Geiger: No evidence to Clarett's accusations

Updated: November 17, 2004, 1:42 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger and coach Jim Tressel defended the school's football program Tuesday against charges that players were paid by boosters and coddled academically.

Geiger had harsh words for former tailback Maurice Clarett and for ESPN, which he said has led an attack against the school by providing a forum for Clarett's allegations.

An NCAA investigator was on campus Monday to look into accusations that Tressel helped Clarett get a loaner car and that he and other players were paid for bogus summer jobs and received improper help in class.

"I'm not concerned at all," Geiger said of the investigation. "I think Jim runs an honest program and tells me the truth."

Clarett, who made the charges in stories reported Nov. 9 by ESPN The Magazine on ESPN.com, led Ohio State to the national championship in 2002. Under the current circumstances, Geiger said he did not believe Ohio State's title might be lost.

"Unless and until there would be found an institutional violation, I don't think it's in jeopardy," Geiger said.

Mark Shapiro, executive vice president of programming and production at ESPN, said Geiger's attacks on the network "are blatantly misguided."

Clarett was suspended after his freshman season for lying to investigators during another NCAA probe of allegations that he received improper benefits from a family friend. He then lost a court challenge of the NFL's rule preventing players out of high school less than three years from being drafted.

Family members say Clarett is working out with a trainer at an undisclosed location in preparation for next spring's NFL draft.

Alan Milstein, Clarett's lawyer in the antitrust suit against the NFL, declined comment Tuesday. Clarett's mother did not return a message seeking comment.

In additional stories that ran on ESPN.com, former Ohio State players supported at least part of Clarett's contentions.

"I do not know their agenda or motivation," Geiger said of ESPN.

He added, "I have been an athletic director for 33 years and have been in the business for 43 years. I have never seen an institution attacked in this way before. For the university, for the fans, the students and the members of my staff ... it would be wrong to be silent."

Shapiro said ESPN's reporting was objective and balanced.

"For anyone to accuse us of having an agenda against Ohio State is absurd," he said.

Geiger said Tressel did try to help Clarett buy a car through the dealership that leases cars to several Ohio State coaches and administrators. But Clarett and his mother did not meet with the dealer to make arrangements to buy the car, Geiger said, and the dealership came to Columbus several days later to repossess it.

The university has denied Clarett's allegations.

"The allegations are so sweeping, so over the top that we are going to be forced to spend huge resources, so much time and energy and effort, to try and get this right," Geiger said Monday. "This isn't going to be solved by the Michigan game or by [the time of] a bowl game. It will take months, I imagine."

The Buckeyes (6-4) take on No. 7 Michigan (9-1) on Saturday at Ohio Stadium in the biggest game of the year for Ohio State.

Instead of addressing the X's and O's of the old rivals, Tressel began his weekly news conference by discussing the distractions brought on by Clarett's allegations.

"I feel good about how we lead this program and the intentions and the ways that we do things," said Tressel, in his fourth season. "I understand the rules of the game, the rules of the NCAA very, very well and have great confidence that we follow them to the T."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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