Georgia suspends basketball coach

March 10, 2003 at 7:01 PM
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ATHENS, Ga., March 10 (UPI) -- Findings of academic fraud have cost the Georgia men's basketball team a chance to play in any postseason tournaments and may eventually cost coach Jim Harrick his job.

The school on Monday suspended Harrick with pay for "unethical conduct" and declared two players - forward Chris Daniels and guard Rashad Wright - ineligible after an investigation by school and NCAA investigators discovered academic improprieties in the basketball program.

The rest of the players will suffer as well. The school has withdrawn from participating in the Southeastern Conference Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

"Due to the seriousness of the findings of academic fraud and unethical conduct, these are cardinal findings and concerns and he (Harrick) has the ultimate responsibility," Georgia Athletic Director Vince Dooley said at an afternoon news conference.

"We're not talking about allegations, we're talking about findings. As a result, we have suspended him with pay from his employment, pending further investigation."

The suspension of Harrick comes less than a week after his son, Jim Harrick Jr., was fired as an assistant coach due to allegations that he provided improper benefits and academic assistance to former Georgia point guard Tony Cole.

Cole accused Harrick Jr. of sending him $300 to pay a phone bill, arranging for someone else to complete Cole's junior college correspondence courses, and giving Cole an 'A' in the physical education class that Cole says he never attended.

Both Daniels and Wright also took the physical education class and were also involved in academic fraud.

"We learned this morning of the academic fraud involving not only Cole but two other players and we declared Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright ineligible," Georgia President Michael Adams said.

The suspension of Harrick is not surprising amid the controversy, but the decision to pull out of the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament, where the Bulldogs were certain to receive an at-large bid, was a stunning blow to the players.

The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs (19-8, 11-5 SEC) were scheduled to play Arkansas Thursday in the first round of the league tournament at New Orleans.

"My heart goes out to them and I bleed for that," Dooley said. "On the other hand, there were two players that were involved and I feel deeply for them as well. At the same time, the overall decision is the right decision and, unfortunately, some will have to suffer."

The 64-year-old Harrick has three years left on his contract worth a total of $2.1 million along with a longevity clause of $400,000 that is due on April 1.

One of only two coaches to take four schools to the NCAA Tournament, Harrick was involved in his share of controversy at Rhode Island and UCLA before heading to Georgia.

After coaching UCLA to the national championship in 1995, Harrick was fired following the 1996 season for lying on an expense report.

Rhode Island is investigating allegations that occurred during Harrick's time from 1997-99. According to court records from former athletics department employee Christine King's lawsuit against the school, the Providence Journal reported Saturday that the documents detail sexual harassment charges and allegations that Harrick changed some players' grades and arranged for players' term papers to be written by other students.

Harrick has a career record of 470-235 in 23 seasons at Pepperdine, UCLA, Rhode Island and Georgia.

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