November 10, 2004

Oh Maurice

Maurice Clarett, the starting running back for the 2003 National Champions from The Ohio State University, recently came forward saying he received illegal benefits while enrolled at the school. He only played for one season, and he was dropped off the team the next year for some shady dealings, like claiming not to know where he got money, cars, and clothes. Then he began an ill-fated journey to gain early entrance into the NFL, which ultimately failed. Now he's trying to work out and impress scouts so he'll get drafted in the 2005 draft, for which he is finally eligible.

He says that he came forward to let NFL GMs know what he's gone through. It's hard to know what to believe. He lost his eligibilty for being less than forthcoming, but it's also not hard to believe that boosters and professors did some of the things he said. I imagine it's pretty common practice at big athletics schools to direct athletes to professors and classes sympathetic to the athletic department. Every big school has academic advisors in the athletic department. Here at NC State, they help the wrestlers and everyone else in sports to do their schedule and stuff like that. I'm pretty sure some of them just show up and the advisor tells them what to take. It's a far cry from me poring over the schedule to make sure I can get in. Of course, I think they get preferential registration so they get classes that don't conflict with practice. That idea was being tossed around when I left Messiah. To a certain extent, academic advisors are a good idea, as big time college athletics is a huge commitment. On the other hand, you still have to go to class. NC State has a few guys who are inactive this semester for academic reasons.

It's hard to know what's to blame in the Clarett case. If you were a 19 year old that was offered the things he got, you might take it too, especially if college was just a bridge to the NFL and the untold millions that await. On the other hand, it's hard to know if he's telling the truth. I bet it's a little of both. Surely some booster gave him some money or use of a car (a definitely improper benefit) but I doubt it goes as far as Clarett says it does. To him, each dollar, car, or necklace, real or imagined is a status symbol, just like it's a status symbol to be getting acadmic help from a tutor (in that world). It's all a part of the entitlement a lot of big time college athletes headed for the pros feel. Not everyone can be Craig Krenzel, national champion quarterback by day, molecular genetics major by night.

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