Lawyer says Clarett weighing several options

Updated: September 5, 2003, 6:05 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With his options apparently decreasing and the relationship with Ohio State growing worse, Maurice Clarett and his mother are considering suing the NFL for a chance to enter the league a year early, the family's attorney said Thursday.

Jim Brown, who has been consulting with the Clarett family throughout the entire suspension process, told ESPN The Magazine's Gene Wojciechowski that the likelihood of Clarett going back to Ohio State is not good nor is the possibility of transferring to another school.

Now, with the possibility of Clarett sitting out at least a year coupled with the family's increased dissatisfaction with Ohio State officials, including athletic director Andy Geiger, and the on-going investigation process, that leaves only one option: challenging the NFL's early entry rule.

"I think Mr. Geiger wants to start a revolution. He's acting like a slave-master," Brown said Thursday night. "If Andy Geiger wants to act like God, then this ball game is over."

The relationship between Ohio State officials and Michelle Clarett and her son has grown increasingly contentious.

Clarett's mother is "distraught" at the way her son is being treated by Ohio State, said Alan C. Milstein, the Clarett's lawyer from Pennsauken, N.J. Milstein called Clarett "a good kid who has tried to cooperate" with investigators and university officials but is being held accountable for discrepancies in his statements after almost 11 hours of interviews over at least four days.

The situation has forced the Clarett's to now consider every option.

"You have to anticipate things," said Brown, who initially counseled Clarett to accept whatever punishment might be levied and return to Ohio State. "The indications are this kid will not be able to play at all. It doesn't look like anyone wants him to play.

"What I recommend is for him to do all the research on everything," said Brown, who has already contacted NFL team officials.

The NFL does not permit players to be eligible for its draft until they have been out of high school at least three years. Clarett is a sophomore and, under the rule, could not be selected until the 2005 draft at the earliest.

Milstein said he did not believe that a court test of the NFL rule would take years and years. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has said the league will fight any underclassman who tries to overturn the rule.

"When a player decides to do that, I think it's going to be a legal issue and decided rather quickly by the court," Milstein said. "There's no facts in dispute. It's just, is the rule lawful or not?"

Clarett, one of Ohio State's top players during its run to the national title last season, is suspended from the team while the NCAA and the university investigate his behavior off the field.

Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said Clarett was suspended because of allegations of accepting improper benefits and for misleading investigators.

Ohio State has been working for the past two weeks on a response to "several pages" of allegations sent by the NCAA to the university. Geiger said then that he thought the university would have a response finished last week.

"The family has said, 'Tell us what it is that you're going to do so that we can make the choices that we need to make,"' Milstein said. "It's unfair to string this kid out like this."

Ohio State spokesman Steve Snapp said the university's response to the NCAA is not complete and "there is no definite timetable for when it will be completed."

Geiger did not return a request left with Snapp seeking comment.

Clarett was suspended Aug. 22 but was permitted to return to practice. On Tuesday, coach Jim Tressel said Clarett would no longer be allowed to work out with the team.

"This business about you can train but then you can't train -- it's ludicrous," Milstein said.

Tressel said Tuesday that the suspension appears to be "significant. It's going to be long." Geiger added, "I'm not optimistic about any number of games at this point."

Milstein said the public perception of Clarett is skewed by the intense media coverage of his situation.

"He's a little kid in a big kid's body. He has been attacked and his integrity has been questioned and he's been put through this whirlwind of accusations and he's been questioned hours and hours and hours," Milstein said.

"It's just absolutely unfair to treat any kid this way. It's just awful, to put any kid up under this kind of a microscope as if he is a professional athlete who is mature."

Milstein said Clarett's mother is upset with how her son has been handled by Ohio State. She has declined numerous requests for comment.

Geiger has not done all he can to help Clarett, Milstein said.

"I cannot understand what is motivating Ohio State," he said. "It defies explanation."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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