March 11, 2003

Hoopsters Sit Home With Scandals

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St. Bonaventure forfeited all but one Atlantic 10 conference win this season and banned itself from the postseason after revelations of academic fraud. Two players at Villanova were suspended after misusing their privileges to a school phone account. And just yesterday, the University of Georgia suspended men’s basketball coach Jim Harrick and withdrew from consideration for both the SEC and NCAA tournaments amidst allegations of yet more academic fraud.

What the hell is going on with Division I basketball?

With the third major controversy in the space of two weeks, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the bastion of fair play and sportsmanship that college basketball once was has ceased to exist.

At St. Bonaventure, the story can be traced to a misdeed by the university president.

Or, I should say ex-president.

Robert Wickenheiser resigned Sunday night under pressure from the board of trustees. Wickenheiser approved the transfer of Jamil Terrell to St. Bonaventure from Coastal Georgia Community College.

While Terrell met the requirements for transfer admission, he had not completed the required courses for NCAA eligibility. Thus, he should have sat out his first year as a student at St. Bonaventure. Thanks to Wickenheiser’s intervention, he didn’t.

So, the school forfeited six conference victories and declared itself ineligible for the Atlantic 10 tournament last Monday. Then the remaining players on the team opted to boycott the team’s last two games. Of course, the problems don’t just end there.

In addition to Wickenheiser’s resignation, head basketball coach Jan van Breda Kolff and athletic director Gothard Lane were placed on administrative leave. A strong possibility exists that the Bonnies will be booted from the A-10 as well.

Villanova, currently sitting in a tie for third in the east division of the Big East, fanned the flames of NCAA scandal Saturday, when it suspended 12 players for using school access codes to make unauthorized phone calls.

Twelve players. That’s a lot!

And how many players are on the Villanova roster, you may ask? Like every other college basketball team in the nation, there are 15. So that means ‘Nova suspended 80 percent of its roster for between three and eight games.

“They are good guys who made a poor decision,” said coach Jay Wright.

That poor decision will likely end any chance that the Wildcats had of reaching the NCAA tournament, given that the bulk of the staggered suspensions will take place during this week’s Big East tournament.

The trophy (if there is one) of the scandal championships, though, goes to the Georgia Bulldogs and Harrick.

Harrick was suspended with pay yesterday, but will most likely be fired when Georgia president Michael Adams completes his investigation.

At Georgia, Harrick’s son, assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr. taught a phony class on coaching basketball. Three basketball players never attended this class, but all received A’s.

Former Bulldogs player Tony Cole, who first informed authorities of this “course” also alleged that Harrick Jr. paid bills and did homework for players, clear violations of NCAA rules.

Being the good father that he is, Harrick Sr. fired his son last Wednesday. Now, it’s pretty clear that termination is a family affair.

So with all this scandal and fraud going around Division I this season, isn’t it comforting to know that here in the Ivy League, we’re safe from that sort of thing?

What’s that?

We’re not safe?

Yes, it seems that academic troubles can plague even the nation’s elite, as evidenced by this Ivy season. On Feb. 20, Princeton announced that leading scorer Spencer Gloger was leaving the basketball team and University due to falling below academic standards.

That announcement came only two weeks after Harvard’s All-Ivy guard Patrick Harvey withdrew due to violating his academic probation. This was not even the first infraction for Harvey. He sat out his entire sophomore year after struggling with his grades as a freshman.

These two cases constitute a set of circumstances that aren’t all that encouraging.

Well, at least none of the aforementioned, scandalous names have any connection with Cornell.

Oh, wait.

Van Breda Kolff’s first head coaching job was with the Red.

Archived article by Owen Bochner