Actions end postseason of great promise

ATHENS, Ga. - For most of last week, Georgia coach <b>Jim Harrick</b> spoke of putting the charges of rules violation in his program in the past. Instead, his team's season has been placed in the past, and Harrick's career is in limbo.

Jim Harrick was suspended with pay Monday and his team was pulled out of  the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments as Georgia announced self-imposed penalties in light of confirmed evidence of academic fraud and unethical conduct in the program.

Georgia, which won six of its last seven games of the regular season to finish 19-8 overall and 11-5 in the SEC, had high expectations for the postseason. Instead, there will be no postseason for the Bulldogs, and Harrick has been suspended indefinitely with pay.

"It's going to hurt the program so bad,'' said guard Fred Gibson. "The team is going to break up.''

Junior Jarvis Hayes, the team's leading scorer, may announce as early as today that he will bypass his final season and enter the NBA draft. The team's second-leading scorer, Ezra Williams, was a senior.

If Georgia is placed on NCAA probation, current signees could choose to attend another school.

Assistant coach James Holland, who will serve as interim head coach during Harrick's suspension, met with the players Monday.

"I think we've got a group of guys that were brought here to be students and participate in athletics and while they are here I want to assist them the best I can,'' Holland said.

Gibson said Holland and players were emotional in a team meeting Monday afternoon. Harrick did not attend the meeting.

The team had been given the day off following Sunday's 60-55 win at South Carolina and was supposed to play in the SEC tournament Thursday night in New Orleans against Arkansas.

Instead, the SEC recast the SEC bracket Monday, giving an extra team - Tennessee - a bye. Instead of four games Thursday in a 12-team tournament, there will be only three opening-day games in the 11-team tournament. A somber Gibson said players were upset that the whole team was being penalized for the actions of a few.

"It's not the players' fault,'' Gibson said. "We didn't have anything to do with whatever went on. They shouldn't punish the whole team.'' Gibson, a receiver on the football team, said he is more fortunate than most of his basketball teammates. "It's not that bad for me; I have a football scholarship,'' he said. For others who play only basketball, having the postseason taken away was devastating and unexpected.

"A whole lot of players were very emotional,'' Gibson said. "We play all these (regular-season) games for nothing, just because of what somebody else did.'' Added Gibson: "I guess life is not fair.''

Junior Damien Wilkins lobbied University of Georgia president Michael Adams and athletics director Vince Dooley on behalf of the team, but to no avail.

While admitting there will be innocent victims on the team, Dooley noted that two starters - Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright - were found guilty of unethical conduct, apparently in their response to inquiries about attending the P.E. class taught by former assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr. - Harrick's son.

"My heart goes (to the players) and I bleed for that, very much so,'' Dooley said. "On the other hand there were two players that were involved. I feel deeply for them as well, but at the same time I think the overall decision is a right decision and unfortunately some will have to suffer as a result of that.''

The Georgia ticket office will comply with requests from fans who purchased SEC tournament tickets through Georgia and wish to be refunded. The refunds will only be given those who return full ticket books. Fans who want refunds must return their ticket books to the ticket office by March 21, along with a written refund request and the name and address of the person who ordered the tickets. Refunds will be issued only to those who initially ordered the tickets.

The books should be sent to: Georgia Ticket Office, P.O. Box 1472, Athens, Ga., 30603. The address for overnight deliveries is: 1 Selig Circle, Athens, Ga., 30602.

"We realize that our fans made plans in advance for this event and will be inconvenienced as well as disappointed that we will not participate in New Orleans,'' said Georgia associate athletics director for tickets Freddy Jones.

It is recommended that those returning ticket books use certified or Express Mail or a delivery service so the tickets can be traced.

Dawg Post Top Stories