Sunday, February 15, 2009

The time that ... Maurice Clarett considered a transfer to Grambling

Wait for greatness?: Reports have Clarett pondering move to GSU
September 9, 2003
Grambling State's Doug Williams spent all day talking about Maurice Clarett - perhaps the nation's best collegiate runner, but perhaps one without a school.

A writer from ESPN called. Some of Williams' friends in the National Football League, too. And a lot - a whole lot - of college representatives.

Both Williams and GSU athletics director Albert Dennis confirmed that they had not heard from the sophomore running back on Monday.

In fact, the only person Williams didn't talk to, he joked, was Clarett.

"That's been the talk of the day," Williams said, chuckling. "We've gotten calls from all over."

Clarett helped lead Ohio State to its first national championship since 1970 last season - and has been in trouble with the NCAA ever since.

Still, when the ESPN guy called, GSU's sixth-year coach was typically blunt: "I don't think a headache comes with the kid. He didn't shoot anybody. They didn't arrest him for drugs. He didn't rape anybody. Ain't no problem with the kid."

The New York Times broke a story this summer indicating that Clarett could have received preferential help with exams last season. Then the NCAA made inquiries into gifts that Clarett allegedly received that could be related to a possible relationship with an agent.

Clarett was held out of practices, then suspended for six games.

Next came a traffic stop, one where Clarett said he was "test driving" a car that was suspiciously loaded to the roof with video and stereo equipment. Then he gave a false report concerning who the stuff belonged to.

The NCAA is now investigating that - and there is some indication that Ohio State isn't optimistic about Clarett's eventual return.

News reports had Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel staging a team picture this Wednesday - with no spot saved for the troubled running back.

In steps NFL legend Jim Brown, who has become an advisor for the Clarett family - and is a friend of Doug Williams'.

On a Saturday night radio program, Brown strongly suggested - should Clarett be declared ineligible for the Buckeyes - that he consider transfer to Grambling State.

"I think that if the Claretts would consider transferring, Grambling would be an ideal situation for the kid," Brown told ESPN Radio's Bob Valvano. "Doug Williams is a great coach. He could hone his game. He'd be in school. It's a great situation. Doug would be perfect for the kid, but that's up to him and his mother."

If Clarett were to transfer down to I-AA Grambling, he would have to sit out the remainder of the 2003 season - but could start in 2004, setting himself up for a look in the NFL draft the following spring.

The earliest Clarett could be in Black and Gold would be the spring game of 2004 - but only after first serving whatever NCAA sanctions are eventually handed down. He would also have to enroll this year, and remain eligible to play throughout his suspension.

Williams says to be mentioned as a possible landing spot for what many thought would be a Heisman Trophy candidate speaks volumes about where the program is headed - and where it's been.

A third-straight Southwestern Athletic Conference championship in 2002 was just the latest signature moment, he reminds, in a Grambling State legacy that includes countless NFL draftees - and four Pro Football Hall of Famers.

"Grambling brings national visibility," Williams said, "even if we are I-AA. Scouts are coming here every day. That means he's getting everything that he would have gotten there - except 100,000 people at the game."

The talk of a new running back of Clarett's talent and speed would be welcome news for GSU team that's always trying to balance its offense.

Quarterback Bruce Eugene led Division I-AA in total offense and points scored - but he was also the team's second leading rusher. That trend remained on Saturday in the Tigers' first SWAC game of the year.

Williams can only imagine what it would mean to have Eugene handing off instead to Clarett - who had 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

"We don't have a Maurice Clarrett. It would be a big difference," Williams said. "It would take a lot of pressure off of Bruce. There's nothing I can do, but keep my phone line clear."

With that, Williams - understandably - excused himself and hung up.

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Ohio State officially releases Clarett, sparking local interest
September 10, 2003
GRAMBLING - The first in a sequence of events that could bring one of the nation's best collegiate running backs to an area school has happened.

Tuesday, Ohio State released Maurice Clarett - the hero of the Buckeyes' national championship game earlier this year - from his scholarship with the school. The move came hours after Clarett was charged with lying about items stolen from him in a borrowed car - part of a string of off-field problems since the Fiesta Bowl.

Northeastern Louisiana entered the narrative when the Clarett family's adviser in this matter, Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, encouraged Clarett to transfer to Grambling State University - should he be released by Ohio State.

