Jim Harrick and findings of wrongdoing in the basketball program. "> Jim Harrick and findings of wrongdoing in the basketball program. "> Dawgpost.com">

Evidence still not connected to Harrick

ATHENS, Ga. - Athletics director <b>Vince Dooley</b> said Friday there still are no "direct connections'' between Georgia coach <b>Jim Harrick</b> and findings of wrongdoing in the basketball program.

Vince Dooley's comment followed interviews by his staff and NCAA investigators this week with the two Rhode Island men who played a role in the $300 sent to former Georgia player Tony Cole by Jim Harrick's son, Georgia assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr.

Steve Macchioni and Charlie Tapalian met Wednesday in Providence, R.I., with NCAA investigator Chris Howard, Georgia compliance director Amy Chisholm, University of Georgia legal counsel Steve Shewmaker and Athens attorney Ed Tolley - who is  heading Georgia's investigation of charges of rules violations in the program.

At Monday's press conference held by Dooley and University of Georgia president Michael Adams, Harrick's suspension was announced even though Dooley said the coach had not been personally linked to the evidence of academic fraud - which Dooley said was the most serious of the allegations. Now it appears Harrick may not be linked to another of the most serious charges - the $300 sent from the Rhode Island men to Harrick Jr. to pass along to Cole.

Tapalian told the investigators that before sending the money to Harrick Jr., he called Harrick, but only to get Harrick Jr.'s cell phone number.

Said Dooley Friday: "I can't be specific about anything except to say there are no direct connections between the findings we've had and Coach Harrick.''

Added Dooley: "At the same time, since (Harrick) is responsible for the program and we're talking about very serious allegations, academic fraud and unethical conduct, we felt like it was appropriate in light of that to suspend Coach Harrick until the investigation is resolved.''

Dooley said he could put no time frame on the investigation.

"We can't even think about setting a time frame on anything,'' Dooley said. "We'll just have to let the investigators do their job and do it as best they can and continue the search for the truth. That's what we're all about and when we find the truth, then we'll deal with it and then the NCAA will.''

In addition to the suspension of Harrick, the university also has suspended Harrick Jr., who also has been informed he will not return next season.  Two players - Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright - also were suspended but told they could return next season. In its most controversial act of self-imposed sanctions, the university pulled the team out of the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments.

If Harrick is not directly linked to any evidence but still is fired, Georgia likely would have to pay the the $1.8 million he is owed for  the rest of his contract - $600,000 per season through 2006 - or reach a settlement on a buyout of his deal.

Harrick could not be reached for comment Friday. He previously has denied knowledge of any rules violation concerning Cole, whose accusations of rules violations sparked the investigation.

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