ATHENS, Ga(AP) Georgia coach Jim Harrick resigned Thursday amid a scandal in the basketball program, then announced he was retiring.
My players have always been important to me, and I did not want the media attention or questions about my status to distract them any more,'' the 64-year-old Harrick said in a statement.
I am grateful to the University of Georgia and our fans for their support over the last four years,'' he said.
Harrick was suspended with pay March 10 pending a joint investigation by the university, the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference into alleged academic fraud.
The scandal also cost his son a job as an assistant coach and prompted the school to ban the No. 25 Bulldogs (19-8) from playing in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
Athletic director Vince Dooley said Harrick's attorney contacted school lawyers within the last 24 hours'' to communicate his desire to retire.
University officials said that under the agreement, Harrick will receive his remaining base pay, broadcast payments and a Nike payment, which total $254,166. Had he served out the remainder of his contract, he would have been entitled to $2.1 million.
Earlier this month, Georgia announced findings of academic fraud involving Jim Harrick Jr., who granted credit hours to three players who did not attend the class in basketball strategy he was teaching.
Harrick Jr. had been suspended before the end of the season when former player Tony Cole's various accusations were telecast by ESPN.
Georgia subsequently found that current players Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright had also received the fraudulent credit. Harrick Jr. was also told that his contract would not be renewed.
A confidentiality clause is included in a six-page retirement agreement signed by Dooley and Harrick on Thursday. The agreement states Georgia will not disparage Mr. Harrick.''
Dooley said he and Harrick spoke briefly Thursday.
I shook his hand and told him that I was sorry,'' Dooley said.
Harrick met briefly with his players, none of whom were available for comment.
I don't know all his reasons,'' said Dooley of Harrick's retirement decision. There are no findings that I know of that directly associates him with any violations.''
Dooley said that the settlement arrangement should not be interpreted as an indication that there was a smoking gun'' uncovered in the ongoing investigation.
It simply says that we paid him what we were obligated to up to the time he resigned,'' said Dooley.
This wasn't the first time Harrick had gotten in trouble.
Harrick was fired by UCLA in 1996 a season after winning the national title for lying about an expense report.
Harrick then went to Rhode Island and took that school to the regional finals of the 1998 NCAA tournament. He was accused of improprieties during his two years there.
A former secretary at Rhode Island said Harrick had grades changed for players, had student managers write papers for players and arranged for players to receive lodging, cars and money from boosters. In addition, Harrick Jr. was accused of falsifying hotel and meal reports for recruits when he worked for his father at Rhode Island.
Dooley and university president Michael Adams both read prepared statements Thursday night.
This entire situation has been, and is, regrettable for the athletic program and the university,'' Dooley said.
Coach Harrick is an accomplished coach of the game of basketball; however, I believe his resignation and retirement at this time to be in the best interests of the athletic association and the university, and coach Harrick obviously believes it is in his best interests, as well.''
Adams, who worked with Harrick at Pepperdine and was one of the greatest advocates of hiring him at Georgia, said he and Dooley had placed a lot of confidence in Harrick, a man of considerable coaching talent.''
We were greatly disappointed to lose that confidence due to coach Harrick's failure to appropriately manage the basketball program. Based upon the facts discovered in the investigation to date, his resignation is appropriate and we accept it,'' Adams said.
The investigation into the accusations made by Cole continue. Dooley and Adams emphasized their desire to complete that process, but they refused to speculate on any possible penalties from the NCAA.
I do want to conclude that a lot of people have been hurt by this,'' said Dooley. A lot of fans have been hurt, but especially the players. In so many ways my heart goes out to them.''
For the fourth time in a decade, Georgia is looking for a new head coach. Tubby Smith replaced Hugh Durham, who was dismissed after the 1995 season. Smith went to Kentucky after the 1997 season and was replaced by his assistant Ron Jirsa.
Jirsa lasted two seasons before he was fired, and replaced by Harrick.
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