About Face: Clarett Will Not Practice For Now

After joining teammates for one week, star tailback is told he will not be able to practice again until his suspension is clarified by OSU and NCAA officials.

The ongoing saga surrounding the suspension of Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett took an unexpected turn Tuesday as head coach Jim Tressel reversed his field and ruled that Clarett will not practice with the Buckeyes until that suspension has been clarified by OSU officials and the NCAA.

Clarett was held out of the first three weeks of preseason camp as OSU and the NCAA worked to assess Clarett's amateur status after his alleged use of a car provided by a Columbus area used car dealer last spring.

But Tressel and athletic director Andy Geiger came out on Aug. 22 and announced that Clarett would be eligible to rejoin the team and at least practice until his suspension was finalized.

At the time, Geiger said he and OSU officials would work on submitting to the NCAA a proposal for a set number of games Clarett would miss. He would only term the suspension as being for "multiple games."

Rumors have abounded since then that it could last from three to as many as 10 games this year. Geiger has since been quoted as saying one issue involving the probe has been Clarett allegedly being less than truthful with NCAA investigators.

Clarett practiced most of last week as the Buckeyes prepared for the season opener Saturday night against Washington. Then, he appeared on the sideline, waving a towel throughout the game in support of his teammates in their 28-9 win over the Huskies.

But something has happened in the last few days to cause Tressel to change his mind and hold Clarett out of practice.

The coach did not immediately provide any rationale for the sudden about face as he met with reporters at his weekly luncheon.

However, speculation immediately turned to Clarett's behavior on game day. Sources say Clarett was not permitted to join the team for its pregame meal.

He did, however, make an unscheduled appearance at midday on the set of ESPN's College Game Day, hosted by his friend Kirk Herbstreit, on the south side of St. John Arena.

Clarett was also interviewed prior to the game by WCMH-TV (Ch. 4).

Although the reason for the sudden change could be as simple as the fact Tressel does not want Clarett to risk injury, the coach was given multiple opportunities to clarify the reason for the switch and never mentioned that -- or anything, for that matter -- as the reason.

"I am disappointed that we haven't made more progress (on the suspension issue) and that question is still looming," Tressel said when asked about whether there had been any progress in the Clarett matter.

"It appears to me, and I haven't seen anything official in black and white, that the suspension is going to be significant and it is going to be long."

Tressel then announced that he and his staff have decided to pull Clarett from practice for at least the time being.

"The decision we talked about with some of our staff is that until we get a definitive decision, I don't think we are going to have him practice," Tressel said.

The coach was then asked if Clarett's exuberant presence on the sideline was positive for the team.

"No one has ever questioned how much he wants to be a part of this group," Tressel said.

Reporters then pressed Tressel for the reasoning behind this sudden about-face.

"It's a coaching decision, probably a lot like why did you run on third-and-6," he said. "That's what's best to do right now. I don't think it would be appropriate to talk about it right now."

Tressel shared he had discussed the decision with Clarett.

"Have I talked to him? Yes," he said. "I'm sure he was disappointed ... but that's what we're going to do right now."

The press conference concluded shortly thereafter. Reporters followed Tressel as he attempted to exit the Buckeye Hall of Fame Cafe.

He added no more insight other than to say, "I guess the only thing constant is change. Goodbye fellas."

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