After a spate of college basketball transgressions have come to light in the last couple of weeks, the big hammer dropped on Monday when Georgia suspended their Head Coach Jim Harrick and withdrew the team from the SEC and the NCAA tournaments. Harrick has been suspended pending further investigation into academic fraud at the University, allegedly committed by his son and former assistant, Jim Harrick, Jr..
Harrick, Jr. was fired last week after allegations of grade fixing and extra benefits came to light during an interview given by former player Tony Cole. An investigation into those allegations showed some to be true, and in a pre-emptive strike, the University decided to fire Harrick, Jr. hoping the NCAA and the SEC would take notice of their quick action and give them some lenient treatment when it came to sanctions.
Apparently on Monday morning, the University President Michael Adams was made aware of more academic fraud, declaring two current players, Chris Daniels and Rashard Wright academically ineligible. Problems have followed Harrick during his career off the court. He was fired at UCLA for allegedly falsifying an expense report. At the University of Rhode Island, a sexual harassment suit was settled out of court, brought by a woman naming Harrick as the perpetrator. Now at Georgia, on his watch, the basketball program has been thrown into disarray after what looked like a promising season.
The Bulldogs were ranked 21st and had a third seed in the SEC tournament. Their withdraw gives Tennessee a bye into the second round and a second round game with Auburn. Vince Dooley knew of Harrick’s past problems when he hired him in Athens. At one point, Harrick couldn’t decide whether he was coming to Georgia or not. He wasn’t fired today because the Bulldog administration wants to have all of their I’s dotted and t’s crossed before they make a move that could be challenged in court.
Giving players extra benefits is something that’s almost a time honored tradition in college sports, especially basketball. But academic fraud is a whole other story. When Adams was given evidence about grades being handed out without a class actually existing, he didn’t have a choice but to make a bold move. They’re trying to salvage the future by giving up the present, withdrawing from the conference and NCAA tournaments. They’re falling on their sword early, hoping mercy will follow their actions. Firing Harrick, Jr. was the right thing to do. Firing his dad is the next step in the right direction.