Report: NCAA probe widens to include Gamble

Updated: August 21, 2003, 4:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Wednesday that Heisman Trophy candidate Maurice Clarett probably wouldn't play in the season opener Aug. 30 against Washington because he hadn't been practicing with the team.

Clarett, who set two Ohio State records as a freshman tailback last season, has been held out of all of Ohio State's team functions, including preseason practices, until questions about his eligibility are resolved.

Pressed on whether he would play Clarett if Clarett's eligibility were restored by the NCAA in time for the game opener, Tressel said, "No, I don't think so."

"We've had what, 19 or 20 practices?" Tressel said. "There will be some guys, along with Maurice, perhaps we may not have" available for the opener.

The NCAA investigation looming over Clarett also might widen to include All-America cornerback Chris Gamble. Also a receiver, Gamble participated in a 90-minute scrimmage Wednesday at Ohio Stadium, the same day a former Ohio State teaching assistant met for more than two hours with NCAA officials and a university committee investigating alleged academic fraud by athletes.

Norma C. McGill, a teaching assistant in Clarett's African-American and African Studies class last fall, has charged that Clarett received preferential academic treatment.

"They were concerned about test scores, about cheating in the classroom, things like that," said McGill, who spoke to the NCAA and the committee at a downtown hotel in Lexington, Ky.

The pace of the investigation has exceeded Clarett's and Tressel's estimates that it would conclude by last weekend.

"Would we like for it to go faster? Of course. We'd like to know 'what's the score' and what we need to do from here," Tressel was quoted as saying in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Thursday.

During the meeting, McGill was shown test scores from the class, which she said had been altered since she left the school. Lexington is McGill's hometown, where she returned after leaving Ohio State during the week of final exams last fall.

Mark Jones, the NCAA's director of enforcement, did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday. Jones, two other NCAA officials, members of Ohio State's investigative panel and a university lawyer met with McGill.

McGill has charged that Clarett walked out of a midterm exam last fall and ended up passing the entry-level course after professor Paulette Pierce provided him with an oral exam. McGill said Clarett was the only person of the more than 90 students taking the class who received an oral exam.

McGill has alleged that other athletes sat together and copied answers during three quizzes in the class and that Clarett told her and Pierce that tutors gave answers to players.

According to reports, McGill said Wednesday that during the meeting she was also asked about thet academic performances of Gamble, linebacker E.J. Underwood and graduated wide receiver Chris Vance. Tressel said Wednesday he knew of no inquiries by the NCAA about Gamble, Underwood or Vance.

McGill went to The New York Times with her concerns and a story based on her accusations was published in July. She declined to meet with the Ohio State panel formed to investigate charges in the article.

In the article, Pierce said of Clarett, "I don't think, at one point in the class, he was trying. When I started working more closely with Maurice, and paying more attention to him, he started to learn more."

Clarett could not be reached for comment Wednesday because he has an unlisted phone number.

Ohio State spokeswoman Elizabeth Conlisk said the university was conducting the "most thorough investigation possible. We established a committee of highly regarded and ethical faculty expressly for that purpose."

The NCAA also is investigating Clarett's finances, including a police report he filed claiming stereo equipment, cash, clothing and CDs valued at more than $10,000 were stolen from a car he had on loan from a local dealership. Clarett later admitted he had exaggerated the value of what was stolen.

He has apologized for embarrassing Ohio State.

McGill said she was hoping her role in the controversy was over, although the NCAA told her they would remain in contact with her.

"I'm tired of the story," she said.

Clarett has appeared at several Ohio State practices, running sprints by himself or watching from the sidelines. The defending national champion Buckeyes are ranked No. 2 in both the ESPN/USA Today coaches' and The Associated Press writers' preseason polls.

Clarett set Ohio State freshman records with 1,237 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns last year as the Buckeyes went 14-0 and won their first national title in 34 years.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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