Originally created 04/16/04

Judge denies Harricks' request to block NCAA hearing



ATLANTA -- A federal judge Thursday denied the request by two former Georgia basketball coaches to block the university's hearing this weekend before the NCAA's infractions committee.

An attorney for Jim Harrick and Jim Harrick Jr. claimed the coaches have been wrongly "stigmatized" in the investigation of alleged rules violations in the Georgia program.

During two hours of arguments, the Harricks' lawyers claimed the NCAA was acting too closely with the state when investigating Georgia and the Harricks.

Attorney Robert Tannenbaum argued the NCAA "made themselves a state actor" while investigating allegations of cash payments, academic fraud and other improper benefits when Harrick was head coach.

After a brief recess, U.S. District Judge Richard Story ruled against the Harricks' request.

Following Saturday's hearing, the infractions committee will decide what additional sanctions, if any, the NCAA will place on the Georgia basketball program. The decision on sanctions is expected within two to six weeks.

"If at some point the University of Georgia has to go through this process, it seems to me the sooner the better, for them and the Harricks," Story said.

The Harricks will have an opportunity to defend themselves at Saturday's hearing before the infractions committee in Indianapolis and could pursue further legal efforts to clear their names following that hearing, Story said.

"I can see us opening a Pandora's box in terms of a court invading a private process and inserting into that process the requirements of a federal proceeding," Story said.

Harrick's attorneys quickly appealed the ruling.

Tannenbaum said he will request another court appearance before Saturday.

"Realistically we will do everything we can to ensure the people of this world know the Harricks are innocent and are falsely accused," he said.

Tannenbaum said Harrick Jr., who was an assistant coach on his father's staff, was falsely accused of charges that led University of Georgia president Michael Adams and athletic director Vince Dooley to pull the 2003 team out of the NCAA and Southeastern Conference tournaments.

Harrick Jr. was named in three of the four rules violations found by NCAA investigators.

Harrick Jr. was fired and Harrick resigned under pressure following the 2003 season.

The allegations of improper benefits were first made by former Georgia player Tony Cole in an interview with ESPN in February, 2003.

In its official letter of inquiry to Georgia, the NCAA alleged that Harrick Jr. provided $300 in a wire transfer to Evan Davis, a friend of Cole, for Cole's personal expenses. It also accuses Harrick Jr. of violating the NCAA's principles of ethical conduct for his involvement in the wire transfer.

Also, the inquiry states that Harrick Jr. "fraudulently awarded grades of A to three men's basketball student-athletes" enrolled in a physical education course he taught in the fall of 2001-02.

The NCAA letter states that Harrick Jr. encouraged two players - Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright - "to provide misleading information to the institution and NCAA investigators."

Harrick Jr. has not found another job in coaching. Harrick is working as an NBA scout.

Tannenbaum complained about the "brutality of these two people" and said the Harricks "can't work. They can't enjoy the dignity of a job."

Harrick declined comment after the hearing, other than to say "Hey, you heard it."

Bruce Edenfield, NCAA counsel, said Story "did the right thing."

"I think the law is clear in this area," Edenfield said, noting the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian's suit against the NCAA that the NCAA was ruled to be a private party.