NCAA allows perk for D-I programs

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sixty-four car dealers are enrolled in a program to give free cars to Ohio State coaches and athletic department staff, according to a Columbus Dispatch report.

The dealers provide 85 cars for Ohio State coaches, assistants, department workers, the wives of two coaches, and athletic director Andy Geiger in exchange for season tickets and other perks, according to a Dispatch story Sunday.

The newspaper's report comes on the heels of former Buckeye running back Maurice Clarett's accusing coach Jim Tressel, his staff and school boosters of arranging for him to get passing grades, car and thousands of dollars, including for bogus summer jobs. Clarett's claims, reported Tuesday by ESPN The Magazine on ESPN.com, have been corroborated by former Buckeyes players Marco Cooper, Curtis Crosby and B.J. Barre.

The university has denied their allegations.

NCAA spokeswoman Jennifer Kearns told the Dispatch that free-car programs for non-players do not violate Division I rules. The practice of providing coaches and school officials with vehicles is commonplace.

By invitation from Ohio State, the NCAA will have a representative on campus Monday to investigate allegations of improper benefits from Maurice Clarett and other former players, Geiger said Saturday.

"I hope there is the most thorough investigation in the history of intercollegiate athletics, because this is so bogus I can't even characterize it," Geiger told reporters during the Ohio State-Purdue game in West Lafayette, Ind.

"We welcome [the NCAA]. We invited them. We asked them to, please, participate."

Clarett said he got a free loaner car from a dealer
recommended by Tressel, who gets cars there under the program. Dealers provide cars in exchange for access to season tickets and other perks, the Dispatch reported.

Geiger said Tressel did try to help Clarett buy a car through
the dealership that leases cars to several Ohio State coaches and
administrators. But Clarett and his mother did not meet with the
dealer to make arrangements to buy the car, Geiger said, and the
dealership came to Columbus several days later to repossess it.

Most of Clarett's charges were addressed as part of an NCAA probe that found the star running back -- a freshman at that time -- lied to investigators, leading to his suspension from the team he helped win the 2002 national championship.

Geiger said many of the accusations were found to be baseless in
investigations by the NCAA and the university.

"The allegations are so sweeping, so over the top that we are
going to be forced to spend huge resources, so much time and energy
and effort, to try and get this right," Geiger said. "This isn't
going to be solved by the Michigan game or by [the time of] a bowl
game. It will take months, I imagine."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.