By JONATHAN DREW

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State's athletic department will investigate a report that star Maurice Clarett received special assistance to help him pass a class before the Fiesta Bowl.

In a story Sunday in The New York Times, an associate professor said Clarett was allowed to take two oral exams for the African-American and African studies class after he walked out of the fall midterm.

It wasn't clear whether university or NCAA rules were broken. The associate professor, Paulette Pierce, said she has taken similar steps with students who are not athletes.

"We recognize that the spotlight will always be on the national champion," university president Karen Holbrook said at a news conference Sunday. "Being in the spotlight makes it even more important for us to respond quickly and appropriately to these allegations."

Calls place by The Associated Press to the home of Clarett's mother in Warren went unanswered Sunday. The Times said he did not respond to its requests for an interview.

Athletic director Andy Geiger said he was not aware of any NCAA violations, and that Clarett then a freshman on the Buckeyes' national championship team was not given preferential treatment.

"There are no special considerations for student-athletes," Geiger said Sunday.

Holbrook said Geiger and incoming interim provost Barbara Snyder will lead the investigation, which will examine athletes' athletic performance, tutors who work with the program and the relationship between athletes and faculty members. No time frame was set.

Clarett finished high school a semester early and enrolled at Ohio State in January 2002.

Despite numerous injuries, he set Ohio State freshman records with 1,237 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns last season as the Buckeyes beat Miami 31-24 in double-overtime for the national title.

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