COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger
and coach Jim Tressel defended the school's football program
Tuesday against charges that players were paid by boosters and
Geiger had harsh words for former tailback Maurice Clarett and
for ESPN, which he said has led an attack against the school by
providing a forum for Clarett's allegations.
An NCAA investigator was on campus Monday to look into
accusations that Tressel helped Clarett get a loaner car and that
he and other players were paid for bogus summer jobs and received
improper help in class.
"I'm not concerned at all," Geiger said of the investigation.
"I think Jim runs an honest program and tells me the truth."
Clarett, who made the charges in stories reported Nov. 9 by ESPN The Magazine on ESPN.com, led Ohio State
to the national championship in 2002. Under the current circumstances, Geiger said he did not believe Ohio State's title might be lost.
"Unless and until there would be found an institutional
violation, I don't think it's in jeopardy," Geiger said.
Mark Shapiro, executive vice president of programming and
production at ESPN, said Geiger's attacks on the network "are
Clarett was suspended after his freshman season for lying to
investigators during another NCAA probe of allegations that he
received improper benefits from a family friend. He then lost a
court challenge of the NFL's rule preventing players out of high
school less than three years from being drafted.
Family members say Clarett is working out with a trainer at an
undisclosed location in preparation for next spring's NFL draft.
Alan Milstein, Clarett's lawyer in the antitrust suit against
the NFL, declined comment Tuesday. Clarett's mother did not return
a message seeking comment.
In additional stories that ran on ESPN.com, former Ohio State players supported at least part of Clarett's contentions.
"I do not know their agenda or motivation," Geiger said of ESPN.
He added, "I have been an athletic director for 33 years and
have been in the business for 43 years. I have never seen an
institution attacked in this way before. For the university, for
the fans, the students and the members of my staff ... it would be wrong to be silent."
Shapiro said ESPN's reporting was objective and balanced.
"For anyone to accuse us of having an agenda against Ohio State
is absurd," he said.
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.
The university has denied Clarett's allegations.
"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 Monday. "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."
The Buckeyes (6-4) take on No. 7 Michigan (9-1) on Saturday at
Ohio Stadium in the biggest game of the year for Ohio State.
Instead of addressing the X's and O's of the old rivals, Tressel
began his weekly news conference by discussing the distractions
brought on by Clarett's allegations.
"I feel good about how we lead this program and the intentions
and the ways that we do things," said Tressel, in his fourth
season. "I understand the rules of the game, the rules of the NCAA
very, very well and have great confidence that we follow them to
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.