Harrick re-instates Thomas, Cole

Swayed by the description of an alleged rape he was provided in an affidavit made public Wednesday, Georgia basketball coach <b>Jim Harrick</b> on Thursday lifted the suspensions of <b>Steve Thomas</b> and <b>Tony Cole</b>.

ATHENS, Ga. ------ Swayed by the description of an alleged rape he was provided in an affidavit made public Wednesday, Georgia basketball coach Jim Harrick on Thursday lifted the suspensions of Steve Thomas and Tony Cole.

Harrick said he has not decided if the players will be cleared to play in Georgia's game at Vanderbilt Saturday. He also left open the possibility that the players could be placed on suspension again if more evidence is revealed or if charges are filed.

Thomas returned to practice Thursday, but Cole's status remains uncertain despite Harrick's action. Harrick has denied published reports that he already has decided Cole will not return to the team, but Cole was not at practice Thursday.

Cole's locker was cleaned out when the locker room was open to media following Wednesday night's victory over Arkansas.

Georgia, ranked 15th in the nation, has won two of three games since the two players were suspended on Jan. 16. The return of Thomas, a starter, gave the team a lift Thursday.

"It has been difficult the last two weeks,'' said forward Jarvis Hayes. "We just wanted to keep our poise. Everybody was up and glad to have the big guy back. Now we've got to get him in shape. ... He looked rusty.''

Added Hayes: "We're a family here. If one of our players or two of our players are hurt, we're all hurt.''

There was no announcement made Thursday about the third Georgia student-athlete, football player Brandon Williams, who has been named in the case.

No charges have been filed. On Wednesday, the University of Georgia Police Department forwarded findings of its investigation to Athens-Clarke County District Attorney Ken Mauldin.

The affidavit that influenced Harrick's decision provided a narrative of the events of Jan. 14 at McWhorter Hall that appeared to offer inconsistencies to the original police report.

Harrick said the accounts provided by the affidavit did not justify the continuation of the suspensions.

"Based on the information we have at this time, I think it is appropriate and fair to re-instate both players for practice beginning (Thursday),'' Harrick said.

"Their status in terms of competition will be determined day-to-day as the process continues. However, the decision is subject to re-evaluation at any time more information becomes available as a result of the continuing investigation.''

In the affidavit, the woman said she and Cole had consensual sex. The affidavit described ways in which the woman said she assisted Thomas while having sex.

The Jan. 15 affidavit does not specify if the sexual encounter with Thomas was consensual. In the police report, she said she was raped by a person she knew and was also attacked by a person she did not know.

The affidavit also describes the alleged attempted rape by Williams.

Thomas, a starting power forward before the suspension, was not available for comment Thursday.

"We've advised (Thomas and Cole) not to comment on the situation until we hear further from the district attorney's office,'' said Tim Hix, Georgia associate director of sports communications.

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