Coach says he'd support scholarship release

Updated: September 10, 2003, 12:37 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State is ready to cut ties with Maurice Clarett if the star running back asks to transfer to another school, Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday.

Tuesday, Sept. 9
If Maurice Clarett challenged the rule prohibiting him from entering the NFL draft and won the court battle, he still looks like no better than a second-round pick at this point. There are just too many questions. Clarett had injury problems last year as a freshman and did not play the entire season, he has not been timed reliably in the 40-yard dash, and the off-field problems that have made him ineligible are a worry.

That said, Clarett has already proven against major-college competition what he can do when healthy. A transfer to a school like Grambling would do nothing to hurt his draft position, assuming he dominated at that level. Plenty of great NFL players -- Jerry Rice, for example -- have come out of Division I-AA. An outstanding performance could perhaps push him into the first round, but as things stand right now I would rate Clarett as a likely second-round selection.

Tressel's comment came just before prosecutors charged Clarett with lying about items that were stolen from him out of a car.

Tressel said he does not anticipate Clarett returning to the team this season. When asked if he would recommend Clarett be released from his scholarship if the request was made, Tressel said, "my recommendation would be yes."

On Monday, Cleveland television station WJW reported that the university has finished its investigation into Clarett and has uncovered evidence that he received "extra benefits worth thousands of dollars." WJW also reported that Ohio State would not seek reinstatement for him.

Clarett and his mother, Michelle, met Wednesday with Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger. Afterward, Clarett did not reveal if disciplinary action was discussed, only saying "there are two sides to every story."

Alan C. Milstein, the Clarett family attorney, said he wasn't surprised by Tressel's comments or the misdemeanor charge.

"Nothing Ohio State does surprises me," he said. "I don't think the family recognizes what Ohio State's actions and motivations are either."

Milstein declined to comment on whether Clarett would consider transferring.

Asked if Clarett had played his final game for the Buckeyes, Milstein said, "I think that's up to Ohio State."

Prosecutors and Ohio State University police filed a misdemeanor falsification charge against him in Franklin County Municipal Court, city attorney spokesman Scott Varner said.

Clarett has already been suspended indefinitely from the team, and probably will not play for the Buckeyes this season. He is also being investigated by the NCAA.

Clarett acknowledged earlier this summer that he filed an exaggerated theft report after his car was broken into in April. The car, a 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was borrowed from a local dealer.

The NCAA started looking into the report after Clarett stated he had lost more than $10,000 in items in the theft.

Clarett set Ohio State freshman records last season with 1,237 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, including the winning score in the Buckeyes' double-overtime victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

The university does not have a set punishment for athletes charged with misdemeanors, Geiger said Tuesday. The charge will not factor into the length of a suspension the university will recommend to the NCAA, he said.

Clarett's mother did not return a phone message seeking comment on the charge. Former NFL star tailback Jim Brown, a family adviser, said he wasn't aware of the charge and declined comment on it or Tressel's statement.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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