Georgia finds possible fraud; Harrick put on suspsension

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia suspended coach Jim Harrick with pay and withdrew from the SEC and NCAA tournaments Monday after an internal investigation showed three players took a phony class taught by his son.

Harrick's future is unclear while the school and NCAA look into allegations brought two weeks ago by a former player.

"The evidence and the findings presented to us indicated there was academic fraud," athletic director Vince Dooley said. "There's no evidence at all that Coach Harrick knew about what took place."

Georgia, ranked 21st in Monday's AP Top 25, was a lock to receive a third straight invitation to the NCAA tourney, which would have been the longest such streak in school history.

The Bulldogs (19-8, 11-5 Southeastern Conference) were to play Arkansas on Thursday in the league tournament in New Orleans.

The news caps a recent spate of scandals in men's college basketball, including: suspensions of 12 players for using a school access code to make phone calls at Villanova, forfeits of six wins and boycotts of two other games at St. Bonaventure, and claims by a former student that he wrote papers for players for payment at Fresno State.

Georgia president Michael Adams said a decision on Harrick's fate would be made after the investigation is complete.

"Sports is really a very nice -- usually -- sideline to our main function here," he said. "The main issue to me ... is to ensure you deal with the academic integrity of the place. Deal with the one course where there is questionable activity, correct it, and move forward."

Harrick did not respond to several phone messages left at his home.

Junior reserve Damien Wilkens complained that the players were not told of the university's decision before it was announced, calling it "unprofessional" and "unfair."

Tony Cole -- kicked off the Bulldogs last year -- accused Harrick and his son, an assistant coach, of breaking NCAA rules. Cole said Jim Harrick Jr. paid his bills, did schoolwork and taught a sham class on coaching. Harrick Jr. was fired Wednesday.

Cole said he never attended the class, but received an A. Two other players -- starters Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright -- were also in the class. Dooley said all 31 students in the class -- including 10 Georgia athletes -- got an A, but there was no evidence that anyone else took part in the fraud.

Dooley said Wright and Daniels have been declared ineligible, but could be reinstated for next season. Dooley and Adams decided to drop out of the postseason because of the serious nature of the academic fraud allegations.

"I imagine that this is as bad as it gets," Dooley said.

Even if the team played, it would have been difficult to win any games without Wright and Daniels, since the team usually uses only seven players.

The elder Harrick has three seasons left on a $700,000 per year contract at Georgia. His career has been one of success on the court and trouble off it.

He is one of only three coaches -- Eddie Sutton and Lefty Driesell are the others -- to take four schools to the NCAA tournament. Harrick has a 470-235 record in 23 seasons as a college head coach, and led UCLA to the 1995 national championship.

But this is the second time Harrick has been disciplined because of ethical lapses. He was fired by UCLA in 1996 for lying about an expense report.

Harrick then went to Rhode Island and took that school to the regional finals of the 1998 NCAA tournament. And he also has been accused of improprieties during his two years there.

A former secretary there says Harrick had grades changed for players, had student managers write papers for players and arranged for players to receive lodging, cars and money from boosters. In addition, Harrick Jr. was accused of falsifying hotel and meal reports for recruits when he worked for his father at Rhode Island.

The allegations at Georgia emerged Feb. 27, in an interview of Cole by ESPN.

Cole played just 16 games for the Bulldogs last year before being suspended after he and two other athletes were accused in a campus rape. While the charges were eventually dropped, Cole was kicked off the basketball team for repeated violations.

Since then he has been charged with trespassing and passing a bad check in Athens before returning home to Baton Rouge, La.

Last week, Harrick defiantly defended himself against those who would portray him as a rule-breaker.

"I've never had a violation," Harrick said then. "Go ask the NCAA."

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