COLUMBUS, Ohio — Maurice Clarett was cleared to resume practicing with national champion Ohio State but faces a multi-game suspension, the university said yesterday.
The NCAA supplied Ohio State with a list of allegations against Clarett on Thursday. Members of the university discussed the allegations with the sophomore yesterday, athletic director Andy Geiger said in a statement.
The NCAA and university had been investigating allegations about Clarett’s academic performance and the player’s acknowledged overstatement of the value of items stolen from a vehicle he had borrowed.
The suspension was only for non-academic allegations. A 10-person university panel probing charges of academic fraud is completely separate from Clarett’s open-ended suspension.
Clarett remains ineligible for games but could rejoin practices as early as tomorrow, Geiger said. Clarett would do so, coach Jim Tressel said.
“He said, ‘Can I practice [Saturday]?’ and I said, ‘Well, you’ll be alone; I’m giving the guys the day off.’”
Tressel said he didn’t know how long the suspension will be.
“Our next step is to make a recommendation to the NCAA concerning the length of Maurice’s suspension,” Geiger said. “Then, we wait for their reply. We have no way of knowing how long this process will take, but it will be a multiple-game suspension.”
Kay Hawes, a NCAA spokeswoman, said the organization doesn’t have the authority to suspend Clarett, and it is up to Ohio State to determine the player’s eligibility.
Clarett remains on scholarship. Classes resume Sept.24.
Clarett’s mother, Michelle, and the attorney, Scott Schiff, did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment.
Ohio State began an investigation after an article in the New York Times in which a former teaching assistant accused Clarett of receiving preferential treatment in class. Norma C. McGill said Clarett walked out of a midterm exam last fall but passed the class after professor Paulette Pierce gave him an oral exam.
That prompted Ohio State to form a 10-person committee to look into charges of academic fraud involving several athletes.
Meanwhile, the NCAA was investigating Clarett’s claim that more than $10,000 in clothing, CDs, cash and stereo equipment was stolen in April from a car he was borrowing from a local dealership.
Schiff acknowledged many of the items belonged to the dealer, not Clarett, and that Clarett exaggerated the value of the items. In a statement issued last month, Clarett apologized to his teammates and Ohio State for “any embarrassment this incident may have caused.”
University officials then announced they would hold Clarett out of team activities “until and unless” his eligibility matters were resolved.
On Aug.11, Clarett, his mother, former NFL great Jim Brown and Clarett’s attorney met with NCAA officials. Afterward, Clarett said he believed he would be cleared to begin practicing in a matter of days.
The 19-year-old tailback rushed for a freshman school-record 1,237 yards and scored 18 touchdowns last season as the Buckeyes went 14-0 and won their first national championship in 34 years.
It was Clarett who scored on a 5-yard run in the second overtime to provide the winning points in the 31-24 victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan.3.
Days before that championship game, Clarett criticized school officials for not approving emergency financial aid to fly from Phoenix to his hometown of Youngstown for the funeral of a friend. Clarett then accused officials of lying when they said he had not filed the proper paperwork.
Clarett missed three full games and parts of two others last year. He had knee surgery early in the season and had a midseason shoulder injury that bothered him the rest of the year. He was also held out of Ohio State’s spring practices this year to prevent any unnecessary contact.
On Wednesday, Tressel said Clarett would most likely miss the team’s season-opening game against Washington on Aug.30 because he had not gone through full-contact practices with the team.