Harrick Jr. suspended with pay

Harrick Jr. was accused by Cole or arranging the payment of almost $300 in phone bills in the summer of 2001.

ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia basketball coach Jim Harrick appeared to be upbeat as he met briefly with reporters before practice Friday, but this was not an upbeat day for the coach or his program.

Harrick's son, Georgia assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., was suspended with pay Friday pending the investigation of charges reported Thursday that Harrick Jr. violated NCAA rules with financial and academic assistance provided to former player Tony Cole.

Cole made the charges in an interview with ESPN, and in the interview Cole also alleged that the head coach was aware of his son's violations. In his first public comments on the matter, Harrick greeted a large gathering of reporters Friday by saying he was "Fantastic."

Then Harrick addressed the controversy, though he did not answer questions or make a reference to Harrick Jr.'s suspension.

"Despite the many issues we've had in the past with Tony Cole, we take these things seriously,'' Harrick said.

"To attack our program is something that I really take very seriously. I'm very, very confident that we'll come to a very swift and positive answer to all these questions.''

Harrick then departed the brief press conference to conduct practice for Sunday's 4 p.m. home game against No. 2 Kentucky.

In a crucial stretch for No. 21 Georgia's hopes of improving its ranking and third-place standing in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division, the Bulldogs play two top-five teams in a span of only three days. After playing host to Kentucky in a game to be televised by CBS, the Bulldogs play host to No. 4 Florida Tuesday night at 9.

With the regular season winding down and Georgia attempting to improve its four-game winning streak, the charges from Cole come at a bad time.

"You don't know what to think because you don't know if Tony Cole is telling the truth,'' said Georgia guard Fred Gibson Friday. "I was like dang, this puts us in a bad situation.''

Harrick Jr. was accused by Cole or arranging the payment of almost $300 in phone bills in the summer of 2001.

Cole also charged that Harrick Jr. arranged for Cole to receive credit for correspondence courses at a junior college and to receive credit for a course at Georgia taught by the assistant coach. In each case, Cole told ESPN he did not do the course work.

Finally, Cole said Harrick Jr. paid hotel bills when Cole was living in Athens prior to his enrollment at the University of Georgia. Harrick Jr. was not at Friday's practice.

In a statement released Thursday night, Georgia athletics director Vince Dooley said Cole had signed a statement which said he had not received improper benefits at Georgia.

Even so, Dooley promised to investigate the charges "in the proper way and in full cooperation with the SEC and the NCAA.''

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