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Published: Sunday, 8/24/2003

Geiger doing well, so far, in Clarett case

So far, so good.

Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger has taken the necessary measures to address the Maurice Clarett situation with the NCAA in hopes of Clarett returning to the football field this season.

But according to former NCAA director of eligibility Janet Justus, “There's a lot of smoke there.

“I don't know all the facts,” said Justus, an attorney who spent 14 years with the NCAA and currently handles eligibility appeals for NCAA member schools for a Kansas City, Kan., law firm, “but it does sound like he [Clarett] has not been forthcoming and it sounds like some extra benefits are involved.

“No matter what the institution's saying, he's ineligible. Multiple games, for sure, because the institution has said so. The NCAA's not going to say, `Come off that.' They may add more [games].

“NCAA enforcement's going to want to be assured there's nothing more than the use of the car. But there seems to be other issues, such as the stereo equipment and cash.”

Justus said Geiger has acted promptly and forthrightly - from investigating Clarett's use of an expensive car and the player reporting in April the theft of $10,000 in stereo equipment and cash, to holding Clarett out of preseason workouts - because Geiger understands how the NCAA operates.

“If I were advising a school, I'd say, `You act.' On the surface, Ohio State is acting on it, and acting quickly,” Justus said yesterday. “If I were Andy Geiger, I would do it this way.

“They are obligated to do what they're doing. Andy has already spoken with the NCAA, I guarantee you that,” said Justus, who handled student-athlete eligibility cases ranging from Michigan's Fab Five to unscrupulous player agent Norby Walters. “He has probably told the [NCAA], `Here's what we're going to do. What do you think?'”

Justus left the NCAA in 1994. Otherwise, she said, she might be involved with the Clarett investigation.

Justus said she knows Geiger well enough to consider him a stand-up guy as well as a friend, and offered some advice regarding Clarett. Be patient. And be very, very careful.

“They're not going to get to the bottom of this right away,” said Justus. “It's not going to be solved by Wednesday.

“The average person doesn't realize this, but the NCAA doesn't have subpoena power. The only way they can get information is people turning on other people or digging around. They can't mandate that a witness tell them information.

“These things take time.”

After Ohio State petitions the NCAA student-athlete re-instatement committee this week about restoring Clarett's eligibility, one of two things can happen.

The NCAA can say yes or no.

“The institution has the responsibility of declaring him ineligible,” said Justus. “They're going to try to restore his eligibility with the NCAA and they want to get the lightest penalty.”

Justus said the NCAA's main concern in determining guilt or innocence is whether a school permitted a student-athlete to compete if he was recruited illegally, participated in academic fraud or received extra benefits.

“It's a risk they run. The institution has to be very positive there is nothing else, that they have the entire picture. If it becomes an infractions case down the road, the NCAA can't be able to ask, `Why did you allow the young man to compete?'”



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