Williams calls allegations a 'publicity stunt'

ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia senior <b>Ezra Williams</b> said Sunday the latest round of allegations from former player Tony Cole are "so much nonsense.''

Cole became a national story Thursday night when he accused Georgia coach Jim Harrick and his son, assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., with financial and academic benefits in violation of NCAA rules.

In another interview with the Atlanta newspapers published Sunday, Cole charged that other Georgia players also had received benefits from Harrick and at least one Georgia booster.

Georgia players insisted the Cole controversy did not play a role in the Bulldogs' 74-66 home loss to Kentucky Sunday, but they admitted the negative publicity has been a distraction away from the court.

Jarvis Hayes says he hasn't been watching much TV the last few days. Williams says he can't leave his cell phone because he doesn't want to hear more of the same questions.

Said Ezra Williams of Cole: "The guy just wants some attention and this was the way he wanted to get some. It's not going to affect us at all.'' Added Williams when asked about Cole's accusation that other players have accepted benefits not allowed by NCAA rules: "That's crazy. Tony Cole, I don't know why he's doing this, personally. I think it's a publicity stunt. He found some people who will listen to him and put him on TV, and he's taking advantage of it.''

Asked what he expects to hear next from Cole, Williams said: "With that guy, who knows?''

Harrick Jr. has been suspended with pay, pending results of Georgia's investigation of Cole's charges. There is much speculation about how the controversy could threaten the future of Harrick Sr. as head coach. Cole has said he feels betrayed and abandoned by the Harricks, who he said did not stand by him when he was accused of sexual assault while still enrolled at Georgia.

Williams scoffed at that accusation from Cole.

"Coach Harrick was like a father to the guy,'' Williams said. "He gave (Cole) a chance when nobody else would. To just throw all this in (Harrick's) face, it's a slap in the face to everybody in the university who gave him a chance when no one else would. I think it's a slap in the face to everybody.''

Asked if Cole should be viewed as a reputable source, Williams said: "Not at all, from what I saw.''

Even though others have questioned Cole's integrity, University of Georgia president Michael Adams and athletics director Vince Dooley have called the allegations serious charges and have promised thorough investigations while cooperating with, and seeking assistance from, NCAA and Southeastern Conference officials.

Sunday's game was televised by CBS, and the network broadcast interviews with Dooley and Harrick about Cole's charges. Harrick said Cole is "a very bitter young man'' and again predicted "We're going to find out the allegations are absolutely false.'' Added Harrick: "What I found after working   with him for six months, he is very revengeful of things that everyone had ever done for him.''

Dooley told Greg Gumbel of CBS the copy of a Western Union receipt showing a $300 payment from Harrick to the mother of Cole's  friend in Baton Rouge, La. "caused us some extra concern.''

Following the game, Harrick said his players focused on the second-ranked Kentucky team, not the accusations from Cole. Even though Georgia suffered its first home loss of the season, Harrick said Cole was not the reason.

"I don't think whatever happened the last couple of days had any effect on the game,'' Harrick said. "We played hard. It was a very, very tough, physical game.'' Harrick said Cole's accusations were not a distraction to him personally - "not after we got into the game and got onto the floor.''

Harrick received a warm ovation from the Stegeman Coliseum crowd when introduced before the game. Some fans showed their support by holding signs, including one which read "We support Harrick.''

Another fan hoped to attract attention from the network cameras with his sign, which read "Cole Better Stay away.''

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