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SCANDALS This is more like March badness



Published: Fri, March 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Supposedly, there's no evidence that Georgia coach Jim Harrick knew players were taking a phony class.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

This March, the madness is coming off the court.

The week leading up to the NCAA tournament began with scandals and firings as Georgia coach Jim Harrick was suspended with pay Monday after an internal investigation showed three players took a phony class taught by his son.

Three other coaches were fired and another was suspended. All of this on the day after St. Bonaventure's president was ousted and its athletic director and coach were placed on administrative leave.

Unusual string

NCAA spokesman Wally Renfro called it an "unusual" string of events.

"I'm not sure there's precedent for the number of institutions in this position," he said.

Harrick was one of four coaches whose seasons ended Monday. The other three, however, were fired for a much simpler reason -- losing too many games:

UVirginia Tech fired Ricky Stokes, two days after the Hokies failed to qualify for the Big East Conference tournament for the third straight year. He went 45-70 in his four seasons, and his teams won only 10 of 48 over three seasons in the Big East.

UWashington State fired Paul Graham, after the Cougars went 7-20 and won only two conference games. He was 31-79 in four seasons and had a 9-63 mark in the Pac-10.

UColumbia, with a 2-25 record, the worst in the school's 103-year basketball history, fired Armond Hill. The Lions ended the season with a school-record 18-game losing streak.

Stanford coach Mike Montgomery was also suspended Monday -- but just for one game. The Pac-10 suspended Montgomery for his team's conference opener next season after he made contact with a referee during a Feb. 27 game against Arizona State. Montgomery said the contact was accidental.

The situation at Georgia is the murkiest, and will have the biggest effect on the NCAA tournament.

Georgia withdrew from the SEC and NCAA tournaments and, along with the NCAA, was looking into allegations brought two weeks ago by former player Tony Cole.

"The evidence and the findings presented to us indicated there was academic fraud," Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley said. "There's no evidence at all that Coach Harrick knew about what took place."

There's more

And don't forget Villanova and Fresno State.

The Wildcats suspended 12 players for allegedly making unauthorized telephone calls by using a school access code. Villanova is staggering the suspensions, but will only have seven players when it plays Georgetown in the opening round of the Big East Conference tournament Wednesday night.

Fresno State kept itself out of the NCAA and NIT tournaments after a former student claimed he wrote papers for players for payment. The Western Athletic Conference then barred the Bulldogs from its tournament.




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