Harrick resigns from Georgia, retires from coachingPosted: Thursday March 27, 2003 6:27 PM
Updated: Thursday March 27, 2003 10:44 PM
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Jim Harrick's coaching career came to an end Thursday as he resigned as the head basketball coach at the University of Georgia in the wake of a scandal that earlier cost his son a job as an assistant coach and caused the school to withdraw from post-season play.
In a prepared statement, Harrick, 64, said he was retiring from coaching.
"My players have always been important to me, and I did not want the media attention or questions about my status to distract them any more. I am grateful to the University of Georgia and our fans for their support over the last four years," he stated.
President Michael Adams and Athletic Director Vince Dooley made a joint announcement at a news conference Thursday night. Harrick was not present.
Dooley said Harrick's attorney contacted attorneys from the university "within the last 24 hours" to communicate his desire to retire. Adams said he was off-campus with donors when he was contacted about the decision, and returned as a settlement was reached.
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.
Harrick was suspended with pay March 10 as the university announced findings of academic fraud involving Jim Harrick Jr., the assistant coach who granted credit hours to three basketball 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 had also received the fraudulent credit, leading the school to declare them ineligible and withdraw the No. 25 Bulldogs (19-8) from the SEC and NCAA tournaments. Harrick Jr. was also told that his contract would not be renewed.
A confidentiality clause is included in a six-page retirement agreement signed by Dooley and Harrick Thursday, stating:
"Mr. Harrick, the University and the Association ... agree that they will protect Confidential Information ... [which] means [a] any and all information related to Mr. Harrick's alleged violation of NCAA, SEC or University regulations, except to the extent necessary to comply with any investigations by the NCAA, and [b] any and all other allegations of wrongdoing made against Mr. Harrick, except to the extent that it is compelled by law to disclose such allegations."
The agreement further states Georgia will "not disparage Mr. Harrick."
Dooley said he and Harrick spoke briefly Thursday.
"I shook his hand and told him that I was sorry," said Dooley.
Harrick met briefly with his players, none of whom were available for comment.
Dooley had announced earlier this week that he hoped to resolve Harrick's fate before the NCAA Final Four weekend.
"I don't know all his reasons," said Dooley of Harrick's retirement decision. "There are no findings that I know of that directly associates him with any violations."
Dooley said that the settlement arrangement should not be interpreted as an indication that there was "a smoking gun" uncovered in the ongoing investigation.
"It simply says that we paid him what we were obligated to up to the time he resigned," said Dooley.
At the press conference Thursday night, both Dooley and Adams read prepared statements.
"This entire situation has been, and is, regrettable for the athletic program and the university," athletic director Vince 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 interests, as well."
University president Michael Adams, who worked with Harrick at Pepperdine and was one of the greatest advocates of hiring him at Georgia, said he and Dooley had placed a lot of confidence in Harrick, "a man of considerable coaching talent."
"We were greatly disappointed to lose that confidence due to Coach Harrick's failure to appropriately manage the basketball program. Based upon the facts discovered in the investigation to date, his resignation is appropriate and we accept it," Adams said.
The investigation into the accusations made by Cole continue. Dooley and Adams emphasized their desire to complete that process, but they refused to speculate on any possible penalties from the NCAA.
"I do want to conclude that a lot of people have been hurt by this," said Dooley. "A lot of fans have been hurt, but especially the players. In so many ways my heart goes out to them."
For the fourth time in a decade, Georgia is looking for a new head coach. Tubby Smith replaced Hugh Durham who was dismissed after the 1995 season. Smith went to Kentucky after the 1997 season and was replaced by his assistant Ron Jirsa.
Jirsa lasted two seasons before he was fired, and replaced by Harrick.
Dooley said he would not entertain any speculation about a new coach. But Adams indicated that a consulting firm might be employed, partly to facilitate a more thorough background check.
"We did the appropriate checks based on what we knew," said Adams of Harrick's hire. "But hindsight is always 20-20. I am disappointed greatly in what we know about how it turned out."