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Published: Saturday, 5/15/2004

No place to hide for athletes

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Tom Cousineau and John Hicks were both All-American football players at Ohio State during the 1970s.

They played in an era when there were no cell phones, no computers, less media coverage, and few arrests.

However, a lot has changed in Columbus.

In the 391/2 months since Jim Tressel was hired as coach, 14 Ohio State players have been involved in 15 off-the-field incidents requiring police intervention, not counting traffic tickets.

Infractions have included underage drinking, driving under the influence, possession of drugs and a firearm, and stealing golf clubs.

Earlier this month, freshman tight end Louis Irizarry and sophomore tailback Ira Guilford were picked up by police for beating up a fellow Ohio State student and stealing his wallet in the early morning hours.

The incidents have not gone unnoticed - at least as far as Hicks and Cousineau are concerned.

“The media coverage is 24/7, and with all the Internet chat rooms out there, kids have to realize they just can t afford to act up any more,” Hicks said. “The standards are real high now for student-athletes, and they have to adhere to the rules and conduct themselves in an orderly fashion. And if you don t, you lose your scholarship. It s that simple.

“Some kids make mistakes, but they deserve a second chance. I can t condone people who are robbers or stealers. It s embarrassing. It gives the school a black eye.”

Cousineau said the type of player Ohio State recruits now is much different from the guys he played with more than 25 years ago.

“These days, you could never win a national championship with a team of choir boys,” he said. “You need a good mix of kids. Everybody would love to win the national title with 70 Craig Krenzels, but you re not going to do it.

“It s not possible. It s just not going to happen.”

Cousineau and Hicks, who were honored last night during a “Meet the Buckeyes” event at the Stranahan Theater in Toledo, also are confident that former OSU tailback Maurice Clarett won t play in the NFL this season after being barred from last month s draft.

“The NFL doesn t want Clarett, and it s not good for the kid,” said Cousineau, a linebacker who was the No. 1 overall draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1979. “He doesn t belong in the NFL, given the situation.

“The league keeps getting younger and younger and we don t need guys like [Clarett] coming into the league unprepared.”

Hicks, an offensive tackle drafted in the first round by the New York Giants in 1974, agreed.

“Clarett s not ready for the NFL,” Hicks said. “He would be like a boy among men. It would not be a pretty situation.”

Clarett originally sued the NFL last September for immediate eligibility in the draft despite being out of high school for just two years, reversing the league s previous three-year rule.

Under the rule, he would not have been eligible to play in the NFL until next season, because he was a 2001 graduate from Warren Harding High School.

But then that decision was overturned.

“It was the right ruling. It made me happy,” Cousineau said.

It did not please Clarett, who faces an uncertain football future after rushing for 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns in leading Ohio State to the national championship as a freshman.

He was suspended his entire sophomore year for accepting improper benefits from a family friend and then lying about it to NCAA and university investigators.

“He did it to himself, so he doesn t have to look far for someone to blame,” Cousineau said. “What it showed was that one kid is never bigger than the program at Ohio State. They had a pretty darn good year without him.”



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