'Smoking gun' may be muffled by settlement

ATHENS, Ga. - It may be difficult to confirm if Jim Harrick's surprisingly inexpensive retirement agreement with the University of Georgia was the result of any new evidence linking the coach to rules violations in his basketball program.

According to Harrick's retirement agreement with Georgia, the University of Georgia and the Georgia athletic association agreed "that they will not disparage Mr. Harrick, and that they will not otherwise do or say anything that could harm his interests or reputation."

Harrick similarly agreed not to "do or say anything that could disrupt the good morale of university and association employees or harm their interests or reputations."

The provision also states Georgia officials will comply with any NCAA investigation.

Also, Harrick and Georgia each agreed in the settlement to protect "confidential information ... and that they will never, directly or indirectly, use or disclose it."

Confidential information was defined as any information relating to Harrick's alleged violation of NCAA, Southeastern Conference or university regulations. Again the retirement agreement makes specifies the exception of disclosures necessary to cooperate with the NCAA or if "compelled by law to disclose such allegations."

The biggest surprise in Thursday's press conference to announce Harrick's resignation from  Georgia and retirement from coaching was the price of the settlement agreement, not that he was stepping down.

In light of the ongoing investigation of rules violations and the fact he already had been suspended, Harrick's exit was considered inevitable. Though the total remaining value of Harrick's contract through 2006 was $2.1 million, he agreed to receive only $254,166, plus his remaining annual leave and retirement contributions.

  Georgia athletics director Vince Dooley, University of Georgia president Michael Adams and attorney Ed Tolley, who represented Georgia in the settlement agreement, would not say if Harrick's resignation was the result of more evidence being uncovered in the investigation.

"I don't know all of (Harrick's) reasons," Dooley said. "He would, I think, have to answer that."

In a brief statement released Thursday, Harrick said he "did not want the media attention or questions about my status to distract (Georgia players) anymore."

Other provisions of the retirement agreement:

- Harrick has until April 9 to move out of his office at Stegeman Coliseum but will have the option of using his two cars provided by the athletic association until May 18.

- Harrick and the university each agreed the settlement would serve as "complete and final settlement" for any past, current or future legal actions or claims.

Meanwhile, Mercer coach Mark Slonaker and  former Georgia and Atlanta Hawks standout Dominique Wilkins already have said they are interested in the Georgia job.

Wilkins said Friday he "definitely" would like to be Georgia's next coach. "There is a need now to put that school back in a positive light," he said. Slonaker also is a former Georgia player and assistant coach.

Wilkins works in the Hawks front office but has no coaching experience and never completed his degree requirements at Georgia. While Dooley said he was open to considering a candidate who has only been an assistant coach, it is unlikely he will consider a candidate who has no coaching experience and no college degree.

Other possible candidates include former Atlanta Hawks coach Lon Kruger, Western Kentucky's Dennis Felton, Tennessee-Chattanooga's Jeff Lebo and Duke assistant Johnnie Dawkins.

Another potential candidate, former Chicago Bulls coach Tim Floyd, reportedly has interest in openings at Clemson and Penn State.

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