Mar. 16, 2003: Don’t Let Harrick Tarnish UGA’s Academic Reputation

The two most frequently asked questions in my mailbag this week are “What is happening at the University of Georgia?” and “How can we possibly win the war in Iraq without the French?” Let me answer the latter question first. According to retired general Norman Schwarzkopf, “Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion.”

Now, to the UGA question — but first a little truth in advertising: I am a graduate of the university, past president of the national alumni association, an emeritus trustee of the UGA Foundation and have been named outstanding alumnus. I give the university all the money I can afford and all the advice they will accept. It is fair to say I have a warm spot in my heart for the institution.

My university is in the news these days because of a basketball coach who never should have been hired in the first place. I have stated previously that I don’t like Jim Harrick representing the University of Georgia, and I have strained some relationships at UGA as a result. How Harrick came to Georgia and who is responsible for his being there are irrelevant at this point. Just get him the hell out of Athens and replace him with someone of integrity, if for no other reason than to shut up all the self-righteous sportswriters. I hate self-righteous sportswriters.

But I digress. You asked what is going on at UGA. Let me tell you. The freshman class is the best in the university’s history, with a high school GPA of 3.71 and an average SAT of 1215 – 250 points above the state average and 195 points above the national average. While you have been busy reading about basketball vagabond Tony Cole, you probably missed the news about Adam Cureton. Adam just received a Rhodes Scholarship, the fourth UGA Rhodes Scholar since 1996.

U.S. News and World Report rates the University of Georgia 18th overall among the nation’s top universities. Kiplinger magazine ranks the university sixth on its list of the 100 best public colleges that “combine great academics and affordable tuitions.” The UGA library, with more than 3.9 million volumes, ranks 29th in the nation among research libraries. Georgia ranks 12th among America’s research universities in the number of students studying abroad. On and on it goes.

For these reasons, UGA is not the place for the likes of Jim Harrick, who detracts from the university’s mission, which is academic excellence. I believe academics and athletics can be balanced, but when there is any doubt, academics comes first. It is possible to achieve athletic success in a rigorous academic environment. Mike Krzyzewski has won over 500 games and three national championships at Duke, one of the nation’s top academic institutions. Irascible Bobby Knight, who eats self-righteous sportswriters like M&Ms, has won more than 800 games, graduated almost all his players and kicked kids off the team who were academically eligible but not working as hard in the classroom as he thought they should. Neither Krzyzewski nor Knight would have ever considered recruiting Tony Cole. Not for a nanosecond.

Should President Mike Adams and/or Athletic Director Vince Dooley lose their jobs because of the basketball brouhaha? No and no. Obviously, somebody wasn’t minding the store. When you have a guy like Harrick running loose, you must stay vigilant at all times. But this problem can be fixed easily. Too many good things are happening at the University of Georgia to take a sledgehammer to the place.

When I was a rookie manager at Southern Bell, a prominent official was accused of some questionable activities and was dismissed. The media firestorm that resulted makes the Harrick affair look like a tea party. Through it all, Southern Bell continued to give good service. The vast majority of people who labored there were known to be honest, hard-working souls. The public accepted the episode as a one-time aberration, and it had no lasting impact on the company’s good name. UGA can learn a good lesson here: The nation needs to know that Jim Harrick doesn’t belong at such an outstanding academic institution. Show Harrick the door.