Clarett suspended for role in theft report

Updated: August 23, 2003, 1:48 AM ET

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State was 3-0 without Maurice Clarett during the Buckeyes' run to the national championship last year. Now they'll have to play without him again.

Clarett was suspended from the team for "multiple games" on Friday for his role in an exaggerated theft report.

Despite the suspension, Clarett was allowed to begin practicing with the team. He was held out of the first 23 preseason practices because of eligibility questions.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and athletic director Andy Geiger both declined to be specific when asked how long a "multiple-game suspension" was.

"I don't know the exact definition of multiple," Tressel said.

Asked if the suspension could be for the whole season, he said, "I don't know that. I suppose."

Geiger said, "Multiple means multiple."

Told that the word multiple was vague, he said, "We used a good word then."

Clarett, who rushed for an Ohio State freshman record 1,237 yards last year, helped lead the Buckeyes to the national championship. He scored the winning touchdown in Ohio State's 31-24 double-overtime victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

There were no guarantees that Clarett might even be back for another bowl trip.

Asked if he had been assured that Clarett would return at some point this season, Tressel said, "I haven't been assured of anything."

The university received several pages of allegations from the NCAA against Clarett on Thursday and discussed them with the sophomore on Friday.

Clarett smiled and waved as he left almost three-hour long meeting at Ohio State's St. John Arena, accompanied by his grim-faced mother, Miechelle, and three attorneys. Clarett wore shorts, running shoes, a backward San Diego Padres cap and a Bob Marley T-shirt that said, "No More Trouble" on the back.

Clarett later watched the team scrimmage at Ohio Stadium.

The NCAA and Ohio State had been investigating Clarett's acknowledged overstatement of the value of items stolen in April from a vehicle he borrowed from a local car dealership. In a police report, he said he lost items totaling more than $10,000 when thieves broke into the 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

The suspension was only for non-academic allegations. A 10-person university panel probing charges of academic fraud involving Clarett is a completely separate and distinct investigation from that which led to his suspension on Friday.

"Our next step is to make a recommendation to the NCAA concerning the length of Maurice's suspension," Geiger said. "Then, we wait for their reply."

Clarett was not available to comment.

"I'm just excited to see his face and to see him smile a little bit and to see how anxious Maurice is to be back with his guys," Tressel said.

Ohio State's action allows a suspended Clarett to return to the team and practice, even though he was not permitted to practice with the team when he was eligible and not suspended.

The second-ranked Buckeyes open the season Aug. 30 against No. 17 Washington.

Kay Hawes, an NCAA spokeswoman, said the NCAA doesn't have the authority to suspend Clarett and it is up to Ohio State to determine his eligibility.

Clarett remains on scholarship. Classes resume Sept. 24.

Telephone messages were left seeking comment Friday at the Youngstown home of Clarett's mother and the office of his Columbus attorney, Scott Schiff.

Geiger said he felt Clarett would be on the field for the Buckeyes again. Asked if he thought he would return this year, Geiger said, "I don't know that."

After the NCAA began looking into the exaggerated theft report from April, Tressel and Geiger said they would hold Clarett out of team activities "until and unless" his eligibility matters were resolved.

Geiger said Ohio State was not in jeopardy of losing its national championship. He said no institutional penalties or sanctions were being discussed.

Tressel said he felt a sense of guilt that one of his players had made mistakes.

"Absolutely," he said. "Anyone who feels strongly about what they do, when it doesn't go as well as they would like it, if you don't feel bad about it then shame on you."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index