Since this Maurice Clarett saga broke on
Tuesday, one thing has stood out in my mind: The Game may not be
that big for a while.

Sharad Mattu

In the last two days, I’ve done something I normally
despise doing — I checked the Internet message boards to see
what crazy things people are anonymously saying. Right now,
Michigan fans are taking extreme pleasure in pointing out that
nothing Ohio State has accomplished lately is legitimate, and
Buckeye fans are saying Clarett — the man who won them a
national title — is a pathological liar, and that if any
program is investigated thoroughly (like Michigan, for example),
violations would be discovered.

Unfortunately, both sides are probably correct.

The Game stands above every other regular-season college
football game. It’s a true event, no matter what the
teams’ records are going in. The anticipation may go up a
notch or two when they’re playing for as much as they did
last year, but it’s always a contest that the entire nation
anticipates.

But now, imagine when the two teams face off next Saturday. If
ESPN’s College GameDay goes to Columbus, do you think
they’ll run features on Ted Ginn Jr., the Buckeyes’
freshman touchdown specialist, or Michigan’s freshmen
backfield of quarterback Chad Henne and Michael Hart?

No. Expect Clarett, Clarett and more Clarett.

Clarett says that, during Ohio State’s national
championship run in 2002, he received money illegally from
boosters, had tutors complete practically all his work for him, was
set up by running backs coach Dick Tressel — head coach John
Tressel’s brother — with landscaping jobs which
involved no work and a lot of pay. Clarett also says Tressel
arranged for cars to be loaned to him.

Boosters giving money to players has happened before and will
happen again — I don’t think that much can be done
about that. If the athletic department tells the players not to
take money, and tells the boosters not to offer money, and it
doesn’t know what’s going on, it can’t really be
blamed.

But the allegation of academic fraud and the way Clarett
connects the Tressels to what transpired is far more serious.
Remember, when handing out the penalty to Michigan for the Ed
Martin-Fab Five scandal, a significant reason the punishment
wasn’t even more severe was that it couldn’t be proven
coach Steve Fisher was aware of Martin’s illegal activities
within the basketball program.

So if an investigation is launched — and if the
allegations are proven to be true — significant repercussions
for the Buckeyes aren’t just possible, but probable.

The timing couldn’t be worse because, lately, the rivalry
has been as good as its ever been.

There have been great games at Michigan Stadium the past few
years, but the win over Ohio State last November is the clear-cut
No. 1, and it’s not even close. Heck, the Michigan student
section rushed the field. You know it’s a big game
when that happens.

There were games that were just as exciting and with better
finishes — Minnesota and Michigan State this year, and
Washington two years ago.

But what made last year’s game with the Buckeyes stand
alone were the stakes involved: Michigan and Ohio State were
playing for the outright Big Ten regular-season title.

Michigan and Ohio State’s football programs seem (I
repeat, seem) to have always been clean, and even if that
fact changes for one team, it’s bad for the other team,
too.

After following the football program closely the last few
months, I really think Michigan, as Larry Brown would say,
“does things the right way.” But so many people link
Michigan and Ohio State that if one goes down, so will the
other.

So, if the student section was planning to rush the field on
Nov. 19, 2005, it better find another game. The Game may not be
that big at all.

 

As a kid growing up in New Jersey, Sharad Mattu was a
Michigan fan because he liked the Fab Five. Oh well. Anyway, he can
be reached at
“mailto:smattu@umich.edu”>smattu@umich.edu.

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