NEW YORK (AP) – Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett received assistance to pass a class before the Fiesta Bowl, a university professor told The New York Times for a story published yesterday.
Clarett passed African-American and African Studies 101 by taking two oral exams, Paulette Pierce, an associate professor, told the Times. She said she worked directly with Clarett and administered the exams after he walked out of the course’s midterm exam during the fall semester.
However, Ohio State Athletic Director Andy Geiger told the Columbus Post-Dispatch on Saturday night that Clarett’s two recent meetings with NCAA officials had nothing to do with academics.
According to the Columbus newspaper, the NCAA instead is focusing on Clarett’s finances, and possibly might include his dealings with LeBron James, the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick and Clarett’s friend, on its checklist.
When asked if Clarett was in jeopardy of being ineligible for all or part of the coming season, Geiger told the newspaper: “Not that I know of. That doesn’t mean it won’t change. As of now, he’s fine.”
Sources told the Dispatch that Clarett apparently gave satisfactory answers to the questions from the NCAA investigator, but that a final ruling in the matter was still pending.
Clarett could not be reached for comment by the Dispatch, and would not respond to the Times’ requests for an interview.
Pierce also said several football players told her that tutors occasionally wrote their papers, but she had no direct proof.
“We are shocked and dismayed by the allegations,” university president Karen Holbrook and Geiger said in a statement Saturday night, referring to The Times’ report. “We have a rigorous system of checks and balances in place to prevent the kind of misconduct that is charged.”
Holbrook and Geiger said at a news conference yesterday that the matter would be investigated fully.
NCAA spokesman Jeff Howard declined comment Saturday.
Kenneth Goings, chairman of the Department of African-American and African studies at Ohio State, told The Times that Pierce had the discretion to decide whether to give oral exams.
Despite numerous injuries, Clarett set Ohio State freshman records with 1,237 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns last season as the Buckeyes beat Miami 31-24 in double-overtime for the national title.
Pierce told the Times that Clarett left his midterm exam in her course without completing it.
“He looked at it and didn’t know a thing,” she told the newspaper.
The newspaper reported that Pierce began working with Clarett in hopes of motivating him. She said he needed a lot of attention.
“I don’t think, at one point in the class, he was trying,” she told the Times. “When I started working more closely with Maurice, and paying more attention to him, he started to learn more.”