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Monday, December 30
Clarett angry for not getting to attend funeral

Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett, upset over missing the funeral of a lifelong friend, said Monday that colleges care more about football than they do about life.

I guess football's more important than a person's life to them. That's why I'm ready to get this game over and go back home.
Maurice Clarett

Speaking prior to the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes' showdown for the national title against Miami in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Friday, Clarett said Ohio State "gave him the runaround" when he asked to fly home for the service Monday.

"They didn't really give me an answer to the question," he said of university officials. "I guess football's more important than a person's life to them. That's why I'm ready to get this game over and go back home."

Clarett set Ohio State freshman records this season with 1,190 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.

Ohio State sports information director Steve Snapp said he was unaware of Clarett's request to fly home to Youngstown, Ohio. Snapp said he was aware only that Clarett's friend was killed.

Ohio State athletics director Andy Geiger was not immediately available to comment.

Clarett declined to give the name of his friend, who he said was shot last week.

He said he was affected not only by the death but by Ohio State's response.

"I'm kind of messed up now because they jerked me kind of," Clarett said. "I really wanted to go back. I'm not really supposed to be here. But it's cool. Things happen in life, there's bumps in the road like everything else. But I'll be all right."

Earlier in the season, Clarett had talked about other friends who had not been able to escape the streets in the Rust Belt city. He said he had lost several friends and relatives and that he thought of them every day when he considered how fortunate he was to have a scholarship and the opportunity to better himself.

Clarett said it was difficult to keep a football game in perspective in light of what is going on back home.

"Life's a whole lot more important than football, you know what I mean? We hold the national championship but they won't talk about the homeless and the poor," he said. "We're sitting here in this old grand hotel, things like that, but we can't feed the homeless or poor. ... It's a game."

Clarett was a toddler when his father left home. His mother, Michelle, is the chief deputy clerk for the municipal court in Youngstown.

As he was growing up, he saw people killed in the streets. Once he was playing football in the street when a boy sitting nearby was killed in a drive-by shooting. Another time, Clarett was sitting on the front porch of the house he shared with his mother, grandmother, two brothers and 11 cousins. They saw a neighbor's friend get shot in the chest, crawl into Clarett's front yard and bleed to death.

Clarett said his goal was to funnel money back to people who need it the most.

"You go through downtown Columbus, you've got people sleeping on sidewalks. You know what I mean? And they're giving us scholarships and they're selling 100,000 tickets every game," he said.

"It's the richest part of Columbus, downtown, but you're walking past bums and homeless people. This is wintertime, it's like 19 degrees down there. They're sleeping in boxes and little covers. It don't make any sense to me."