March 8, 2008

Clemson's McElrathbey will graduate, not play

CLEMSON, S.C. Clemson running back Ray Ray McElrathbey, who gained national attention two years ago for taking custody of his young brother, will not play for the Tigers next season.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said in a news release Saturday that McElrathbey, 21, will graduate in August. McElrathbey has two years' eligibility left and could play for another school or remain at Clemson to pursue a master's degree.

"Graduating in three years with all of his responsibilities will be an outstanding accomplishment," Bowden said in the release. "Our staff will help him in his future endeavors whether it be from a football career or business career standpoint."

McElrathbey missed all of last season after knee surgery in September to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has not said what plans to do.

Clemson athletic department spokesman Tim Bourret said McElrathbey was out of town Saturday and did not want to speak with the media until he made a decision.

"He's not playing this spring so he can get his classes in order so he can graduate in August," Bourret said.

McElrathbey, who is studying sociology, made the academic honor roll in the fall semester while taking 21 hours of classes, the school said. That's a turnaround from spring 2007, when he was suspended from the team for at least four practices because of academic concerns.

As a red-shirt freshman, McElrathbey played in all 13 games on special teams in 2006 and had six tackles.

The Atlanta native took custody of his then 11-year-old brother Fahmarr in 2006 after their parents were unable to care for him.

McElrathbey received national accolades, including the Keith Jackson Award of Excellence on the ESPN college football All-American show and the 2006 FedEx/Football Writers Association courage award.

McElrathbey and Fahmarr, now 13, share an apartment off campus. The two had been living off McElrathbey's Pell grant, a monthly stipend for living off campus and jobs McElrathbey picked up between his course work and football obligations.

Clemson applied for and the NCAA approved a waiver of the governing body's extra benefits rule. That allowed Clemson's coaches, staffers and their families to help the McElrathbeys with rides to and from Fahmarr's middle school.

The NCAA also agreed Clemson could set up a trust fund to collect money from the public.

About $50,000 was donated within the first few weeks and nearly doubled later when trust administrators stopped making the total public at McElrathbey's request.

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