For someone who first touched a football six months ago, Obed Chukwuma Ariri has gotten a fast education on the politics of the big-time college game. The Clemson University sophomore has been the focal point of a power struggle between the Tiger football and soccer programs.
Ariri, a native of Owerri, Nigeria, enrolled at the university on a soccer scholarship in the fall of 1976. Playing at forward, he scored 12 goals for the Tigers, who lost in the NCAA semifinal round to eventual champion San Francisco
Last spring Ariri was persuaded by soccer coach I.M. Ibrahim to play football as a placekicker in addition to soccer this autumn. Ariri's scholarship was shifted to football. When Clemson's only other placekicker was hurt in the Tigers' third game, head football coach Charley Pell, not wishing to risk injury to Ariri, forbade him from further participation in soccer.
Neither Ariri nor Ibrahim were available to comment. But Curry Kapps of the Greenville News, who spoke with Ariri two weeks after Pell's decision, reported that Ariri's reaction was "vague agreement," but that he sounded like the agreement had been "made by someone else." According to Kapps, Ariri's current reaction is that it was his decision to play only football.
Asked why Ariri's scholarship had been shifted to football, McLellan replied that the move would open another spot for a soccer scholarship while not greatly affecting the 30 scholarship per year football quota.
"The shifting of his scholarship was by joint agreement of Ariri and Ibrahim," said McCellan.
Ariri's participation in football had limited his practice time with the soccer team, and consequently he had been relegated to a spot duty this season for the nation's top-ranked club. He has yet to score a goal. For the football team he has kicked seven field goals, including an Atlantic Coast Conference recording-tying 57-yarder against Wake Forest on Saturday.
Ariri and his Tiger football teammates play at North Carolina today in a battle for first place in the ACC. North Carolina is 3-0 in the conference while Clemson is 4-1.
"Obed has improved every game," commented McCellan. "We are fortunate that we have him." Asked whether Ariri would be able to rejoin the soccer team this season, McCellan replied, "I don't think it would be Obed's advantage since the practice time he has missed is sure to have affected his timing and teamwork."