Georgia Basketball Coach Jim Harrick, Sr., Resigns over Fraud Allegations

University of Georgia basketball coach Jim Harrick, Sr., resigned following accusations of fraud and misconduct against himself and his assistant coach Jim Harrick, Jr., his son. Many people were left wondering who to blame for the scandal after the Harricks had been hired to coach at Georgia even though they had a record of misconduct while coaching at two other universities—UCLA and Rhode Island.

Summary of Event

Following successful careers coaching at three other universities, Jim Harrick, Sr., was hired as head coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs of the South Eastern Conference (SEC) at the start of the 1999 basketball season. He led Georgia to two NCAA tournament births in four years. However, the misconduct of his son, Georgia assistant coach Jim Harrick, Jr., caused the elder Harrick the most trouble and led to his resignation on March 27, 2002. [kw]Basketball Coach Jim Harrick, Sr., Resigns over Fraud Allegations, Georgia (Mar. 27, 2002)
[kw]Harrick, Sr., Resigns over Fraud Allegations, Georgia Basketball Coach Jim (Mar. 27, 2002)
[kw]Fraud Allegations, Georgia Basketball Coach Jim Harrick, Sr., Resigns over (Mar. 27, 2002)
Harrick, Jim, Sr.
Harrick, Jim, Jr.
University of Georgia;basketball
Harrick, Jim, Sr.
Harrick, Jim, Jr.
University of Georgia;basketball
[g]United States;Mar. 27, 2002: Georgia Basketball Coach Jim Harrick, Sr., Resigns over Fraud Allegations[03180]
[c]Corruption;Mar. 27, 2002: Georgia Basketball Coach Jim Harrick, Sr., Resigns over Fraud Allegations[03180]
[c]Sports;Mar. 27, 2002: Georgia Basketball Coach Jim Harrick, Sr., Resigns over Fraud Allegations[03180]
[c]Law and the courts;Mar. 27, 2002: Georgia Basketball Coach Jim Harrick, Sr., Resigns over Fraud Allegations[03180]
Adams, Michael F.

Allegations of corruption against Harrick, Jr., began to surface midway through the 2002 season. Harrick, Jr., allegedly paid a phone bill for Georgia player Tony Cole and provided additional income for high-profile players; this last claim was never proven true. The most serious accusation was that Harrick, Jr., developed an examination specifically for Georgia basketball players enrolled in one of his classes. He also was accused of awarding A grades to three student-players—Cole, Chris Daniels, and Rashad Wright—who never attended his class.

Before accepting the job at Georgia, Harrick, Sr., had coached at Pepperdine University between 1979 and 1988 and led the Waves to regular-season championships in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1986. He also was named West Coast Athletic Conference (WCAC) coach of the year four times and led Pepperdine to four NCAA national basketball tournaments. Harrick was hired to coach the Bruins of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1988. He had been an assistant coach at UCLA prior to accepting the Pepperdine job.

Harrick, Sr., coached at UCLA from 1988 to 1996. He led the Bruins to Pacific 10 Conference (Pac-10) championships in 1992, 1995, and 1996 and was Pac-10 Coach of the Year in each of these seasons as well. The 1994-1995 season ended with the Bruins winning their eleventh NCAA basketball championship. Harrick was revered as a savior after leading UCLA to its first national championship in more than twenty years. Two seasons later, he was removed as head coach of the Bruins following a National Collegiate Athletic National Collegiate Athletic Association;basketball Association (NCAA) investigation into allegations that he falsified expense records and receipts for a recruiting dinner. Although Harrick was exonerated by the NCAA, officials at UCLA held firm in their decision to fire Harrick because he lied to investigators.

Harrick, Sr., took a one-year break and returned to the game to coach the University of Rhode Island Rams of the Atlantic-10 Conference. He led the Rams to two NCAA tournament bids, an Atlantic-10 Conference Championship, and a major upset of the perennial powerhouse, the University of Kansas, in the 1998 NCAA tournament. Two years were enough for Harrick in Rhode Island. He left for Georgia and, soon, Rhode Island supporters learned why.

