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The following summer, Clarett reported that a used car he had borrowed from a local dealer was broken into and that he had lost thousands of dollars in the theft. Clarett’s call to police came from Tressel’s office. Clarett admitted he had made up the break-in call and later took a plea deal. But the NCAA began looking into Clarett and the team. Soon after, he was declared ineligible. He would never play another college game.

There had been a stream of players getting in trouble at Ohio State, but in December 2004 backup quarterback Troy Smith was suspended for the bowl game and the 2005 regular-season opener for accepting $500 from a booster. Smith would go on to win the 2006 Heisman Trophy, leading the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record and a seasonlong No. 1 ranking. Despite being a heavy favorite in the national title game, the Buckeyes were routed by Florida 41-14.

They also were beaten badly in the national championship game the following year, 38-24, by LSU.

Tressel’s latest brush with NCAA violations was just too much _ for him, for the university, for a program that prides itself on being somehow cleaner and better than others.

The author of two books about faith and integrity, he remains a scapegoat to many and a hypocrite to others. Even though he has many backers, a rising chorus of detractors had stepped forward during the ongoing NCAA investigation. There were also questions about his players and their friends and family members receiving special deals on more than 50 used cars from two Columbus dealers.

But at the same time, his image was that of an honest, religious man who never said or did anything without thinking it through first. His nickname was “The Senator” for never having a hair out of place, praising opponents and seldom giving a clear answer to even the simplest of questions.

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Rusty Miller can be reached at http://twitter.com/rustymillerap