- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2003

Maurice Clarett put himself in an untenable position at Ohio State.

It is that simple.

He is no victim, as his lawyer contends.

His life is not apt to be ruined, as his adviser Jim Brown suggests.

Clarett will be a wealthy NFL player one day, and maybe, as Laveranues Coles has done, he will leave his college out of the pre-game player introductions. He will be Maurice Clarett, running back, from Youngstown, Ohio, and Ohio State just will have to live with the shame.

Clarett is playing the victim these days, which is the standard spiel of troubled athletes.

His contention, however amusing, is understandable, if you are accustomed to the rules applying to others and you are afforded special considerations.

Being held accountable for your actions must come as a shock.

Clarett was allowed to develop an exaggerated sense of self-importance in Columbus after leading the Ohio State football team to a national championship. He ran the football with distinction and became an instant celebrity in a city that puts much of its sporting passion into Ohio State football.

Clarett was a high-maintenance sort, temperamental, a prima donna in pads and helmet.

He had a child-like sideline spat with an assistant coach in one game last season. He talked of challenging the NFL’s early-entry rule. He whined about being unable to attend the funeral of a friend in the days leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, claiming he filed the necessary forms while school officials claimed otherwise.

A teaching assistant said he walked out of a midterm exam last fall and ended up passing the course with an oral test.

No, it was never easy with Clarett. There was always something. He was held to minimum standards, as befitting his status, and even those standards turned out to be too daunting for him.

Now, of course, in the upside-down culture of sports, Ohio State is at fault, not Clarett.

It was Ohio State’s fault that a Chevy dealer, out of kindness, loaned a Monte Carlo to Clarett. You know how that goes. It happens all the time. You go past a Chevy dealership, and there is the one dealer holding a sign that reads: “Have I got a deal for you. Walk in and drive out in a Monte Carlo at no charge.”

No one would have noticed Clarett in a Monte Carlo if someone had not broken into it. That is where it became really tricky for Clarett. The smartest thing he could have done was not report the break-in.

Instead, he told police what was missing from the vehicle, and it turned out to be a fish tale. He had all kinds of precious cargo in that vehicle: an antique living-room set, a rare stamp collection, a van Gogh painting, a rack of Armani suits and a home-entertainment system, or stuff like that.

He must have missed the red flags popping up around him as he listed each missing item.

Clarett talked himself into purgatory, is what he did, hard as it was for the football coach and athletic director to accept.

They are not foolish men. They know what a national championship means to the school’s coffers. They can count.

But Clarett became too hot to touch. He became radioactive. Too much smoke was wafting from his direction: questionable finances and gifts, possible academic fraud and the filing of a false police report.

Yet his attorney says, “It’s just absolutely unfair to treat any kid this way.”

That is your cue to have a gut laugh.

Brown, the Hall of Fame running back who has become a guru to Clarett and his mother, makes at least one good point.

It is a crummy system. We all can agree on that.

But until the system implodes under the weight of its lies and deceit, Ohio State’s officials are obligated to function within the parameters of it.

To Brown, Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger is a “slave master” of the system who needs to attend charm school.

“When I am being respected by a mother and son and they are giving me that respect, then I doggone expect to be respected by an athletic director,” Brown says. “When you have the power to destroy a kid’s life, you have to be gracious in your investigation.”

No one at Ohio State has any such power over Clarett. He has done this to himself.

As distasteful as it may be to him, Clarett has the option to transfer to another school, go to the CFL or go to court against the NFL.

He can recover from this. He might even learn something from it.

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