That happened on Tuesday - though NCAA penalties have yet to be decided.

Brown suggested Clarett's transfer over the weekend on an ESPN radio program, though no one at Grambling State has yet heard from him or his family.

"We could use him," said sixth-year GSU coach Doug Williams. "I don't think Ohio State would have won the national championship without Maurice Clarett."

Williams entered a Tuesday news conference dominated by talk of Clarett carrying a Tigers jersey with No. 13 on it. "That's what he would wear," he joked. "Isn't that what most of the questions will be about?"

Williams didn't have any more information about the possible move - though he met with his offensive coaches to discuss the possibility of having the talented rusher join the Tigers, who have just begun defending their third-consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference title.

"It would alter our offense to more of a running attack," Williams said, "and would take some pressure off of (junior quarterback) Bruce Eugene. It would give us a chance to win a fourth straight."

Clarett was charged, according to the Associated Press, with misdemeanor falsification, said Columbus, Ohio, city spokesman Scott Varner. If convicted, Clarett could face up to six months in a jail and a $1,000 fine.

Clarett had already been suspended indefinitely by the team after charges of academic irregularities and improper gifts. Ohio State has been working for more than two weeks on a response to several pages of allegations sent by the NCAA to the university.

New allegations of cash transactions were raised by a Cleveland television station on Monday. "It's out of our hands," Williams said of the latest charges. "That would be up to the NCAA."

If Clarett transferred to another Division I-A school, he would have to sit out a year in addition to any suspension or ineligibility handed down by the NCAA. He could transfer to a Division I-AA, II or III and be immediately eligible to play after the possible penalties.

Williams said Tuesday that he learned about Jim Brown's suggestion of a transfer - and of each new wrinkle in the Clarett case - from the Internet and news reports. He said Brown's faith in his coaching abilities was a tip of the hat to GSU.

"He has a lot of respect for what we have done here at Grambling," Williams said of Brown. "I think he feels, as an adviser, that Maurice would need someone he can relate to a lot better than some other places."

NCAA spokeswoman Kay Hawes would not speak to the Associated Press about the Clarett case but did say that if a suspended or ineligible player transferred, the athlete's new school would first have to declare him ineligible, and would then seek his reinstatement through the organization.

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NCAA leaves Clarett with trio of options
· Troubled running back hit with suspension, not banned from playing.
September 11, 2003
The NCAA handed down a season-long suspension Wednesday for troubled Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, but didn't ban him from playing.

With an earlier release from the football team already announced, Clarett now faces three options:

· Give up collegiate football and go to class.

· Petition the NFL for early entry into the draft.

· Transfer to a Division I-AA school - some have said it might be Grambling State, where regulations state Clarett would be eligible to play his junior year before reaching the required age for pro draft.

Players must wait until three years after their high school graduation to enter the NFL. Clarett will be a sophomore this season.

GSU coach Doug Williams, who learned of Clarett's possible interest in the Tigers on the Internet, says the first two possibilities are unlikely - in particular, petitioning the NFL.

"The unfortunate part about challenging the rule," Williams said, "is that he would probably never get the opportunity to reap the benefits. The NFL would drag the case out so long, that he would be eligible for the draft anyway."

Jim Brown, a family advisor, first raised the possibility that the NCAA's most electrifying runner - Clarett scored the game-winning touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl on his last play for the Buckeyes - might transfer to the Lincoln Parish school to finish out his college eligibility.

That set off a national media maelstrom, including stories on ESPN and FOX, on the wire services and in most major newspapers.

Like Brown, Williams has insisted that Clarett needs more football experience - and that, sure, Grambling would be a great option - before the running back contemplating joining the NFL.

"It's silly to question Williams and Brown on this point," columnist Michael Wilbon wrote in the Wednesday edition of The Washington Post. "One is a Super Bowl MVP and the other the greatest football player ever."

Even so, Williams is not allowed by NCAA rule to contact Clarett.

"No, I'll call (current Grambling running backs) Ab Kuuan and Rueben Mays," Williams said, and laughed loudly.

So, he remains pragmatic. "Even if (Clarett) comes here," Williams said, "he'll still have to serve the suspension that the NCAA has imposed upon him."

