors were steering players into junk courses. And fans outside the 100,000-seat Ohio Stadium were selling "Maurice the Beast" T-shirts. And Clarett's number 13 jersey was flying off the rack. And Ohio State football, professional in every way except player compensation, was reporting that revenues during its national championship season jumped to $53 million, against expenses of just $15 million.
Clarett's cut that year? $13,379, the average annual cost of a full scholarship for in-state athletes.
Financially vulnerable and increasingly cynical, Clarett became a magnet for opportunists. He felt it, writing "Not for Sale" on autographs after he saw on eBay how much money others were making from his signature. The NCAA felt it, launching a four-alarm investigation when a black Monte Carlo he was driving turned out to be a loaner from a local used-car lot. Ohio State felt it, suspending Clarett, under pressure from the NCAA, for his sophomore season for accepting gifts from a hometown associate. Clarett had received $500 in cash and allowed thousands of dollars in cell phone bills to be paid for by Bobby Dellimuti, a caterer who, as ESPN.com later discovered, also gambled regularly on football.
And once again, Tressel was faced with the question of how much he really wanted to know about his rainmaker. Clarett's recent contention that Tressel actually directed him to those who loaned him cars makes those questions more pressing.
"If there were problems with Maurice, Tress should have seen it," said Vince Marrow, an inner-circle advisor to Clarett and former NFL player.
The Columbus Dispatch reported last year Tressel had said during the national championship season that Dellimuti's name didn't ring a bell. In fact, Tressel had knowledge of Dellimuti before Clarett even played a game. When pressed by ESPN.com, Tressel said he first met Dellimuti in the spring before Clarett's freshman season when Dellimuti introduced himself after practice. "I knew he was a booster of the Warren high school program and a fellow who was very involved with coach McDaniel," Tressel said.
Tressel declined to detail any specific efforts he made to learn about Clarett's actions when rumors began to circulate about his receiving impermissible benefits. Speaking in general terms, he said, "Do I think I didn't work hard on trying to be cognizant of Maurice or anyone else? I think we've worked very hard on it. It's a difficult task. We need to do it better."
Yet even when questions about Clarett became public, Tressel seemed to barely notice bombs dropping in his midst. He astounded reporters at the Big Ten media day before the 2003 season when, asked for his response to a New York Times story 13 days earlier about alleged academic fraud involving Clarett, Tressel responded that he hadn't read it. "Bits and pieces," he said at the time. Then, more than three months after the April break-in of Clarett's loaner car that piqued the NCAA's interest, Tressel declined comment on that situation, too, because he hadn't read that report.
Ultimately, no NCAA violations were found in either of the above situations. As for the Dellimuti-related violations, Ohio State avoided the potential penalty of game forfeitures from the national title season by arguing that school officials were unaware of those gifts back then. People with ties to Clarett, though, find that contention hard to swallow.
"C'mon," Myke Clarett said. "Tressel is acting like Sergeant Schultz."
Tressel's former Youngstown State players have seen this scenario play out before. At the time, some players wondered about the cars that Isaac was driving around town. But Tressel, if he did notice red flags, never asked questions, to the appreciation of his players.
"What would you do, man?" said Shawn Patton, a teammate of Isaac in 1990 and the leading rusher on the 1994 national champions at Youngstown. "Do you turn your head when some kid gets some money he's not supposed to? Or do you (pursue the truth and) see your whole program go down?" Patton, a warehouse laborer, shook his head so gently his dreadlocks barely moved. "The NCAA? It's just the mob. Just a bunch of crooks stealing money from a bunch of kids."
If Tressel shares that sentiment, he does not let on.
"You do wrestle with that question of, should players get paid? And, what's wrong with that (free) cell phone?" he said. "But I always revert to that motive of why these rules were made. They're not perfect, but I really think their intentions are steeped in what's good for the universities, what's good for the sport, what's good for the culture, and what's good for the kids.
"They're for the masses. And the masses aren't going to the NFL."
Therein, perhaps, lies the conflict. Maurice Clarett knew he was special.
No longer. He is the Youngstown guy in Tressel's rear-view mirror. To borrow from Springsteen, Ohio State is rich enough to forget his name.
Tom Farrey is a senior writer for ESPN.com and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine and ESPN television. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
ESPN article #11.
Special to Page 2 - ESPN •FB
Special to Page 2
By Jason Whitlock
I guarantee you this: Even if football coach Jim Tressel, athletic department officials and Ohio State fans knew then what they know now, Maurice Clarett still would have lined up at tailback in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes.
