Georgia basketball coach Jim Harrick resigned yesterday, for the third time in his career leaving in his wake university officials to grapple with allegations of ethical breaches.
At Georgia -- as at Rhode Island and UCLA before that -- Harrick delivered the winning records and NCAA tournament berths that he promised. But his success was derailed by a series of misdeeds that unraveled after a disgruntled former player, Tony Cole, accused Harrick's son, assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., of paying his bills while a student-athlete and giving him an "A" in a class that he never attended.
After confirming those allegations and uncovering more wrongdoing, Georgia officials responded by firing Harrick Jr., suspending the elder Harrick with pay and withdrawing the team from postseason play -- a move that triggered a lawsuit by angry players and protests by enraged students.
Athletic Director Vince Dooley had said he would make a decision on Harrick's future sometime before the Final Four, April 5-7. But yesterday's announcement, after a settlement between the coach and school was brokered, resolved the matter in relatively low-key fashion, with the parting largely overshadowed by coverage of the war in Iraq and regional semifinal play in the NCAA tournament.
"This entire situation has been, and is, regrettable for the athletic program and the university," Dooley said in a statement. "Coach Harrick is an accomplished coach of the game of basketball; however, I believe his resignation and retirement at this time to be in the best interests of the athletic association and the university. And Coach Harrick obviously believes it is in his best interest, as well."
Harrick had three years left on a contract that paid him $600,000 a year. He was scheduled to collect a $400,000 "longevity bonus" when his contract expired in 2006.
Under the agreement, Georgia will pay him $254,166 -- the balance he's due this year in base pay, broadcast payments and a Nike deal.
Harrick's contract called for him to receive $2.1 million if he were fired without being directly linked to NCAA violations. If he were tied to deliberate rules violations, however, Georgia could have dismissed him without compensation.
Dooley said the search for Harrick's successor would begin immediately.
Georgia basketball enjoyed a short-lived resurgence under Harrick. The Bulldogs were ranked 25th in the country and en route to their third consecutive NCAA tournament when Cole, who had been dismissed from the team last year, told ESPN that Harrick's son had helped pay his bills and gave him an "A" for bogus work in a class about basketball coaching skills.
Two other basketball players -- Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright -- also got fraudulent "A's" in the class, university officials later discovered, and were stripped of their athletic eligibility March 10, the day Harrick was suspended.
Harrick has not been directly tied to the academic fraud, but the university's investigation continues.
A former secretary at Rhode Island recently alleged that Harrick had basketball players' grades changed and arranged for a student assistant to write papers for members of the team.
Harrick was fired at UCLA the year after leading the Bruins to the NCAA championship for lying on an expense report. He was hired at Georgia with the backing of President Michael Adams, who had worked with Harrick at Pepperdine.