Clarett, who is accused of lying to the NCAA, school investigators and the police through a series of troubles this off-season, will get to keep his scholarship at Ohio State, school officials said. But his attorney told the Associated Press: "He's considering his options right now."

The NCAA and Ohio State continue to investigate Clarett. The school has been working for more than two weeks on a response to a multi-page set of allegations from the NCAA.

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Clarett turns focus to NFL
· Suspended RB will now try to enter pro league; GSU still waiting on a call.
September 15, 2003
There's a reason why Grambling State coach Doug Williams didn't hear from suspended Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett this week.

"My lines must be down," Williams joked. "They ain't ringing."

No, Clarett - who was being encouraged by family advisor Jim Brown to transfer to GSU - has decided to ask that the NFL change its eligibility rules instead.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue confirmed to The Associated Press on Sunday that Clarett's attorneys have requested that he be allowed to play early. Tagliabue said NFL lawyers would discuss the situation, perhaps next week.

The NFL stipulates that players wait three years after high school graduation to play. Clarett, who was suspended for one year this week over various NCAA violations, is a sophomore.

This signals the presumptive end to a flirtation with GSU that began with a phone call from an old friend of Williams'.

Jacksonville Jaguars executive James "Shack" Harris, a Carroll High and GSU alum, asked Williams on Sept. 7 what he thought of Clarett.

"We talk all the time," Williams said, so he thought nothing of it. "I told him I think he is a hell of a running back. He said, `OK, I'll call you back.' Evidently, he and (Clarett family advisor) Jim Brown had been talking."

When Williams got home, he discovered just what that call meant while browsing the World Wide Web.

"You go to the Internet, you find out that Maurice was considering coming to Grambling," Williams said. "I didn't know that's what James was talking about. I'm thinking that Jacksonville was trying to find a way to get him into camp."

Williams met with his offensive coaches early last week, as the buzz about the Buckeye got louder.

A running back of his caliber, Williams said, would have meant a change in the team's pass-oriented scheme behind SWAC offensive player of the week Bruce Eugene.

"We would find a way to throw it as much as we ran it. We had talked about giving it to him 25 to 30 times. But all that was hypothetical. Now, we'll just have to throw it 60," he said, and chuckled.

Tagliabue told the AP that the NFL remains opposed to changing its age restriction, instituted 13 years ago with the agreement of the Players' Association.

Reporters also asked Tagliabue, a former NFL lawyer, about the possibility of the rule being overturned by a lawsuit: "My feeling as commissioner is that we have a very strong case and that we'll win it."

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NCAA checks GSU's actions over Clarett
September 25, 2003
GRAMBLING - Troubled football star Maurice Clarett apparently won't be coming to Grambling State University, but the NCAA could be.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is investigating comments made by coach Doug Williams concerning the suspended Ohio State running back - indicating that they could have been a violation of recruiting rules.

Both Williams and GSU athletics director Al Dennis have consistently said they never spoke to Clarett - who was widely reported in early September to be considering a transfer down to the Division I-AA school.

But the inquiry refers to a section of the regulations stipulating that colleges may not contact a student-athlete at another NCAA or NAIA four-year institution - even indirectly - without written permission from the player's current athletics director.

Specifically mentioned is an article posted at on Sept. 9 and a televised news conference the next day on campus. "They are saying that we indirectly made contact with the kid" through the media, Dennis said.

GSU received notice in a letter from Chris Strobel, the NCAA's director of enforcement for secondary infractions, on Sept. 15 asking for more information.

"All of these comments attributed to him were in response to questions being asked," Dennis said - noting that the story appeared nationally on ESPN when Clarett family adviser Jim Brown mentioned Grambling State as a possible transfer option.

Dennis also confirmed that Grambling State never received any clearance to talk to Clarett and GSU wasn't seeking it. "When all of this broke, our registration was already closed. He wasn't coming to Grambling, anyway," Dennis said.

Calls to Strobel were not returned on Wednesday. The letter doesn't mention possible sanctions or a deadline for responding.

"I'm puzzled by the idea that we would get a letter, if there was no contact by either party," Williams said.

He then said he suspects that entering a Sept. 9 news conference while carrying a No. 13 GSU jersey sparked this inquiry. Clarett wore that number at Ohio State.

"I was poking fun at the local media that I see every week," Williams said. "This is very small. There are a whole lot of things that have happened with Clarett that are bigger than poking fun with a No. 13 jersey. I find it hard to believe."

