"We don't give money to people, nor do we do work for people,'' Harrick said. "I've been in this business 40 years and I don't do things like that.''
Added Harrick: "None of (Cole's) allegations have any merit.''
Due to the allegations, Harrick's son, assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., has been suspended with pay pending the investigation of the charges.
In a interview with ESPN broadcast Thursday, Cole charged that Harrick Jr. paid for $300 in phone bills and $1,200 in hotel expenses for Cole. Cole also claims he received credit for a physical education class taught by Harrick Jr. Cole says he never attended the class. Cole also says Harrick Jr. arranged for Cole to receive credit for correspondence courses at a junior college.
Cole admits he came out with the charges because he feels the Harricks abandoned him when he faced sexual assault charges in Athens last year. Even when the charges were dropped, Cole was not re-instated to the team, due to his pattern of conduct problems. Cole has been accused of sexual assault by two other women and also was arrested for trespassing in December when he refused to leave the weight room of the Ramsey Student Center on campus.
Meanwhile, the Athens Banner-Herald reported Saturday that Cole previously threatened to go public with allegations against the Harricks, apparently in an attempt to preserve his active status on the basketball team.
The newspaper quoted a Sept. 12, 2002 letter from Athens attorney Ed Tolley, who often represents the Georgia athletic association and is heading the university's investigation of Cole's allegations, to attorney Steve Sadow, who represented Cole when Cole was charged with aggravated assault with the intent to rape a University of Georgia female student.
In the letter, Tolley wrote "In several of his conversations, Mr. Cole threatened to 'get' Coach Harrick and his staff''' and added that Cole "offered to withhold information adverse to Coach Harrick and his staff if the university and the (athletic) association agree to (Cole's) demands. This suggestion is improper.''
Despite Cole's alleged history of attempts to blackmail the Harricks, University of Georgia president Michael Adams and athletics director Vince Dooley say the charges will be thoroughly examined.
Dooley said Georgia's investigation, headed by Tolley and university legal affairs executive director Steve Shewmaker, will be conducted with the assistance and cooperation of the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference.
"Despite the many issues that we have had with Tony Cole in the past, we still feel this is the prudent course of action,'' Dooley said. "It would certainly be our intent to get this matter resolved as quickly as possible, and it is our hope that the resolution is a positive one.''
Adams said he met with SEC commissioner Mike Slive and also consulted NCAA enforcement director David Price "and asked for the assistance from his office in this investigation.''
Said Adams: "The allegations concerning the basketball program are serious. We will take definitive and appropriate actions based upon the findings of this investigation. "The University will attempt to complete the investigation as expeditiously as possible, but will do so in a thorough and complete way.''
The charges and resulting investigation threaten to cast a shadow on the rest of what otherwise has been a positive season for Harrick and Georgia. Ranked No. 21 in the nation, Georgia is on the verge of receiving its third straight NCAA tournament berth for the first time in the program's history.
"This has been extremely difficult on my family, my wife (Sally) and I and our son,'' Harrick said Saturday. Harrick indicated he expects to hear fan reaction to the charges as early as tomorrow, when Georgia plays host to No. 2 Kentucky.
"I didn't get into this business to be heckled from the stands,'' Harrick said. "We don't put winning before anything. I'm very confident we'll have a positive resolution to this.''
Harrick said he hopes the charges can be quickly resolved.
"They've told me they'll move as quickly as possible,'' Harrick said. "All they've got to do is ask the questions. Ask the P.E. department who monitored (Cole's) class. That's not really hard. They'll tell you.''
Meanwhile, Cole was back in the public eye Saturday, this time on The Sporting News radio network. Cole said Saturday he had taken money to play basketball, even before his career at Georgia. He did not say who paid him the money or how much he was paid.
"I was well taken care of from the beginning,'' said Cole, who has returned to his Baton Rouge, La., hometown. "I wore nice clothes. I still do wear nice clothes. I have money in the bank. I can feed myself when I want to. I don't have to eat sugar sandwiches anymore.''
Cole added he was "trying to put a loan down so I can buy a house.''
Cole also said the Harricks "didn't back me up'' when he faced the sexual assault charge.
"When the pressure turned on for them to help me, there was no one there,'' he said. "They were the ones that brought me here to Georgia, and that's all I knew was my two coaches.''