NCAA finds nine violations; one with football

Updated: May 18, 2005, 6:14 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A lack of evidence apparently deflated former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett's allegations that coaches and boosters arranged for him to get passing grades, cars and thousands of dollars.

The NCAA on Monday outlined nine violations against Ohio State, but only one involved the school's football program -- quarterback Troy Smith's acceptance of $500 from former OSU booster Robert Q. Baker in May 2004.

None of Clarett's most explosive allegations -- that coach Jim Tressel orchestrated a system in which players received free cars, improper academic assistance and cash for no-work jobs -- were verified.

It was originally reported that the the NCAA wasn't saying whether it interviewed Clarett after he made his allegations in an interview with ESPN The Magazine in November.

However, the NCAA issued a statement Wednesday that said it tried to interview Clarett after his allegations, but that Clarett did not make himself available.

"As a clarification to recent comments made in the media, the NCAA enforcement staff attempted on numerous occasions to interview Maurice Clarett during its investigation of Ohio State University.

"Not once did Mr. Clarett respond to our repeated requests to meet with investigators or provide information. "Specifically, over the course of a month in November and December 2004, phone calls were placed to Mr. Clarett's reported cell phone numbers, relatives, former legal representatives and friends. But the messages left were never returned. In addition, attempts to contact him in person failed.

NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said Tuesday that once investigators begin probing an athletic department, they thoroughly examine all allegations.

"In the end, they follow where the evidence leads them," he said.

Clarett, who was drafted by the NFL's Denver Broncos on April 23, could not be reached for comment. He didn't speak to reporters at Broncos camp Tuesday.

Clarett's agent, Steve Feldman, said Tuesday that Clarett wants to move on and that the Ohio State situation is "over with."

Feldman said he does not know if NCAA investigators contacted Clarett after the ESPN The Magazine. He also defended Clarett.

"Just because their report doesn't substantiate the claims doesn't mean that he wasn't telling the truth," Feldman said.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Monday that he considers the Clarett matter over. He declined to elaborate when contacted for an interview Tuesday.

NCAA investigators concluded that the most serious charges of wrongdoing at Ohio State involved the men's basketball program, which is facing seven suspected NCAA violations.

The NCAA alleges that both former head basketball coach Jim O'Brien and former assistant Paul Biancardi failed "to monitor the conduct and administration" of the basketball program from July 1998 to May 2002.

Another NCAA finding involves an orthodontist allegedly providing free and discounted services to five women's basketball players.

Ohio State has until July to respond. A hearing in front of the NCAA infractions committee is scheduled for October.

Last June, Ohio State fired O'Brien for arranging a $6,700 payment to the family of a recruit. In December, the school self-imposed a one-year postseason tournament ban on the men's basketball program.

Christianson declined to speculate on any possible sanctions that might come out of the October hearing with the NCAA infractions committee.

Gene Smith and Ohio State President Karen Holbrook said this week it's possible that the men's basketball program, now headed by coach Thad Matta, will face NCAA sanctions.

Rather than penalize the current coaches and players, Smith said the university might strip the program of its 1999 Final Four appearance, two Big Ten co-championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances from 1999 to 2002, when the alleged violations occurred.

The NCAA takes self-imposed punishments into account when considering sanctions.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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