Harricks go ahead with Law Suit

ATHENS -- A lawsuit filed Thursday against the University of Georgia Athletic Association by Jim Harrick Sr. and Jim Harrick Jr. is a last resort attempt to clear the names of the former basketball coaches, the Harricks' attorney said Friday.

"We had no other option than to go into a judicial forum as we told (Georgia) we would," said Robert Tanenbaum, a California lawyer who is one of three men representing the Harricks in the suit.

The lawsuit, which was threatened weeks ago by Harrick Sr. and filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, charges that UGA president Michael Adams and athletic director Vince Dooley accused Harrick Jr. of "academic fraud" and unethical conduct even though Adams and Dooley knew their statements weren't true. The accusations of Dooley and Adams hurt the Harricks both in reputation and financially, the suit states.

It goes on to claim the Harricks were denied due process and that Georgia officials invaded the Harricks privacy by improperly releasing documents to the public under the Georgia Open Records Act.

 "The Defendants acted knowingly, willingly, intentionally, maliciously and with actual and/or constructive knowledge that their actions violated the right and privileges afforded the Plaintiffs by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America," the suit reads.

The suit names Adams, Dooley, UGA administrators Tom Landrum and Steve Shewmaker, UGA compliance director Amy Chisholm, the UGA Foundation, the University System of Georgia and the UGA Board of Regents as plaintiffs along with the Athletic Association.

"The university created and disseminated false and defamatory information against the Harricks," Tanenbaum said from his Beverly Hills office Friday. "It has adversely affected their ability to work and has adversely affected their reputations."

Tolley and Dooley did not return phone calls seeking a comment on the lawsuit.

The suit also names the NCAA, NCAA president Myles Brand and former NCAA investigator Chris Howard individually.

"They are complicit in this, and we will be prepared to prove that at trial," Tanenbaum said.

 Athens attorney Hue Henry and New York attorney Herman Kaufman are working with Tanenbaum to represent the Harricks, who first came under scrutiny at Georgia one year ago Friday when former player Tony Cole made several accusations of wrongdoing.

Cole's claims led Georgia and the NCAA to conduct a joint investigation. During the course of that investigation, Dooley and Adams said they found "academic fraud" in a class taught by Harrick Jr. and attended by Cole and basketball players Rashad Wright and Chris Daniels. Cole said he never attended the class but still received an 'A'.

 The lawsuit contends no academic fraud was committed because all students were treated equally and includes statements from at least four non-athletes who took the class and said no preferential treatment was extended to the athletes. The Harricks' lawyers hired private investigators to research Georgia's findings.

On Nov. 12, Tanenbaum sent a letter to several UGA officials requesting a "name clearing hearing" for the Harricks. On Dec. 24, Tanenbaum was sent a letter from the Georgia Attorney General's office, which represents state employees in such cases, saying that an upcoming NCAA hearing would provide a proper forum for the Harricks to clear their name.

"We wanted to be able to disprove, as we are well able to do, that the charges leveled against the Harricks were and are false," Tanenbaum said. "It's sad the university didn't see fit to give us a name-clearing hearing."

The amount of a potential award to the Harricks would be determined at trial, Tanenbaum said.

The lawsuit also could affect the timing of Georgia's hearing before the NCAA. The organization has given Georgia and the Harricks an official letter of inquiry and the deadline for a response by all parties is Tuesday.

Georgia's 50-plus page response has been finished and is expected to be mailed early next week, but Tanenbaum wouldn't say if the Harricks are prepared to respond by Tuesday. A delay by the Harricks could further push back the NCAA's final decision, leaving Georgia's basketball program under a cloud of uncertainty even longer.

"We're discussing that with the NCAA right now," Tanenbaum said. "It's a due process issue. It will come out eventually."

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