On the eve of the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel had to answer questions from the news media on reports that former OSU tailback Maurice Clarett is the subject of a Columbus police investigation.
As of Sunday morning, Clarett was wanted in connection with a police report filed early Sunday morning. He is accused of aggravated robbery after allegedly approaching a couple outside a downtown nightclub early this morning and, according to the report, “demanding property with a handgun.”
The report then alleges that Clarett took a cellphone from the couple, who were not physically harmed. He got into an SUV with two other men and sped away. Police said the bar owner recognized Clarett as he fled the scene.
The incident allegedly occurred at 1:46 a.m. in the alley behind the Opium Lounge, located at 346 S. High St. There are warrants for Clarett’s arrest in both Columbus and Youngstown.
Tressel was in Scottsdale, Ariz., this morning making his final public comments before Monday’s Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. Of course, Clarett was one of the heroes of OSU’s 2003 Fiesta Bowl win over Miami (Fla.) for the national championship.
But Clarett’s last several years have been anything but easy.
He was suspended by OSU for taking illegal extra benefits from a booster. He then attempted to challenge the NFL’s early entry requirements and won a lower court ruling before it was overturned on appeal. He later made damaging comments about Tressel and the program in an ESPN expose.
Still, the Denver Broncos took a chance on Clarett, drafting him in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft. But he never made it through training camp. He was cut after a variety of attitude and injury issues.
Tressel responded to the report naming Clarett.
“As I was riding over here, (sports information director) Steve Snapp said there was report,” Tressel said. “My reaction to that is it’s sad. I said the last few times I had been asked about Maurice that it was my hope that he would have an opportunity to go over to NFL Europe and make a comeback and get a chance to play the game he loves.
“I hope it’s not true. But beyond that I don’t know much. It’s sad.”
Tressel revealed that he and Clarett had recently resumed their relationship with the player reaching out to his former coach to smooth things over.
“I have talked with Maurice three or four times in the last six or eight weeks,” Tressel said. “It has been along the lines of hoping he would have a chance to get things together and make a run at NFL Europe. NFL Europe is for folks with some ability to get an opportunity.”
Tressel was asked if he was troubled by the allegations.
“It is real troubling, not just with youngsters when it becomes newsworthy, but any time kids don’t go the direction you hope,” the coach said.