The jersey, Dennis reminds, belongs to current Grambling State punter Darien Morgan.

"This wasn't an attempt to contact Clarett," Dennis said. "If he's asked a question - would you like to have a player of Clarett's ability on your team? - can that be construed as trying to contact him? We don't see it that way."

Clarett has since apparently decided to forgo the rest of his college eligibility, announcing his would sue for early entry into the NFL draft this week.

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Transcript from Sept. 9 news conference at GSU
September 25, 2003
Coach Doug Williams enters as media members discuss possible Maurice Clarett transfer to Grambling State)

Williams: Good morning. Hot topic, today, huh? By the way, I brought a jersey today. (Holds up No. 13 GSU jersey.) You probably didn't think I had a No. 13. That's what he'd wear!

The News-Star's Nick Deriso: What are you talking about coach? Who?


Williams: I don't know! That's what all the questions are going to be about this morning, ain't they?

(More laughter.)

After opening comments about the previous week's opponent, Alcorn State.

KTBS-Shreveport's Tim Fletcher: Coach, have you heard from Maurice Clarett?

The (Ruston) Daily Leader's O.K. Davis: Or anybody associated with him?

Williams: No, the only thing I've heard was actually this morning on ESPN. From what I've heard on ESPN, it doesn't sound like he's going to play anywhere. From what they said, Ohio State has supposedly finished their report and they realized he had taken some cash - which would probably make him ineligible anywhere he would go. That's what I heard this morning on ESPN.

Davis: So he's not going to Southern, either.

Williams: That's good news. (GSU assistants) Coach Spears and I, Coach White and Coach Hayes, were in there yesterday talking about our game plan, thinking about our running attack, to take some pressure off Bruce Eugene. But now, we just got to go back to doing what we've been doing.

Davis: If that report is true, would most schools back off?

Williams: That would be out of our hands. All of that would NCAA's business.

Fletcher: What would be the advantage of him coming to Grambling?

Williams: We'd have Maurice Clarett - and a lot of other people wouldn't. We could use him. If you look at it, 1,267 yards and 16 TDs - I don't think Ohio State would have won the national championship without Maurice Clarett. I figure, if we had him, it would give us a chance to win a fourth straight.

Fletcher: What's the advantage for Maurice?

Williams: Gives him an opportunity to play and help us win a championship - and to continue his education.

Davis: Would you run him more than five times a game?

Williams: We would find a way to throw it as much as we ran it. We had talked about giving it to him 25 to 30 times. But all that was hypothetical. Now that we probably won't have him, we'll just have to throw it 60.

Unidentified television reporter: I'm just curious what your reaction was when you heard about all this.

Williams: Actually, it was surprising. Saturday morning, (Jacksonville Jaguars executive) James Harris called me - he and I talk all the time. Evidently, he and (Clarett family adviser) Jim Brown had been talking. He called me and asked me what I thought about Clarett. I didn't know exactly what he was talking about. I said, I think he's a hell of running back. (Laughter). He said, I'll call you back. The next thing I know, when I get home, you go to the Internet and find out that Maurice considered coming to Grambling. That's what James was talking about when he asked me what I thought. I was thinking that the Jacksonville Jaguars were trying to figure out a way to get him to camp. Actually, he and Jim Brown had been talking, if his family agreed and if everything was all right at Ohio State, that he could transfer here.

Fletcher: Jim Brown mentioned specifically how playing for you would be an advantage. How did that make you feel?

Williams: I've known Jim for some time and I've got a lot of respect for him - and he has a lot of respect for what we have done here at Grambling. As the adviser, he felt like Maurice would need somebody he could go and relate to a lot better than at other places.

(After several comments about appealing the NFL Draft rule and the next week's opponent, Alabama A&M, Williams gets up to leave.)

Fletcher: One more about Clarett. What's your plan now? Do you just sit back and wait, or you gonna call James Harris or call Jim Brown?

Williams: No, I'm gonna call (GSU running backs) Ab Kuaan and Rueben Mays. That's what I've got. (More laughter.) That's what I've got to work with. That's all I can do. Right now, Clarett does not bother me, because I never talked to him, never talked to his family, never talked to Jim Brown. I never imagined having the kid in the backfield, No. 1 -

Davis: You weren't going to have him this year anyway.

