Thursday, March 6, 2003

Son out, Harrick's future tenuous

Harrick Jr. fired; probe continues into head coach

The Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. - Jim Harrick's son was fired Wednesday by Georgia, ridding the troubled program of the assistant coach accused of academic fraud and paying a player's bills. Now the question is: Can the father survive?

In the most serious challenge of his 23-year coaching career, Harrick is fighting to keep his job after former player Tony Cole accused the coach's son of paying his bills, doing schoolwork and teaching a sham class on coaching.

Harrick Jr. was suspended with pay Friday after the allegations came to light. Just five days later, the school announced the 38-year-old assistant basketball coach would be let go when his contract expires June 30.

"We will not tolerate any violations of NCAA rules," school president Michael Adams said. "If we have a problem, we'll fix it and move on to better days."

The dismissal of Harrick Jr. was a huge blow to his father, who vowed Tuesday that no major rules had been broken. The head coach had said he expected his son to be reinstated and the program to be vindicated once the facts were known.

Instead, athletic director Vince Dooley decided Harrick Jr. couldn't stay, an indication the school has uncovered violations in an investigation that's less than a week old.

The timing of the move also was telling. On Tuesday night, the No. 25 Bulldogs pulled off one of their biggest victories of the season, upsetting No. 3 Florida 82-81.

Afterward, the elder Harrick lingered on the court, denying Cole's allegations but also conceding his program might be guilty of some violations.

"We don't do work for people, nor do we give them money," the coach said. "Do we make mistakes? Yeah. Will they find something minor? Maybe."

Harrick appeared close to tears when asked what the accusations had done to his son.

"He's struggling with it," Harrick said. "But he's tough."

Harrick Jr. has refused to talk since the allegations were made.

Meanwhile, Georgia forward Chris Daniels gave credence to one of the most damaging accusations from Cole, who says he got an "A" for a class he never attended.

Harrick Jr. taught the class, "Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball."

Daniels, who took the same course, was pulled out of practice Monday to meet with NCAA and school investigators.

Though unsure if he was enrolled in the class at the same time as Cole, Daniels said: "I think it's the same one. I never saw him in there."

The head of Georgia's Physical Education and Sports Studies department, Paul G. Schempp, was reprimanded for assigning Harrick Jr. to the course.

Adams said he was surprised to learn Harrick Jr. had taught a class in which his players were students.

Cole also says Harrick Jr. did the work for correspondence courses that helped the player improve his grades before he was admitted to Georgia.

In addition, Harrick Jr. is accused of paying Cole's hotel bills in Athens and wiring $300 to a woman in Baton Rouge, La., to pay a phone bill. The former player produced a Western Union receipt with the sender listed as "Jim Harrick."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a Rhode Island booster, Charlie Tapalian, provided the money that was wired to Cole in August 2001.

The elder Harrick coached at Rhode Island from 1997-99, with his son on the staff the second year.

Rhode Island has begun its own investigation, looking into accusations of NCAA violations made by a former employee as part of a sexual harassment lawsuit against the elder Harrick. The case was settled out of court for $45,000.

Adams, a longtime friend of Harrick's who was instrumental in bringing him to Georgia, distanced himself Wednesday. The president wouldn't guarantee Harrick will be allowed to coach in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, which begins next week.

"I'm not listening right now to Coach Harrick," Adams said. "I'm listening to reports I'm getting from the people who are doing the investigations."

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