Claretts still discussing next move

Updated: September 12, 2003, 12:51 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Montreal Alouettes general manager Jim Popp's team owns the Canadian Football League rights to suspended Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett. Yet Popp believes Clarett should stay in school and weather his season-long hiatus.

"I'm a true believer that all players should try to get their college education," Popp said Thursday, a day after Ohio State announced Clarett would sit out a season for violating NCAA bylaws.

"They can only play pro football so long. He needs to get his degree. That's the best thing that can happen to him."

The Alouettes have the best record in the CFL (9-2) and lead their division by four and a half games. Popp said he would not try to lure Clarett north of the border -- unless Clarett ran out of options.

"The bottom line is this, if he has any intent of giving up college -- hires an agent and automatically becomes a professional -- or it is deemed he can't play in college anymore, if that's the case then this organization will wait for him to contact us," Popp said. "Not us contact him."

Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said Wednesday that Clarett was guilty of 14 violations of the ethical-conduct bylaw for lying to investigators and two violations of receiving preferential treatment or benefits because he is an athlete.

The NCAA received the university's report Wednesday and will review it, but will not comment on what it contains, NCAA spokeswoman Kay Hawes said.

Alan C. Milstein, the Clarett family attorney, said Clarett, his mother Michelle, other family members and friends are still contemplating what comes next.

"It's clear what Ohio State has done," Milstein said. "Now they (the Claretts) have to make a choice as to how to respond on a number of levels. They will try to decide what the next move is."

Clarett's options include staying at Ohio State to attend school while on scholarship, and awaiting the end of his suspension.

Coach Jim Tressel said he hoped that Clarett still could practice with the defending national champions this season if he meets certain criteria off the field and in class.

"As far as I know, he intends to go to school. That's what he says," Geiger said Wednesday. "It doesn't start until September 24th. I can't predict the future. I'm anticipating that he will."

Clarett could also ask to be released from his Ohio State scholarship to transfer to another school. He would still have to sit out the mandated suspension season at the least. If he transferred to another Division I-A school, he would also have to sit out a transfer year. If he transferred to a school in Divisions I-AA, II or III, he would not have to sit out the transfer year.

Grambling coach Doug Williams showed up at his weekly news conference Tuesday waving a No. 13 jersey and joking about a Clarett transfer.

There has been some speculation that Clarett might be interested in going home to Youngstown to play college ball. Tressel left perennial I-AA power Youngstown State to coach Ohio State.

Youngstown State is now coached by Jon Heacock, brother of Ohio State defensive line coach Jim Heacock.

"We cannot do anything in any transfer situation until the individual is admitted to Youngstown State after getting a release from his previous school," Jon Heacock said. "Then when our compliance director tells me I can contact that individual or school, that is when I can do so."

NCAA "tampering" rules prohibit directly or indirectly contacting an athlete who is enrolled at another school.

Hawes said the NCAA would have no comment on Doug Williams' actions regarding Clarett. Williams did not return a phone message requesting comment Thursday.

Clarett also could challenge the NFL rule that requires players to be out of high school at least three years before playing in the league.

Popp said he selected Clarett for the Alouettes' negotiation list this summer, shortly after word of Clarett's off-the-field problems arose in the media. Unlike the NFL, where there are million-dollar signing bonuses for acclaimed rookie running backs, Popp said the CFL is no place to get rich.

The average salary in the northern league is $46,000 Canadian, or about $34,000 U.S. On top of that, the 18-game regular season is almost two-thirds over.

"He's not going to come up here and make a bunch of money. That isn't happening," Popp said. "This is an option to continue his football year and he can better himself as a human being and can prepare himself for the NFL."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press