Williams: No. Even if he came here, he still has to go by the suspension that the NCAA imposes upon him. There was no reason to get happy about having him, unless it was for next year.

An athletics staff member or other representative of the institution's athletics interest shall not make contact with the student-athlete of another NCAA or NAIA four-year collegiate institution, directly or indirectly, without first obtaining the written permission of the first institution's athletics director (or an athletics administrator designated by the athletics director) to do so, regardless of who makes the initial contact. If permission is not granted, the second institution shall not encourage the transfer and the institution shall not provide financial assistance to the student-athlete until the student-athlete has attended the second institution for one academic year. If permission is granted to contact the student athlete, all applicable NCAA recruiting rules apply.

Dear Mr. Dennis,
This is in regard to information that was obtained by this office, which indicates a violation of NCAA recruiting legislation may have occurred in the institution's football program.

Specifically, in an online article of The News-Star on September 9, 2003, and during a televised press conference on September 10, 2003, head football coach Doug Williams indirectly contacted four-year college prospective student-athlete Maurice Clarett. In the article and during the press conference, Mr. Williams confirmed his interest in having Mr. Clarett transfer to the institution and discussed how Mr. Clarett's talent would be a valuable asset to the football program. Unless the institution previously had received written permission to contact Mr. Clarett from Ohio State University, it appears a violation of NCAA Bylaw has occurred. If written permission to contact had been received from Ohio State University, then Mr. Williams' comments appear to have violated NCAA Bylaws 13.11.6 and/or 13.11.8

In order that complete and accurate information is on file with the enforcement department, it would be appreciated if you would review this information and submit the results of our inquiry into writing. In responding, please provide a statement indicating whether the above information is accurate. In order to support your response, please provide (1) a statement from Mr. Williams; (2) a copy of the permission to contact form provided by Ohio State University to the institution, if any; and (3) a statement indicating whether the institution believes it has violated NCAA legislation in this matter.

I appreciate your assistance in the review of this matter. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely, Christopher S. Strobel Director of Enforcement for Secondary Infractions

Note: The bylaws 13.11.6 and/or 13.11.8 do not apply to Grambling State, because the school says it does not have written permission from Ohio State to talk to Clarett. These rules, in general, deal with the way signings are announced to the media once permission has been granted.

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Williams says talk about Clarett helped university
September 25, 2003
By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - "People are talking about Grambling," sixth-year coach Doug Williams said, smiling and shaking his head at more talk of Maurice Clarett - a story that broke over this tiny country school like a thunderclap.

Williams was congenial over the past few weeks - answering every question about the troubled Ohio State star, often tossing out one-liners, regularly reminding all those assembled that he hadn't spoken to Clarett and trying to turn the conversation back to the games at hand.

Still, the questions came.

Are you going to call Maurice Clarett?

No, I'm going to call (GSU running backs) Ab Kuuan and Reuben Mays.

Have you heard from Maurice Clarett?

My lines must be down. They ain't ringing.

Now, it appears Williams shouldn't have been so quick with the quip. The NCAA has made an inquiry, saying Williams' comments to the media might be a violation of their recruiting regulations.

"I think the NCAA is too serious about finding a violation," Williams said. "The rule they cite is so vague."

They call it indirect contact - a no-no, because schools are forbidden by rule from talking to athletes without permission from their current university's administrators.

Williams calls it PR.

"It was spreading like wildfire," Williams said of the news. "I don't know if the university really understands the impact of the publicity that Grambling got. We were across the country every day! That was good publicity."

He's defiant in his denial of tampering: "I didn't call him. He didn't call me."

That wasn't the point.

Now, there is no question that Williams would have been happy to have Clarett - baggage or no baggage.

Williams hasn't brought GSU back to SWAC dominance - back to challenging the nation's best Division I-AA school until the waning moments of last Saturday's game - with players of destiny.

He's done it with players who've had problems - but, more importantly, had desire.

Williams and his coordinators have coached up for so long, it is hard to believe their offices haven't levitated to the top floor of the Stadium Support Facility.

It wasn't always like that.

Eddie Robinson's GSU was a flickering beacon of opportunity, the place where the best and brightest of those under America's boot heel came to make their names.

