Friday, March 28, 2003

Harrick quits amid Georgia scandal

The Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia coach Jim Harrick resigned Thursday amid a scandal in the basketball program, then announced he was retiring.

"My players have always been important to me, and I did not want the media attention or questions about my status to distract them anymore," the 64-year-old Harrick said in a statement.

Harrick was suspended with pay March 10 pending a joint investigation by the university, the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference into alleged academic fraud.

The scandal also cost his son a job as an assistant coach and prompted the school to ban the No. 25 Bulldogs (19-8) from playing in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

Athletic director Vince Dooley said Harrick's attorney contacted school lawyers "within the last 24 hours" to communicate his desire to retire.

University officials said that under the agreement, Harrick will receive his remaining base pay, broadcast payments and a Nike payment, which total $254,166. Had he served out the remainder of his contract, he would have been entitled to $2.1 million.

Earlier this month, Georgia announced findings of academic fraud involving Jim Harrick Jr., who granted credit hours to three players who did not attend the class in basketball strategy he was teaching.

Harrick Jr. had been suspended before the end of the season when former player Tony Cole's various accusations were telecast by ESPN.

Georgia subsequently found that current players Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright also had received the fraudulent credit. Harrick Jr. also was told that his contract would not be renewed.

A confidentiality clause is included in a six-page retirement agreement signed by Dooley and Harrick on Thursday. The agreement states Georgia will "not disparage Mr. Harrick."

This wasn't the first time Harrick had gotten in trouble.

Harrick was fired by UCLA in 1996 - a season after winning the national title - for lying about an expense report. Harrick then went to Rhode Island and took that school to the regional finals of the 1998 NCAA tournament. He was accused of improprieties during his two years there.

The investigation into the accusations made by Cole continue. Dooley and university president Michael Adams emphasized their desire to complete that process, but they refused to speculate on any possible penalties from the NCAA.

"A lot of fans have been hurt, but especially the players," Dooley said. "In so many ways my heart goes out to them."

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