- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

Maurice Clarett is the gifted running back of the Ohio State Buckeyes who is having a lot of trouble with the NCAA student-athlete pretense.

Clarett is stuck in Columbus, Ohio, until he is eligible to go to the NFL, where he will earn millions and not have to explain the nature of either his academic or financial undertakings.

Clarett has talked of challenging the NFL’s early-entry rule, which prohibits a collegian from entering the draft until three years after his high school graduation. Clarett is a fairly persuasive exception to the rule after leading the Buckeyes to the national championship as a freshman last season.

Barring a successful legal challenge, Clarett has about 17 months left on his college sentence, and he seems destined to resist it every step of the way. He is a fighter in that respect. He is emotional. If he sees an injustice, real or imagined, he feels compelled to stand up and oppose it.

He exhibited that spirit in a game last season at Northwestern, where he fumbled the ball three times and argued with an assistant coach on the sidelines. He also fought the inequities of a system that reduced a funeral into a forum on paperwork.

Clarett said he completed the necessary paperwork to attend the funeral of a friend. Officials at Ohio State said the opposite.

You remember this disagreement in the days leading up to Ohio State’s big game with Miami at the Fiesta Bowl. You were obligated to take a side, which was too easy in the case of the glorified indentured servant going up against the faceless bureaucracy.

Not that Clarett was necessarily telling the truth.

The issue of Clarett’s veracity is being calibrated again, only this time with an attorney at his side.

Clarett is in the news again because of his peculiar relationship with a 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which was equipped with two built-in televisions and a trunk filled with goodies.

None of this would be in the public domain if someone had not broken into the vehicle last April and made off with one of the televisions as well as items stored in the trunk.

Clarett reported the incident to police, as any citizen would have done, detailing the loss of 300 compact discs and $800 in cash.

This resulted in an obvious query from the NCAA, which was: How can a freshman in college, a full-time football player, afford such a vehicle and all the stuff in it?

As it turns out, the vehicle was on “loan” from a dealership in Columbus, and Clarett’s attorney has come forward to say that his client overstated the value of the contents in the vehicle.

Clarett lied to police, in so many words, although the tall tale possibly was dispensed in conjunction with a creative-thinking course at Ohio State.

You never know with Ohio State.

Clarett was one of the sources of a newspaper report last month that told of Ohio State athletes receiving unusual favors in the classroom, which actually was an update of an old story.

In 1998, in order to be eligible, linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer tickled America’s funny bone with his course load at Ohio State: golf, AIDS awareness and music appreciation.

Predictably enough, Ohio State officials are inclined to think that Clarett is guilty of only bad luck and loose lips and that he will be cleared of wrongdoing after the NCAA snoops have completed their investigation.

That is an optimistic view of an institution that objected to the culinary habits of Rick Majerus last week.

However it goes down, Clarett is on pace to be another poster child of the shameful system.

He is up to one sideline meltdown, one contentious funeral plan, one embellished police report following the break-in of a 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and one newspaper revelation of academic charity. He also is friends with LeBron James, the depth of which interests the NCAA as well, if it involves improper gifts.

Fortunately, no one with the Ohio State football program is dead.

That is the new measure of sickness with the NCAA following the tragic goings-on at Baylor.

As long as no one is dead or charged with murder, NCAA president Myles Brand is able to stick by the worn-out illusions of the system and point to the football season ahead.

Clarett, while awaiting the word of the NCAA snoops, has been suspended from taking part in the team’s preseason practices that begin this week.

This is merely a minor “distraction,” a little “adversity,” the “challenge” before this outstanding college football program.

Go, Buckeyes.

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