Players go to court for more court time

Some students carried signs asking the team be allowed to play - or Adams be removed from office. Some students wore or held up "Tony Cole Sucks'' t-shirts.

ATHENS, Ga. - The University of Georgia administration took the Georgia basketball team off the court, so Wednesday the Georgia players tried to take the university to court.

Unfortunately for the players, the attempted legal maneuver did not result in any points scored.

Also Wednesday afternoon came a student protest of another form. Approximately 300 students gathered for an on-campus rally to voice their complaints about Monday's  decision by university officials to pull the 21st-ranked Bulldogs out of the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments. In a civil lawsuit filed in Clarke County Superior Court Wednesday, two starting players - Ezra Williams and Steve Thomas - tried to force the university to allow the team to play in the NCAA tournament if an invitation is offered.

Judge David Sweat denied the request for a temporary restraining injunction against the University of Georgia, the athletic association and the Board of Regents because a state statute allows for a five-day period before a hearing.

Sweat scheduled a hearing for Monday at 9 a.m., but that will be too late for the players. The NCAA tournament field will be selected Sunday.Doug McKillip, one of two Athens attorneys hired to represent the players, wants the NCAA tournament selection committee to include Georgia in its field of teams to be considered for the tournament in case Monday's hearing produces a positive result for the players.

"The players are standing up for what is right,'' McKillip said. "Ezra is a senior. He is done. ... They are trying to make the university deliver what they promised.''

McKillip said he will argue the chance to play in the NCAA tournament "is something of value that (the players) own.''

There is little chance the NCAA tournament selection committee will consider the Bulldogs on a conditional basis.

Head coach Jim Harrick and his assistant and son, Jim Harrick Jr., have been suspended by the school. Harrick Jr. has been told he will not be back next season, and Harrick's future with the program also is in doubt.

Also, two starting players - Rashad Wright and Chris Daniels - have been suspended. It seems unlikely the depleted team would be perceived as NCAA tournament-worthy by the selection committee.

Another barrier to the players' hope: The committee does not want to invite a team on the slim hope that a court would overturn the administration's decision not to play in the tournament.

"The bracket we put out Sunday night is the bracket we intend to play (in the tournament),'' selection committee chairman Jim Livengood told The Associated Press Wednesday.

Livengood called the request from McKillip and the players "impossible'' to grant. Georgia was to play Arkansas tonight in the first round of the SEC tournament, but that tournament bracket had to be re-cast without the Bulldogs.

Due to evidence of academic fraud and unethical conduct found in the ongoing investigation of the basketball program, University of Georgia president Michael Adams and athletics director Vince Dooley announced Monday that the team would not play in the postseason.

The charges of NCAA rules violations - academic and financial - were first delivered by former player Tony Cole in an ESPN interview on Feb. 27. The fallout from the resulting investigation already has ruined a once promising season.

At least three players - Damien Wilkins, Jarvis Hayes and Jonas Hayes - attended the student protest.

Some students carried signs asking the team be allowed to play - or Adams be removed from office. Some students wore or held up "Tony Cole Sucks'' t-shirts.

Jarvis Hayes, the team's leading scorer who Tuesday announced tentative plans to play in the NBA instead of returning for his senior season, drew a cheer when he told the gathering "I will come back if we play (in the NCAA tournament).''

Hayes' promise made for good drama, but even the players realize their efforts Wednesday were for little more than show.

Jarvis Hayes said the team may play an intrasquad game for fans after spring break - which begins this weekend - in an attempt to bring some sense of closure to the season.

One of the primary complaints of the players is that they were not told of the decisions by Dooley and Adams before seeing the team's postseason fate announced in the televised press conference.

Said Wilkins: "We thought it was real unprofessional of them to go to the media before they came to us.''

Ironically, Adams was on his way to New Orleans for a meeting of SEC officials gathered for the SEC tournament. Students called out for an apology from Adams but instead had to settle for an explanation from University of Georgia vice president and provost Arnett Mace Jr.

Mace said Monday's press conference would not have been held if officials had known the players had not been notified of the university's self-imposed postseason ban.

As an unsigned statement from the athletic association attempted to explain Tuesday, it was thought members of the coaching staff who had been notified of the news would pass the information along to the players before the press conference.

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