Commentary - Time for a solution

All the attention given to the Maurice Clarett saga has been a distraction for many, and Duane Long wonders why a compromise can't be made between the powers that be.

I was looking at the calendar and discovered that we are going to be a quarter of the way through the season. I stared at the schedule and wondered where the time went. I have not been able to enjoy the season nearly as much because we are hearing as much about the off-field exploits of Maurice Clarett as we have the on the field Buckeyes. Even with two straight weeks of heart attacks, I still find myself not focused on the season.

I have also not had much to say about the issue. As distracting as it is, I find myself not reading all the articles and not paying any attention to what is being said on the message boards about it. To me it is cut and dried: Maurice is not stupid, and he broke the rules. I disagree with those rules, but that is not important here. He signed a letter of intent, and that made him subject to the rules.

I am tired of seeing others dragged into this. Too many people want to look at the issue and talk about institutional control, but all I can do about that one is laugh to keep from screaming. Do people really think coaches and athletic directors are showing up at the players' dorms or apartments on a regular basis? There is only so much that the powers that be can do. This was not Jim Tressels fault, it was not Andy Geiger's fault, and it was not Bobby Dellimuti's fault. Maurice did this, and he has to pay the penalty.

That is why I am writing this -- to talk about the penalty. Now that Maurice has decided to ask the NFL to let him in the draft, it seems that is all the talk. Will he go forward with it? Will the NFL eventually back off because they knew they are going to lose, or are they going to go the wall?

In between all that talk is the real issue -- nobody thinks this is a good idea. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue thinks Maurice should stay in school. NFL Players Association Director Gene Upshaw sees it as a bad idea. USC head coach Pete Carroll is a former NFL coach and says it is a "terrible idea." Andy Geiger and Jim Tressel think it is a bad idea. From what we are being told, Maurice does not want to go (at least not yet). There is one question out there that nobody is answering, but it is the most important question -- since nobody thinks it is a good idea, why can't we come up with some kind of solution?

Maurice asking to enter the draft is directly a result of a penalty that leaves him so few options that forcing this issue is really the only thing he can do. Canada is the most insane idea. The CFL has fields like concrete and a level of competition that is not going to do anything to hone his skills, and you can bet sometime early in the year they will stop counting the number of cheap shots he takes. Besides, the money is laughable.

Stepping down to 1-AA means he still sits out a year anyway, and again, the question of level of competition comes into play. The NFL must do everything it can to keep its relationship with the colleges. The cost of a minor league system would be massive. Right now, it costs them nothing. It will probably take two years and I think three to get this through the court system (some say four). In the end, both lose. The NFL loses a franchise back in Maurice Clarett. There is no way after that kind of time away that Clarett could ever be a franchise back, so the NFL loses a bunch of money paying off Clarett, and they lose a player with star power. Plus, Maurice never gets to live his dream of playing in the NFL.

It seems like the NFL and the NCAA could get together and work something out here. Right now, we have a no win situation. Everybody -- from Maurice Clarett to the Ohio State football team to the NFL to the fans -- loses with this decision. There is an old saying about cutting off your nose to spite your face. It looks like the powers that be in the football world have a nice sharp knife in their hands right now.


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