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College basketball

UF coaches, players feel for Bulldogs

But officials say safeguards prevent a repeat of Georgia's academic scandal.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 12, 2003

GAINESVILLE -- University of Florida officials said Tuesday that strict measures are taken at the school to ensure that the type of academic fraud that ended Georgia's men's basketball season won't be found at UF.

Georgia athletic officials suspended coach Jim Harrick with pay Monday after an internal investigation found former player Tony Cole and current starters Rashad Wright and Chris Daniels took a class taught by former Bulldogs assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr.

Georgia officials said the players earned passing grades in the class without actually attending.

Florida football coach Ron Zook said that although no coach can say it can't happen with the Gators, he doesn't lose sleep over the issue because of the precautions in place.

"It doesn't scare me a whole lot because we have people that are in place on those things," Zook said. "We have academic meetings once a week to know exactly where our people are. Can it happen? Possibly. But we're on top of that thing from the beginning. It's not something that I worry a lot about."

Monday, Georgia officials said the team won't play in the SEC tournament, which begins Thursday, or the NCAA Tournament, which kicks off next week.

For Gator players, who lost a one-point heartbreaker to the Bulldogs last week, the news hit hard.

"I know it's real hard for them," freshman guard Anthony Roberson said. "I saw how the players spoke on TV about how they didn't know anything. I feel sorry for them because all their hard work was just taken away from them, no matter if they had something to do with it or not."

Florida coach Billy Donovan also expressed sympathy for what Georgia is going through.

"It's a very unfortunate situation for the University of Georgia and the timing is very difficult for everyone involved," he said. "I certainly feel very, very sad for the players who were looking forward to postseason play."

One of the main allegations surrounding Georgia's NCAA violations stem from the class Harrick Jr. taught. But Florida has not had a coach teach classes since fall 2001, according to Jamie McCloskey, UF's director of compliance. Officials decided to cease the practice after Minnesota had similar allegations of academic fraud levied at its basketball program.

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