|Thursday, February 27
Updated: March 2, 11:02 AM ET
Cole claims Harrick Jr. broke several rules at Georgia
ESPN.com news services
Georgia men's basketball coach Jim Harrick and his son Jim Harrick Jr., an assistant coach for the Bulldogs (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today poll, No. 21 AP), have been accused by a former player of actions that would constitute violations of NCAA rules.
Tony Cole, who was suspended after 16 games last season when he was charged with sexual assault, told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap that one or both Harricks arranged payment of telephone and hotel bills for Cole and helped him fraudulently achieve high grades at two different schools, including Georgia. The sexual assault charges against Cole were later dropped, but he was not reinstated to the basketball team.
An NCAA source who watched the piece, which aired Thursday night on ESPN, told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that the NCAA and the school would likely begin evaluating the information in the coming days.
In one of his allegations, Cole claims that Harrick Jr. paid off a large phone bill that Cole ran up while staying at a friend's home while attending summer school in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La.
The mother of Cole's friend, Eva Davis, told Schaap that Harrick Jr. offered to take care of any expenses Cole incurred while staying at her house.
"When he called and talked to me about helping Tony out, he left a number for me to reach him if there was a problem," Davis told Schaap. "When the phone bill came in, I let him know that, you know, there was an added expense -- a phone bill had come in for almost $300. [Harrick Jr.] said that he would, you know, take care of the phone bill so that I wouldn't have that expense. And that was it. He took care of the phone bill."
ESPN showed a $300 Western Union statement from "Jim Harrick."
Cole confirmed the transaction: "So 'Junior' called me and we talked, and he's, like, 'How much is the phone bill?' and I'm, 'Like, two-something.' And he was, like, 'All right then -- give me the address and stuff.' I'm like, 'What's going on?' He's like, 'I'm going to send it to her.'
Cole also alleged that Harrick Jr. did schoolwork for him while Cole attended Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., and that Harrick Jr. gave Cole an A in a class at Georgia taught by Harrick Jr. and never attended by Cole.
Cole also told Schaap that Harrick Jr. paid hotel expenses for Cole in Georgia after he arrived and before he was enrolled in school and eligible to stay in a dormitory.
The NCAA source told Katz that Georgia would need to give an explanation for the Western Union statement, and that the NCAA would then re-interview the same subjects who were in the story. The source said it was premature to say if the allegations were major or secondary.
"It certainly was a very interesting report that begs many more questions,'' the source told Katz.
Jim Harrick, Jim Harrick Jr., Georgia athletics director Vince Dooley and university president Michael Adams all refused to be interviewed for Schaap's story on ESPN.
The university did, however, send ESPN a copy of a letter bearing Cole's signature, in which Cole states that he was "in the Atlanta/Athens area around the Aug. 10. ... During this short duration, from the time summer school ended to the beginning of classes at UGA, I was, and have always been, able to take care of myself financially."
Cole claims Harrick Jr. wrote the letter and pressured him into signing it. Cole also told Schaap that he was bringing forward the allegations at this time because he felt the Harricks withdrew their support for him when he needed it most, at the time of the rape allegation against him.
Cole said that the elder Harrick was aware of the situation: "I talked to him and you know what I'm saying, and he's like, 'We hear, so we don't have to talk about it no more.' He was always the person that make things go -- but it was like 'We know, and we don't have to talk about it.'"
In a written statement released hours after Cole's interview aired on ESPN, Dooley said he takes accusations "very seriously.''
He added that "Tony Cole has been asked on previous occasions if he had received anything that could be considered extra benefits and a document has been signed by him indicating that he had not.''
Harrick Sr. was fired by UCLA for falsifying an expense report, and Rhode Island -- his next coaching stop -- just settled a sexual discrimination lawsuit against him. The clerk behind the claim at Rhode Island, Christine King, also alleged that she observed numerous NCAA violations by the coaching staff which included Harrick and Harrick Jr.
Cole was arrested in December for trespassing after he refused to leave the weight room in the Georgia student center, and he has since dropped out of school.
Information from The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.