- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

ATHENS, Ga. Georgia suspended coach Jim Harrick with pay and withdrew from the SEC and NCAA tournaments yesterday after an internal investigation showed three players took a bogus 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 yesterday's AP Top 25, was a lock to receive a third straight invitation to the NCAA tournament, 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. Instead, the SEC altered its brackets, giving Tennessee a first-round bye and scheduling only three games instead of four on the opening day.

NCAA president Myles Brand commended Georgia president Michael Adams for addressing the allegations less than two weeks after they were made public.

"I want to compliment president Mike Adams for his leadership and his rapid, strong response to the situation in the face of tremendous pressure," Brand said.

The news caps a 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.

"I think we are starting to see a very important trend. I think the system is working," Brand said. "The appropriate actions were taken."

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."

Reached at his home last night, Harrick declined to discuss his suspension.

"Absolutely not," he said. "Thank you for calling."

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 also were 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.

Cole's attorney, Steve Sadow of Atlanta, said his client was upset that Georgia called off its season.

"He's sad for his teammates," Sadow said. "He doesn't think they should bear the brunt of what happened. It's not the players' fault. It's the University of Georgia's fault and the coaches' fault.

"I think the University of Georgia is just looking to protect themselves. They don't give a damn about the players."

Sadow said Cole never would have made the allegations had Harrick let him return to the team after charges were dropped in a campus rape case. Cole was kicked off the team but allowed to remain on scholarship; he left school in January.

"It's so ironic that if the school had continued to let him play like they promised, there wouldn't be a story, there wouldn't be an investigation," Sadow said. "That doesn't make it right, but it's ironic that's the way it turned out."

Dooley said Wright and Daniels have been declared ineligible but could be reinstated for next season. Both are juniors.

But 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 because the team usually uses only seven players.

Wright and Daniels could not be reached for comment.

The elder Harrick has three seasons left on a $700,000 a year contract at Georgia. He would receive a $400,000 bonus if still employed April 1.

Harrick's 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 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 said 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.

Lamar Odom played for Harrick at Rhode Island and reportedly received some of the illegal benefits. Now playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, he denied the allegations before last night's game against the Hawks in Atlanta.

"They're just taking everything away from him," Odom said. "Why are they doing that?"

He remains close to Harrick and described the coach as "distraught" when they spoke after the Georgia allegations were made public.

"They deserve to be in the tournament," Odom said. "It's a shame. It's too bad such a bad thing happened to a good man. Too bad for the kids."

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 the 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.

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