Georgia Basketball Receives Letter from NCAA

ATHENS - The University of Georgia received an official letter of inquiry Monday from the NCAA detailing allegations of wrongdoing in its men's basketball program.

The arrival of the letter has been anticipated for months, and marks the beginning of the end of one of the ugliest chapters in the school's athletic history. It also prompted former coach Jim Harrick Sr., who lost his job during the investigation that led to the letter, to lash out at the school.

Harrick alleges the NCAA's findings are merely a parroting of the findings of school's investigation, which he says are flawed.

"It's a sham," he said in a telephone interview Monday evening. "You talk about Enron. That's the Enron of colleges, what they did."

Harrick, who now lives in California and works for the NBA's Denver Nuggets, said he is planning to sue the school in federal court, although he did not say on what grounds.

"They're forcing us to take them to court," he said.

The incident that led to Monday's letter began in February when former Georgia player Tony Cole made nationally televised allegations of wrongdoing to Harrick Sr. and his son, assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr. Cole's claims led to a joint investigation by UGA and NCAA officials.

The NCAA's letter alleges that:

-- Harrick Jr., who was fired in early March, provided $300 to a friend of Cole's to forward to Cole to help with expenses.

-- Harrick Jr. "fraudulently awarded grades of A" and provided extra benefits to basketball players who enrolled in, but did not attend, a class he administered, Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball, and then asked the players to lie about the circumstances of the course.

-- Several members of Georgia's basketball staff, including Harrick Sr., failed to report that several of the team's players had made personal long-distance phone calls totaling more than $1,500 on road trips to Massachusetts, California and Hawaii. Those calls, made in 2001, are violations of the NCAA's extra-benefits rules and were not discovered by the school until its 2003 investigation.

All of the allegations are considered "potential major violations," according to a letter sent to the school by David Price, the NCAA vice president for enforcement services.

Ed Tolley, an Athens attorney who led the school's investigation into the matter, said none of the charges were surprises.

Harrick Sr. admitted his son violated NCAA rules by passing money to Cole but added it was a "secondary violation." However, he still contends that no academic fraud was committed in his son's course. The Harricks hired independent investigators who came to Athens and allege that no fraud was committed because all students in the class were treated in the same manner.

"The NCAA knows it's not academic fraud," he said. "Fraud is when you really do something wrong. They say (players) Rashad (Wright) and Chris (Daniels) got preferential treatment, and we proved that's not true. They know that, but they kind of rubber stamp what Georgia says."

Tolley pointed out that the NCAA used the word fraud in its letter.

"The NCAA has alleged that that was fraudulent," he said. "Those aren't my words."

Harrick Sr. said he believed Georgia had wrongly ruined his son's name.

"If they don't want me to be the coach, they just have to tell me," he said. "I don't want to be where somebody doesn't want me, but for them to make an example of my son is unacceptable to me. If I had treated one of (UGA athletic director Vince) Dooley's sons that way, (his wife) Barbara Dooley would have gotten a gun and shot me."

The only charge that is directly linked to Harrick Sr. is the failure to report the phone calls.

"When you open your program to the NCAA, they will find something," Harrick said.

It is unclear if that violation alone would have been enough to end Harrick's tenure in Athens. School officials insisted when Harrick Sr. parted company with the school on March 27 that he was not forced out, but Harrick said Monday he did not want to leave.

"They made it clear that it was their decision, not mine," he said. "I wouldn't have stepped away from those guys or that program we had."

Tolley would not speculate if the NCAA's allegations would have been enough to justify Harrick's dismissal.

"All I can tell you is that under Coach Harrick's contract, he would have been subject to dismissal if he had violated NCAA rules," he said. "It's still up to the committee if he was in violation or not."

Georgia and the Harricks have until March 2 to respond to the letter, and the school is expected to appear before the Committee on Infractions April 16-18 to argue its case and learn its fate. There is hope among school officials that its self-inflicted penalty, pulling the team out of postseason play last year, will be considered enough.

"I think the university can suspect that the punishment it self-inflicted may in fact be enough," he said. "The self-inflicted punishment was significant and can't be ignored."

However, the NCAA could choose to add further penalties, including a loss of recruiting visits, scholarships or future postseason appearances.

University athletic officials were instructed to let Tolley make all official comments about the situation, but the school released a statement which read, in part, "The University is convinced it has acted responsibly in its actions to date in this matter and that the completion of this process will affirm that."

Dawg Post Top Stories