But, as this country moved deeper into the second half of the last century, different opportunities opened up for blacks. The desire to win overcame other, more hateful impulses. African-Americans not only were recruited, but starred on college teams in towns where they once dared not stop for gas.

This coincided with the fading of the Southwestern Athletic Conference as a place where the obvious black talents resided.

The Doug Williamses, the Walter Paytons, the Jerry Rices, the Steve McNairs came along less frequently. They didn't have to play at historically black schools to get noticed.

There's an oddly powerful joy in that - if only because every athlete is now entitled to an audition, if not a place in the team photo.

It's odd, though, because - as with everything in America - there was a cost: With a vast majority of what they call "draftables" already cashing in on scholarships from schools that promise an alphabet soup of success (TV, PR and BCS), what's left for Grambling?

GSU is not going to get a Maurice Clarett on the way up. They're going to get him on the way down, if they get him at all.

In the modern period, the Tigers win or lose with those who are left. Lately, it's been mostly winning - thus, Clarett's apparent interest in transferring to GSU after a rocky end at Ohio State.
He wasn't coming. We now know that.

Williams looked like he knew it from the beginning, so he was enjoying the spotlight as it dilated on his alma mater.

He considered the hullabaloo much about something, all right: Recruiting. And not Maurice Clarett.

Robinson constructed the Grambling legend with the pick of the African-American talent pool. But a Buck Buchanan (the first pick in the 1963 AFL draft) or a Tank Younger (the future four-time NFL Pro Bowler between 1951-55) may as well be biblical figures to today's youngsters.

You've got to do whatever you can, Williams says, to get the word out about your program - even a storied one like Grambling State.

Willie Davis? Charlie Joiner?? Heck, the average new recruits were learning their ABCs when Doug was hoisting the Super Bowl MVP trophy with Washington.

But Clarett, without ever running a single yard, gave Grambling State currency. Kids today would notice if collegiate football's best runner last year - the national championship's crowned prince - was even hinting at joining this country school.

It meant Grambling State had arrived. Again.

The news of this inquiry will travel just as fast, marking as it does the first time Williams has stepped into any possible NCAA trouble as a head coach at GSU.

Should something come of this initial investigation, it could hurt Williams' chances at moving on to a job at a larger program. Generally, the toughest NCAA sanctions for a I-AA school involve limiting recruitment - a particularly cruel irony.

But, for now, it's hard to argue with Williams' logic: "I'm trying to help my school. The NCAA probably needs to be dealing with something else, you know? Clarett never went to class here. He didn't get stopped here in his car. There are a whole lot of other things they need to worry about, rather than Grambling."

Nick Deriso is sports editor at The News-Star, 411 N. Fourth St., Monroe, La., 71201. An online archive of his columns is at www. You can contact him at (318) 362-0234 or at

The NCAA inquiry specifically mentions a story posted Sept. 9 at Here are Grambling State coach Doug Williams' comments from that piece:

"That's been the talk of the day," Williams said, chuckling. "We've gotten calls from all over."

"Grambling brings national visibility, even if we are I-AA. Scouts are coming here every day. That means he's getting everything that he would have gotten there - except 100,000 people at the game."

"We don't have a Maurice Clarett. It would be a big difference. It would take a lot of pressure off of (GSU quarterback) Bruce (Eugene). There's nothing I can do, but keep my phone line clear."

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Grambling: NCAA problems began with jersey
September 26, 2003
GRAMBLING- While the NCAA apparently views the event as "isolated or inadvertent" - and, thus, not as serious - Grambling State coach Doug Williams still can't believe he got in trouble over a jersey.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has begun an inquiry into possible "indirect contact" with Maurice Clarett at GSU.

The NCAA specifically mentioned a news conference - part of which later aired nationally on ESPN - where Williams entered carrying a Grambling State jersey with the suspended Ohio State runner's number on it.

"What," Williams said, "is `indirectly contacting' someone? If I had talked to (Clarett family adviser) Jim Brown and said: `We want him.' That's contacting him. But holding up a jersey? Something is wrong with this picture."

Prospective schools must get permission from an athlete's current athletics director before they can talk to transfers. Brown had said publicly that he favored a transfer down to Division I-AA Grambling State for the soon-to-be-suspended star.

"I came in a little light-heartedly," Williams said. "I knew a lot questions were going to be coming about the Clarett situation."

