NCAA rules should have enough flexibility to help an athlete in need
Our society has to be structured by certain laws and morals, but I think we are all missing the point of what actually happened to Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett. Because of the circumstances involved, I strongly disagree with all those who think that Clarett is somehow at fault here.
The fact is that Clarett simply did not have enough money recently to fly home from Tempe, Ariz., for the funeral of a close friend in Youngstown. Whether he did or did not file the proper federal or college forms for reimbursement is immaterial. Clarett says he did not have the money to purchase a ticket in the first place.
I understand well the need to have NCAA guidelines and requirements concerning such situations. In fact, I worked closely -- as a tutor and teacher -- with Jimmy Johnson and the Hurricane athletes when I was a graduate student at the University of Miami in the 1980s. I learned first-hand how important and necessary it is to have rules governing both institutions and student-athletes.
However, in the case of Clarett, I think the rules definitely prevented Clarett from returning home for his best friend's funeral. According to my understanding, the NCAA does not allow student-athletes to accept any & quot;gifts, & quot; monetary or otherwise, even though athletes can be reimbursed for certain expenses. Therefore, because Clarett did not have the money to buy a plane ticket, he could not be reimbursed. To make matters even worse, Clarett could not accept the & quot;gift & quot; of a ticket from anyone because of NCAA guidelines, putting him in a kind of Catch-22 position.
This situation is a classic example of how we can sometimes become too legalistic and fail to see & quot;the big picture. & quot; Clarett wanted to pay final respects to his best friend, yet he could not; the & quot;rules & quot; obviously prevented him from doing so.
I know we must have rules and laws in order to govern our society, but there is something wrong when we place these man-made dictates and principles above the welfare of individuals. Perhaps the NCAA is not directly to blame here. Finding fault with someone or a certain group should not be our main concern.
Rather, what should have been paramount is that Clarett have the opportunity to return home for a funeral. In our society today, we desperately need persons who are willing to think through various situations and do the right thing. The right thing clearly would have been for someone to loan Clarett the money to buy a plane ticket and worry about reimbursement & quot;rules & quot; later. I wish I would have known about Clarett's plight; I would not have hesitated one second to give him the necessary plane fare.
A few hundred dollars should not have stopped Clarett from being at the funeral. I hope and pray this kind of thing will never happen again. If it does, then we need to blame ourselves as well as the NCAA. There was an injustice done to Maurice Clarett and we are all to blame.
Dr. BRUCE C. SWAFFIELD
X The writer is a professor of Communication Arts and English at Malone College.