Maurice Clarett didn't go to Ohio State to get an education -- he went to win a national championship.Yes, he would.
Clarett, the poisonous Buckeye, was worth the risk. He delivered a national championship, which most certainly helped elevate athletic and academic donations to Ohio State. He sold merchandise. He justified the hiring of Tressel and made his one-time college coach far more marketable and valuable.
There are no regrets. And there won't be any.
It doesn't matter whether or not NCAA investigators eventually substantiate some or all of Clarett's claims of unethical behavior at Ohio State, including his direct allegation that Tressel brokered car deals for Clarett. The damage or embarrassment caused by Maurice Clarett, the snitch, will never outweigh the value to the Buckeyes of Maurice Clarett, the football player.
Even if Clarett's allegations spark an investigation that causes the NCAA to strip Ohio State of its 2002 national championship, the governing body of college sports can't strip Tressel, athletic director Andy Geiger or the school of the money it made from its national-title run.
Of course, the only reason the school recruited Clarett in the first place is so the Buckeyes could get the national-championship monkey off their back. The only reason Ohio State so graciously swallowed Clarett's insubordination just before the Fiesta Bowl is so the Buckeyes could collect as much money as possible.
Remember when he was hailed as the second coming of Jim Brown? We, the media, fell for Clarett's line of (crap). He was ticked that Ohio State wouldn't finance a trip home so he could attend the funeral of a friend. He spoke out and spoke his mind. He said the system was exploiting poor, little Maurice Clarett. We bought it. We wrote glowing editorials about the snitch.
Clarett didn't tell us then that the system (Ohio State boosters) was putting thousands of dollars in his pocket, placing him in stay-eligible classes and providing him with luxury vehicles.
Heck, maybe Ohio State officials just figured Clarett already had a wad of their cash and could purchase his own plane ticket. Maybe Tressel was just teaching Clarett a lesson about staying within his illegal allowance.
Whatever the case, I don't feel sorry for anyone involved in the Clarett affair. There are no victims. There never were any victims.
Clarett is a greedy punk who turned into a snitch. Tressel is just another coaching climber forced to masquerade that he cares about more than winning football games. Should Miami be awarded that national title because Ohio State allegedly seduced Clarett to Columbus with illegal benefits?
And Jim Tressel's top priority at Ohio State was winning a national championship. Oh, that never happens at The U. Miami is squeaky clean.
Should we believe everything Clarett is alleging? No. I find it difficult to believe that Tressel (or any high-profile coach) is stupid enough in this day and age to personally broker a car deal for one of his players. That's a graduate assistant's job. Young assistants are hired to give the head coach plausible deniability.
But I do believe there's a kernel of truth in Clarett's claims. This is big-time college athletics. Head coaches make millions of dollars. Assistant coaches earn six-figure salaries. Freshmen who barely graduate from high school hit the practice field long before they ever crack a college textbook.
College football and basketball programs are filled with hypocrisy that make the games fertile ground for all sorts of corruption.
So what should we do?
The obvious. Acknowledge that there will always be a handful of Maurice Claretts -- young men with their hands out and totally uninterested in a college education -- on every Division I football team. Pay the Claretts of the world a modest salary to play college football, and don't force them to enroll in school.
It's really that simple. Let the players who want to go to school go to school. Pay the others a modest salary and end the charade. For some reason in this country, the land of capitalism, we still buy the myth that there's something special about being an amateur athlete.
"Amateur" is just a word. What's the value in being an amateur athlete? There is none, unless it's the man-made value. You get to retain your NCAA amateur status and help middle-aged men become wealthy.
That's not nearly enough. And kids such as Maurice Clarett figured that out a long time ago.
Jason Whitlock is a columnist for the Kansas City Star and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of "The Sports Reporters." He also hosts an afternoon radio show, "The Doghouse," on Kansas City's 61 Sports KCSP. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The Maurice Clarett Saga Unfolds
From here on out I will link additional articles that quote different figures close to the story or the Ohio State University. They will be listed chronologically and will contain as much supporting text as I think you will need to read the quotes in context. The link will also be included if you'd like to read the whole article in context. This is where the whole Maurice Clarett saga becomes interesting. Several key figures interviewd for the series of ESPN articles begin to back peddle from statements attributed to them by ESPN. Some, in fact, state that they were mislead by ESPN.
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