Critics claimed that while he was at Rhode Island, Harrick, Sr., changed the grades of players, had others complete course assignments for players, and arranged for travel, cars, small gifts, money, and extravagant parties for players, friends, families, and potential recruits. Harrick, Jr., too, had been accused of similar improprieties while working with his father at Rhode Island. Most notably, Harrick, Jr., was accused of having falsified expense reports, just as his father had been accused of doing while coaching at UCLA. With charges of misconduct remaining charges only, father and son left Rhode Island and settled in Georgia to take the coaching jobs there.

On March 5, 2002, University of Georgia president Michael F. Adams announced that he was firing Jim Harrick, Jr., and suspending Harrick Sr. Adams’s announcement followed the television broadcast of an interview with former Georgia player Cole, who alleged coaching and program misconduct. Twenty-two days after his son was fired, Harrick, Sr., resigned. He also announced his retirement from coaching.

Fearing harsh NCAA sanctions such as postseason bans, loss of scholarships, and fines, Adams imposed his own sanctions on the Georgia basketball program. The team was banned from the 2002-2003 NCAA tournament, even though the Bulldogs were ranked twenty-fifth in the nation with a record of 19-8 and were ensured of a place in postseason play. Also, Adams stripped the eligibility of two players involved in the scandal.


In the long run, the self-imposed sanctions likely saved the Football;college football program at Georgia, but Adams still had to contend with questions about why he hired the Harricks in the first place, knowing of their corruption-filled backgrounds. Adams said that he trusted Harrick, Sr. The two had worked together at Pepperdine during the 1980’s. Adams had entrusted Harrick, Sr., with running the school’s football program and maintaining its integrity, which, Adams insisted, Harrick did with success.

The Harrick scandal followed the 2000 firing of another Georgia athletic coach, the highly respected football coach Jim Donnan. After the Donnan scandal, Adams became the fall guy at Georgia. He was booed off the field during a 2003 homecoming football game and was the subject of a petition drive in which sixty thousand students and alumni demanded he be fired as president of the university.

The firing of Harrick, Jr., and Harrick, Sr.’s, retirement did not mark the end of the Harrick scandal. Georgia’s athletics program suffered further sanctions after their departure, including additional scholarship reductions and four years of probation. Adams, although unpopular with many students and alumni, remained Georgia president, but several well-known alumni withheld financial contributions to the school as a result. In a poll of faculty, nearly 70 percent had little faith in Adams as president. The poll results reflected little confidence in the school, both in athletics and academics.

The Harrick scandal had little affect on continuing corruption and misconduct at colleges and universities around the United States. Sanctions were imposed on other high-profile programs and coaches. For example, Dave Bliss was forced to resign as head coach of the Baylor Bears basketball team after player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by a former Baylor player. Bliss was heard on audiotape portraying Dennehy as a drug dealer. Ohio State University fired coach Jim O’Brien after he admitted to athletic director Andy Geiger that he paid more than six thousand dollars to a potential player in 1999. In 2008, Indiana University, recognized by many as a top-tier basketball program, fired coach Kelvin Sampson for having improper phone conversations with potential recruits.

High-profile coaches who are successful on the court but losers at playing by the rules still get hired by top programs to help deliver wins. With winning teams comes money—for athletic and academic scholarships, infrastructure, campus development—so questionable pasts are overlooked for the sake of victory and reputation—and cash. Harrick, Jim, Sr.
Harrick, Jim, Jr.
University of Georgia;basketball

Further Reading

  • Eitzen, D. Stanley. Fair and Foul: Beyond the Myths and Paradoxes of Sport. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999. Argues that college athletics, and athletics in general, is inherently corrupt and that it breeds hypocrisy.
  • Harrick, Jim. Basketball’s Balanced Offense. Indianapolis, Ind.: Masters Press, 1995. Jim Harrick, Sr., shares his coaching tips and discusses the best methods for coaching college-level basketball.
  • Kluger, Jeffrey. “The Coach Fouls Out.” Time, May 12, 2003. Discusses the scandals that rocked collegiate sports in five high-profile programs in the first years of the twenty-first century. Includes the Harrick scandal.
  • Staurowsky, Ellen J. “Piercing the Veil of Amateurism: Commercialization, Corruption, and U.S. College Sports.” In The Commercialization of Sport, edited by Trevor Slack. New York: Routledge, 2004. Staurowsky discusses how amateur athletics in the United States is a commercialized and corrupt spectacle.

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