Another Maurice Moment

By Lamont Germany
Updated: November 18, 2004

Ricky Williams
Maurice Clarett

BALTIMORE, MD.—Is Maurice Clarett telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

I’m only guessing, but I suspect Maurice may have been telling more truth than fiction.

The former Ohio State tailback hasn’t played a down of football for anybody, anywhere since 2002. However he’s made more noise than any tailback in the country.

The noise Maurice makes these days is off the field. I like to call them Maurice moments.

And predictably the most recent Maurice moment has most of us media folk taking dead aim at Maurice.

Not me.

Maurice Clarett is not the problem. He’s just the symptom. But it’s easier to pick on the bad decisions of a 19 or 20-year-old kid than to take on the system that creates the world Clarett and other big time college athletes live in.

We pick on Maurice Clarett because he is an easy target. He’s become Public Enemy Number 1 because taking on the NCAA or Ohio State or well-heeled and influential boosters is a tougher assignment. We’d rather take the path of least resistance.

The most recent Maurice moment revolves around his assertion that Ohio State coaches and boosters lavished him with money, access to cars, furniture, grades, gifts… ect…ect…

Ohio State is categorically denying any wrongdoing. Consequently I believe it’s safe to assume that somebody isn’t coming clean. Either Maurice Clarett is lying like a rug, or Ohio State is telling a big, bold, fat faced fib.

Even if you don’t believe a single syllable uttered by Clarett, I would submit that what he alleges has occurred and does continue to occur on college campuses all over the country, all the time.

If you throw enough cars or money or women at enough 18 year olds, please don’t be shocked if some of them make dumb choices.

Big time collegiate athletics is big business, generating big dollars. Anywhere you find big dollars you will find cheating. I don’t care if it’s on Wall Street or on the football field. Anytime the combination of money and people get together, there will be folks who will attempt to take advantage of the system. Anyone who suggests that cheating doesn’t happen on our college campuses is either naive or stupid.

The athletes who take the gifts don’t talk about it because they would be indicting themselves and biting the hand that feeds them. The University and boosters keep quiet because they want to keep the athletes happy so that the arenas and stadiums remain full.

It’s the dirty little secret that we all know happens, but we just don’t talk about it in polite company. It’s not casual cocktail conversation. As long as the stadium is full, and the loot is rolling in, it’s easy to look the other way.

Maurice Clarett is someone who doesn’t always play by the rules. However, I got a scoop for you; neither do many NCAA schools and neither do many boosters. Before I take off the gloves and start swinging at Clarett, I have to throw some punches at the big boys at the top of the financial football food chain that are the heart of the mess.

Clarett’s crime is that he has broken the code of silence. He let the Buckeye out of the bag.

Clarett has this habit of making folk angry. He made Ohio State angry when he decided to turn pro. He made the NFL angry when he challenged their age restrictions. And now he’s shaking up the foundation of the cozy relationship between collegiate sports and the boosters who make sure that star players are taken care of.

Ever wonder why you almost never hear about a big time college athlete never flunking out, or never being declared academically ineligible. It’s not because all-star players are geniuses. It’s because many get taken care of when they can’t cut it academically.

When you get taken care of you tend to keep your mouth shut.

I am in no way excusing the young folk who knowingly violate NCAA rules. If caught, they should be punished. However, I can’t just look the other way and ignore the fact that it takes two to tango.

I can’t rant and rave against Maurice Clarett unless I reserve at least as much if not more outrage at the schools, the boosters and the collegiate athletic structure that allows this to occur.

Maurice Clarett has broken the code of silence. He let the Buckeye out of the bag.

The question for me is not what will become of Maurice Clarett. The question I have is what will be done to address a system that got out of hand long before Clarett came along.

I tend to believe nothing will be done about that system. There are too many of us having too much fun picking on the pawn (Maurice Clarett), instead of picking a fight with the bigger targets.

I will not defend Maurice Clarett’s decision to take whatever he may have taken from Ohio State. I do understand the difficulty in resisting the temptations that are placed in front of athletes like Clarett all the time.

Maurice Clarett’s days as a college player are over. But the problem that was in place before he arrived in Columbus, OH isn’t going anywhere.

One day we might realize that this thing isn’t about Maurice Clarett. Until that day the band will play on. Until that day there will be many more star athletes who will be the recipients of $500 hand shakes while we all look the other way.