Clarett says players are to blame, not coaches.

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Last updated: 06/08/2011 7:42 PM

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Football
Clarett Says Players Are to Blame, Not Coaches
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It has been seven years since Maurice Clarett’s tell-all interview with ESPN The Magazine, and a lot has changed in the mind of the former Ohio State running back.

At the time, Clarett was only two years removed from helping to lead the Buckeyes to the 2002 BCS National Championship. His college career had come to an abrupt and scandalous end and Clarett was looking to blame anyone and everyone, except of course himself.

Maurice Clarett
Photo by Jim Davidson
Maurice Clarett

Today Clarett is singing a different tune. After spending nearly four years in prison on robbery charges, the Youngstown native appeared on the Dan Patrick Radio Show Wednesday morning to discuss Terrelle Pryor and the resignation of former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. 

“There’s no secret regime, no secret congregation of people who sit around at Ohio State and give young guys money, who say, ‘Let me give you X amount of dollars or thousands of dollars,’ nothing like that,” Clarett said during his 13-minute interview on Patrick’s daily radio show. 

“Anything that any players goes and gets is all based on him and who he meets in the community. When he goes out and meets a fan or he meets somebody, he’s going to meet that person himself and create a relationship himself and do what he does. A coach has no control over what the young guys are doing.”

That is a much different view of the situation than what Clarett shared with ESPN back in 2004. Feeling “blackballed” by Ohio State and with nowhere to go, Clarett accused Jim Tressel and his brother Dick of arranging “phantom” jobs for him. Sometimes, he said, it would require watering flowers for four hours in exchange for “a couple hundred.” Other times he wouldn’t show up at all.

But today Clarett shared a much different view of Tressel than the one he held during his years of bitterness towards a coach and university he felt had turned its back on him.

“People respect Jim Tressel because he’s a man. He’s a man’s man, you know what I mean? The guy has integrity. He has class,” Clarett said during one of the more lucid portions of his conversation with Patrick.

“I look at Jim Tressel every day and just Google his name and see articles come up with reputable people sticking their necks out for him. He’s a good man who got caught up in a bad situation. You can’t be a fraud for 30 years. It’s impossible, you know what I’m saying? People could smell a fraud within the first few months. You’re going to be exposed. But for 30 years that man has been respected by the people who are very respectable throughout the country. It’s not right for that man to get done like that.”

After 10 years as the head football coach at Ohio State, Tressel resigned last Monday after violating NCAA Bylaw 10.1. He was scheduled to serve a self-imposed five-game suspension to start the 2011 season, but mounting allegations surrounding the OSU football program seemed to push him out the door.

It also pushed star quarterback Terrelle Pryor out the same door, as he announced Tuesday he would forgo his senior season in Columbus because it was “best for the team.” Already suspended for the first five games of the season, Pryor was also being investigated by the NCAA for his use of loaner cars.

The latest allegations, however, may be the most egregious. ESPN’s Outside the Lines reports Pryor accepted $20,000-40,000 in exchange for autographed memorabilia.

“A lot of guys come from nothing,” Clarett said on the Dan Patrick Show.

“When coach Tressel goes out to recruit these guys from inner cities, people don’t realize their family is depending on you and your athletic ability. That’s the only way you can make it out because when they wake up every day, every day in their lives they don’t see anybody who’s going to college or graduating and had success on a scholastic level, so they don’t believe in it.”

A free education and the small stipend provided by an athletic scholarship might seem like enough of a payoff for those on the outside looking in, but Clarett said most young athletes don’t see it that way, especially the ones who come from nothing.

“People only believe in what they see, so when they come to college and they’re used to having nothing then trying to live on $1,100 in Columbus, Ohio,” he said.

“If you want to stay in a reputable place you’re going to pay $750 for rent, then you’re going to pay $4 gallon for gas, that’s another $100-150 per month. If you have a girlfriend and want to live a normal life, $1,100 is not enough, but in Columbus, Ohio, you’re treated like a celebrity.”

Clarett certainly was after rushing for 1,237 yards and 18 touchdowns as a freshman in 2002. He was offered money, cars and fame just for playing the game of football. In his mind, that is the thing that needs to change.

“It’s not a Terrelle Pryor problem. It’s not a Jim Tressel problem,” Clarett said.

“It’s just a culture not of inner city youth but a culture of the whole system.”

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