By invitation from Ohio State, the NCAA will have a representative on campus Monday to investigate allegations of improper benefits from Maurice Clarett and other former players, athletic director Andy Geiger said Saturday.
Clarett has accused coach Jim Tressel, his staff and school boosters of arranging for him to get passing grades, cars and thousands of dollars, including for bogus summer jobs. His claims, reported Tuesday by ESPN The Magazine on ESPN.com, have been corroborated by former Buckeyes players Marco Cooper, Curtis Crosby and B.J. Barre.
The university has denied the allegations.
"I hope there is the most thorough investigation in the history of intercollegiate athletics, because this is so bogus I can't even characterize it," Geiger told reporters during the Ohio State-Purdue game in West Lafayette, Ind.
"We welcome [the NCAA]. We invited them. We asked them to, please, participate."
Most of Clarett's charges were addressed as part of an NCAA probe that found the star running back -- a freshman at that time -- lied to investigators, leading to his suspension from the team he helped win the 2002 national championship.
Geiger said many of the accusations were found to be baseless in
investigations by the NCAA and the university.
"The allegations are so sweeping, so over the top that we are
going to be forced to spend huge resources, so much time and energy
and effort, to try and get this right," Geiger said. "This isn't
going to be solved by the Michigan game or by [the time of] a bowl
game. It will take months, I imagine."
Geiger said Tuesday that the NCAA investigated those charges in the summer of 2003, when Clarett misled investigators 17 times. His playing eligibility was then revoked.
Clarett also has charged that boosters provided him with cash during the national championship season and that tutors did classwork for him.
Cooper, a former Buckeyes linebacker, also told ESPN The Magazine he had bogus landscaping jobs, received furniture from a booster and borrowed cars from Columbus dealerships in exchange for signed Ohio State memorabilia. He was kicked off the team for drug possession.
Clarett told the magazine he took "the fall" for Tressel and
Ohio State when meeting with the NCAA investigators but was
subsequently "blackballed" when he tried to return to school.
Tressel sternly shook his head no when asked if the article
distracted his players from the game against Purdue, which the
Boilermakers won 24-17.
Geiger expressed faith in the Ohio State coaching staff, compliance
officers and academic counselors.
"We don't duck. We're not afraid of what's coming. We're not
afraid of what's here," Geiger said.
Friends and family members say Clarett has been working out with a personal trainer in preparation for the 2005 NFL draft. He has not spoken publicly in months.
On Sunday, The Columbus Dispatch reported that 64 car dealers
are part of a program to give free cars to Ohio State coaches and
members of the athletic department staff in exchange for perks,
such as access to great tickets.
The program is allowed by the NCAA at Division I schools, and it
is up to the schools to monitor it, NCAA spokeswoman Jennifer
Kearns told the newspaper.
Clarett said Tressel set him up with a free loaner car from the
same dealership where the coach gets his cars under the program.
Geiger said Tressel did try to help Clarett buy a car through
the dealership that leases cars to several Ohio State coaches and
administrators. But Clarett and his mother did not meet with the
dealer to make arrangements to buy the car, Geiger said, and the
dealership came to Columbus several days later to repossess it.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.