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Saturday, December 27, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 1/9/2005

Did Geiger trust Tressel too much?

Before Jim Tressel, a recruit like Maurice Clarett wasn't a high priority under Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger.

In the past, Geiger would have frowned on the addition of a high-maintenance individual like Clarett, a local legend in Youngstown who bounced from school to school because of his ability to carry a football.

Clarett was talented, but he had issues. Clarett wasn't Geiger's ideal of a student-athlete.

But as the Buckeyes struggled to win Big Ten championships and big games under coach John Cooper, Geiger had a change of heart.

Geiger fired Cooper and hired Tressel with Clarett coming along as part of a package deal.

Today, in a bit of irony, Geiger is preparing for early retirement partly because he trusted Tressel, who trusted Clarett too much.

Had Clarett concentrated on football, he might have won a Heisman Trophy by now. But Clarett's Ohio State legacy goes well beyond what he accomplished on the field. In fact, Clarett's legacy at Ohio Sate will be for what he did off the field.

Clarett will be remembered as a self-centered, no-class-attending, looking-for-a-handout boy in a man's body who couldn't see the big picture for the dollar signs.

Clarett's on-field peformance helped the Buckeyes win their first national championship in 34 years. His off-field actions led to his early departure, NCAA investigations and Geiger's emotional farewell news conference last week.

If Geiger is to blame for anything, it's trusting Tressel, especially in his handling of Clarett.

Geiger knew about Tressel's coaching history, knew that Tressel had known Clarett since the eighth grade, but hired him anyway.

When Tressel was the football coach and athletic director at Youngstown State when that school was cited by the NCAA for lack of institutional control, former quarterback Ray Isaac was found to have received $10,000 in cash payments and access to automobiles from the chairman of the school's board of trustees. Tressel was not reprimanded by the NCAA.

Sound familiar? It should. While Clarett is gone and Geiger plans to step down in June, Tressel remains the football coach at Ohio State. Remarkably, Tressel hasn't been linked to the NCAA's investigation in Columbus.

Tressel should be a nervous football wreck. He's the last man standing. With Geiger gone, there are no more Tressel crutches. Ohio State's new athletic director should be monitoring Tressel closely.

We can speculate forever about what might have been if this had happened or that had happened.

Bottom line: Tressel kept his mouth shut. Geiger made his feud with Clarett public.

When word got back to Clarett that Geiger bad-mouthed him to NFL scouts (as if Clarett's tarnished reputation hadn't already taken a hit), Clarett fought back the only way he knew how. He went to the national media and told his story of cash payments and use of luxury automobiles provided by boosters, and tutors helping him write papers and pass tests.

He broke the unwritten code of silence the way a jilted lover seeks revenge after being dumped.

Business, never personal.



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