Brown: Clarett won't rule out leaving program

Updated: August 21, 2003, 9:47 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN The Magazine

The playing future of Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett is expected to be determined as early as Friday, family friend and confidant Jim Brown said Thursday. And depending on the severity of possible NCAA or university sanctions, Brown said Clarett will then decide whether to return to the football program, challenge the NFL's early entry rule, or play professionally in Canada.

"If you sanction a kid, give him a couple of games out -- he's already gone through hell -- that's reasonable," said Brown, the NFL Hall of Famer and social activist who has befriended the Clarett family and talks daily with the star tailback. "I can take two games. If you tell me I have to sit out three-quarters of the season, I have to look at other plans."

Asked when Clarett expected to hear from the NCAA or Ohio State, Brown said, "We'll know tomorrow [Friday]."

"We don't have anything planned at this time," Steve Snapp, assistant athletics director for athletics comminications at Ohio State, said Thursday afternoon.

Clarett, who helped lead the Buckeyes to a national championship as a true freshman and is considered the 2003 Heisman Trophy favorite, is being investigated by both NCAA and Ohio State officials on charges that he received preferential academic treatment and possible extra benefits.

Clarett has yet to practice with the team and even if he were ruled eligible, coach Jim Tressel has said it's highly unlikely Clarett will play in the No. 2 Buckeyes' Aug. 30 season opener against Washington.

Brown, who spoke with Tressel on Thursday, said he has counseled Clarett to return to Ohio State.

"The mistakes that [Clarett] made, he will admit," Brown said. "He is a very truthful individual. The unfortunate thing about the rules of the NCAA, some of them border on the ridiculous. We'll see what penalties he has to deal with. He can accept those sanctions or make the decision to go to Canada or challenge the NFL. My attitude, the best scenario, is to stand up like a man and pay his dues -- if [the penalties] are realistic. If they're not realistic, he has to make a decision about him and his mother.

"I think a couple of games would be fair," Brown added. "If they're going to try to crush this kid's self-esteem, create a hardship for his mother and him, then I'll support him any way I can."

Clarett was interviewed by NCAA investigators Aug. 11. He has been banned from team meetings and participating in practices but continues to lift weights and run on his own. He has apologized for embarrassing Ohio State.

"He is trying to control himself, his emotions, his feelings," Brown said. "He still wants to be on the football field, wants to play. He's really trying to do the right thing now. He's been hanging in, we've been talking every day. Coach [Tressel] has been really cool. I understand the institution's point of view."

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter

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