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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

True March Madness

On March 11th, the university of Georgia suspended men’s basketball coach Jim Harrick with pay after allegations of academic fraud involving players on his team were brought to light. Harrick, who has had a storied career that few basketball coaches in history can match, must now await an investigation by the NCAA, which will ultimately decide his future.

The whole fiasco started last season when a former player named Tony Cole was kicked off the team for repeated violations. The one that sealed his fate was a charge of rape (two other teammates were also charged and eventually kicked off). Cole has since then been charged with trespassing and passing a bad check.

But it wasn’t until a month ago that things got interesting. In an interview with ESPN, Cole accused his former coach’s son, Jim Harrick Jr. (also a former assistant coach under his father who was fired on March 4th), of paying his bills, doing his schoolwork, and teaching a fraudulent class. Cole added that he actually never attended a single class, but received an A. Two other teammates, Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright, were also enlisted in the class.

Georgia Athletic Director Vince Dooley tried to deflect attention from the “class”, claiming that there is no evidence that anyone else took part in the sham. Well, Mr. Dooley, doesn’t the fact that all 31 students in the class received an A suggest anything to you? I guess Harvard isn’t the only university that should be accused of grade inflation.

Dooley and Georgia University president Mike Adams have been in damage control mode for the past couple of weeks. In a round about way, Georgia has admitted a mea culpa by withdrawing from the 2003 Southeastern Conference tournament. The team was a lock to receive a NCAA tournament bid with a record of 19-8.

So who’s to blame in this affair? The athlete-students? The coaching staff? The hierarchy of Georgia University? The system of big time college basketball?

Let’s be honest, everyone is caught in the mire of college athletic corruption. And here’s why:

Tony Cole. Cole’s problem is that he feels bitter toward the coaches. He probably did not think he would be kicked off the team after the rape charges were dropped. He convenient ly forgets that he had committed other transgressions that led to his ultimate dismissal. Young athletes often feel entitled and they believe they transcend the rules that apply to everyone else. If he had been welcomed back to the team, this story might never have surfaced.

The coaching staff. Little Harrick probably did what he did only because he thought he could get away with it. It goes on in a huge majority of universities that participate in Division I athletics. Daddy Harrick, directly or indirectly, supports the wrongful activities. It isn’t hard to come to that conclusion. that although Daddy has been a winner everywhere he has coached (championship team in 1995; career record of 470-235), he has also been included in conversations of fraud, improprieties, and other no-nos at UCLA and Rhode Island, for example. He sure sounds like he’s not been on his best behavior.

Georgia University. Those individuals in charge of hiring the coaches for their athletic teams are not free from the blame. Harrick’s track record speaks for itself. But since winning is so important, the past seems to have been ignored in this case. You smell that, Dooley and Adams? It’s the stench of the basketball program.

The current system of basketball. The NCAA does not have a clear idea of what college basketball, or football, should be. It has the most ridiculous restrictions in some areas and the most lax in others. It still wants to trot out stories of top flight athletes that are top flight students. Listen folks, those individuals are anomalies. They are the most minute of exceptions. NCAA Division I basketball and football are businesses. They are the minor leagues for the NBA and NFL. If the academic pretense were removed from the scene, I believe it would be better for everyone involved.

Harrick should ultimately be fired. Georgia, regardless of its self-imposed punishment, should be placed on probation, plus it should lose few basketball scholarships. Dooley and those responsible for the hiring of athletic personnel should take a long hard look within themselves before they hire the next basketball coach of Georgia University. Integrity should count for just as much as a candidate’s winning percentage.