Having seen Robby Benson’s searing indictment of big time college athletics, “One On One” at an early age, I stopped being shocked by the widespread corruption and exploitation a long time ago. For those of you without my taste in art films, however, this story from ESPN.com might shatter a a dream or two.
Ending six months of silence, former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett has told ESPN The Magazine in this week’s edition that he “took the fall” for the school during a 2003 NCAA investigation and that he’s talking now because he wants to “clear his name” with National Football League owners and general managers.
Clarett says that while he was at Ohio State in 2002 and 2003 head coach Jim Tressel, as well as certain members of his staff and boosters, provided him with improper benefits. He says he covered up Tressel’s improprieties during the NCAA investigation and afterward, Ohio State “blackballed” him from the football program.
According to Clarett, Tressel arranged loaner cars for him and Tressel’s brother, Dick, found him lucrative landscaping jobs that he did not even have to show up for. He says members of Tressel’s staff also introduced him to boosters who’d slip him thousands of dollars, and the better he played, the more cash he’d receive. He says boosters eventually began inviting him into their homes or would meet him out in the community
“When you’d leave, [the booster] sets you straight,” Clarett told The Magazine. “They say, ‘You got any money in your pocket?’ They make sure your money’s straight.”
Clarett (above) also says he likely would have been ineligible for Ohio State’s national title season of 2002 if the football staff had not “aligned” him with an academic advisor whose goal was simply to keep him eligible. He says the academic advisor enrolled him in Independent Study courses and also put him with hand-picked teachers who would pass him whether he attended their classes or not. He says his advisor also introduced him to a tutor who prepared outlines and told him what to write for assignments.
Another former Ohio State player, linebacker Marco Cooper (2000-01; Spring 2002), corroborated many of Clarett’s comments. Cooper, who was suspended from the team following two arrests for drug possession, says he also had bogus landscaping jobs, that a booster helped furnish his apartment, and that he was able to borrow cars from local Columbus dealerships in exchange for signed OSU memorabilia.
Another former Buckeyes player, current Maryland running back Sammy Maldonado, says he was placed in so many courses that did not put him on the road to graduation that only 17 of a possible 40 credits earned would transfer to his new school.
Ohio State officials have declined to comment on many of the allegations. School President Karen Holbrook, Jim Tressel and Dick Tressel refused to respond through spokespersons, while Athletic Director Andy Geiger said he would not answer questions until after the magazine story appeared, if then.
Maurice Clarett says he received improper benefits during his time at Ohio State.
“We went through a yearlong investigation of our academic programs, everything that [Clarett] has to allege,” Geiger said. “He vowed to me that he would do something to try to get us and this may be what he’s trying to do. So he’s on his own.
“We dealt with this guy [Clarett] for 18 months. I just hope you’ve checked into the background and history of who you’re dealing with.”