Busted Bulldogs add to Madness in March
Lindsay Vaught, Guest Columnist
With the stunning news this week that the Georgia men's basketball program has found itself guilty of major rules violations, it now joins Alabama in the SEC doghouse.
Unlike Alabama, which juked and dodged until nailed by the NCAA, UGA President Michael Adams and Athletic Director Vince Dooley came down hard with self-imposed penalties: no SEC Tournament, no trip to the big dance, head coach Jim Harrick suspended and 2 players declared ineligible.
It is called damage control.
A promising basketball season and talented team was sacrificed for the good of a bigger prize, the university itself.
Cash payoffs to players, grades for not attending classes, improper benefits, unethical conduct – the only thing missing is a sex scandal.
Should anyone really be surprised?
Harrick has a long history of NCAA trouble, from leaving UCLA under a cloud of suspicion about expense accounts to Rhode Island where he is accused of pressuring teachers to change grades for athletes.
His biggest mistake was recruiting Tony Cole, a player of questionable morals and even worse academics.
As is the case at Alabama, the players left are the big losers.
The difference is Alabama players knew it was coming, Georgia's didn't.
And they reacted angrily, gathering at UGA President Michael Adams home for an explanation. Cheated out of a chance to compete for championships by the administration after a season of hard work is the worst disgrace to a player.
Star forward Jarvis Hayes, a junior and the SEC's second-leading scorer this season, promptly announced that he isn't returning for his senior season and will enter the NBA draft. His twin brother, Jonas, is graduating in August and won't return either.
Georgia isn't alone in getting booted from post-season play.
Teams at Fresno State, St. Bonaventure, and Michigan stand accused of everything from academic fraud to using ineligible players.
And the Bulldogs' problems may spill over to their reigning SEC Champion football team. Three football players were in the same bogus class taught by Harrick, Jr. and received A's, of course.
Benefiting from this madness is both Alabama and Auburn, who appeared to play themselves out of the NCAA Tournament last Saturday.
For the RPI-heavy Tide, beating Vanderbilt tonight and playing Kentucky close Friday should be enough to get a bid.
Auburn's task appears tougher. Beat Tennessee Friday and they are a solid choice.
But, a repeat of their pathetic performance last Saturday against Mississippi State will leave the Tigers on the bubble and likely in the NIT.
Speaking of the bubble, that is exactly where Auburn head coach Cliff Ellis may find himself if he can't rally his troops.
Last Saturday Auburn looked like they were playing
See AUBURN, B-3
for last place in the SEC West instead of first. A soft zone defense allowed MSU to hit three-pointers at will and build a big lead.
When Auburn had a chance to keep it close, they missed free throws and were out hustled for loose balls and out muscled for rebounds.
Analyst Joe Dean said it was "inexplicable."
I call it inexcusable.
In short they were embarrassed on regional TV.
Earlier that day, Alabama fell apart in the last two 2 minutes and lost a chance to finish second in the SEC West.
Tide coaches could not solve a LSU defense that double teamed Erwin Dudley, holding him to a season low 7 points.
Despite that, Alabama had and then lost a 4-point lead with under 3 minutes to play.
Aaaah, March. It's maddening, but so much fun.
Let the games begin…
* Lindsay Vaught is a guest columnist for the Hartselle Enquirer.