The good news for Grambling State is that the infraction has been referred to Chris Strobel, who is the NCAA's director of enforcement for secondary infractions.

There is a significantly lower threshold of penalty for those violations. Post-season penalties, for instance, are reserved for major infractions.

"We won't have any comments about the specific situation," said Kay Hawes, the NCAA's associate director of media relations. "It's NCAA policy not to comment on current and on-going investigations."

But being as the letter came out of the office of secondary infractions, what is at stake for GSU comes into sharper focus.

A secondary infraction, as defined in the NCAA Bylaw 19.02.2, "is one that is isolated or inadvertent in nature, provides or is intended to provide only a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage and does not include any significant recruiting inducement or extra benefit."

Like holding a jersey up in a news conference.

"It shouldn't have even been an issue with Grambling," Williams said. "That jersey did not have `Clarett' on it. If I had put his name on the back of the jersey, that would have been a different thing. I would have agreed with them wholeheartedly."

As outlined in NCAA Bylaw 19.5.1, the stiffest sentence handed down for these lower-level infractions would involve Williams - who could be restricted from recruiting trips for one year or perhaps suspended for one or more games.

The school could also face fines up to $5,000 or lose financial aid scholarships. Most of the other penalties do not apply because Clarett never suited up for Grambling State.

Still, those are a lot of possible headaches over the exhibition of a jersey, something Williams said was meant to be a joke.

"We have a No. 13 in every color," he said. "That's the bottom line. We didn't go out and buy it."

Yet, GSU officials contend that this footage, recorded at a local news conference then shown on ESPN, is largely responsible for the NCAA inquiry.

"It makes it look like, the way ESPN showed it, that he was saying that we want Clarett," athletics director Al Dennis said. "That jersey belongs to our punter, Darien Morgan."

Williams has one more bone to pick: The tape didn't include his comments.

"Not a word was spoken," Williams said, meaning the NCAA couldn't have known the context to go with those images. "All they saw was No. 13 - and they interpreted it any way they wanted to."

While no deadline has been set for GSU's response, Dennis said he hopes to have the school's response ready to send today.

Also mentioned in the letter of inquiry was a related story posted at on Sept. 9, called "A Wait for Greatness."

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Grambling avoids NCAA penalties
December 20, 2003
The NCAA, as first reported at, has completed its inquiry into comments about troubled running back Maurice Clarett made by Grambling State University coach Doug Williams and will not penalize the school.

GSU is, however, required to give updated training on indirect contact with a prospective player and review NCAA policy on recruiting, GSU athletics director Al Dennis said.

Kay Hawes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association's associate director of media relations, said the association has a standing policy not to comment on investigations.

"They disagreed with us that there was a secondary violation," Dennis said of the NCAA. "So, we will go back over our education process and use that press conference as an example to show how things can go wrong."

Lane Howell, the school's rules compliance officer, will touch on these rules during monthly meetings.

The NCAA issued a letter of inquiry to GSU on Sept. 15 after Williams answered interview questions concerning the possible transfer of the former Ohio State running back. The school was asked to explain comments first published by The News-Star's Web site - and images that later appeared on ESPN.

The inquiry referred to a section of the regulations stipulating that colleges may not contact a student-athlete at another NCAA or NAIA four-year institution - even indirectly - without written permission from the player's current athletics director.

"Our intent was never to make contact with the young man," Dennis said. "But because of the way the report went out, they still felt it was a violation."

The NCAA reviewed a tape of the Sept. 9 news conference, a printed transcript and other material submitted by Grambling State before ruling that a secondary infraction occurred.

These infractions, as defined in the NCAA Bylaw 19.02.2, are those that are "isolated or inadvertent in nature, provide or are intended to provide only a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage and do not include any significant recruiting inducement or extra benefit."

There is a significantly lower threshold of penalty for secondary violations. Post-season penalties, for instance, are reserved for major infractions.

As outlined in NCAA Bylaw 19.5.1, the stiffest sentence handed down for these lower-level infractions would have involved Williams - who could have been restricted from recruiting trips for one year or perhaps suspended for one or more games. The school could also have faced fines up to $5,000 or lost financial aid scholarships.

Williams has said he suspects that entering the news conference while carrying a No. 13 Grambling jersey sparked the inquiry. Clarett, who then was reportedly considering a transfer and remains suspended from the Ohio State football team, wore that number.