Scandals And Selections

Georgia Bulldogs coach Jim Harrick, left, and his son, assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., sit prior to the start of the game against Arkansas State in the Rainbow Classic basketball tournament in Honolulu, Hawaii Thursday, Dec. 20, 2001. academic fraud allegations AP

For the NCAA selection committee, wins and losses by Georgia and Fresno State count as much as games played by any other teams.

Never mind that both schools withdrew from all postseason play because of academic fraud and could end up forfeiting games.

Teams looking for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament shouldn't count on getting special consideration if they lost to the Bulldogs.

"It's very cut and dry," committee chairman Jim Livengood said Wednesday. "We have to deal with what is known."

Questions about how the committee would handle the selection process on Sunday were raised because of a series of scandals that have rocked men's college basketball over the past several weeks.

At Fresno State, school officials confirmed they found academic fraud within the program. At Georgia, school officials announced Monday that an internal investigation showed three players committed academic fraud in a class taught by the son of coach Jim Harrick.

Presidents at both schools immediately withdrew from the NCAA tournament and neither team is playing in its conference tournament.

At Villanova, 12 players were suspended for allegedly making unauthorized telephone calls. The Wildcats are playing in the Big East tournament with only five scholarship players.

At St. Bonaventure, the school forfeited six Atlantic 10 Conference victories and was barred from the league's postseason tournament for using an ineligible player. The team then decided to forfeit its last two regular-season games.

One NCAA committee member, George Washington athletic director Jack Kvancz, told The Washington Post that losses to those teams would "play on his mind" during the weekend's debate.

Livengood, however, will try to take the topic off the table.

"We're aware of these things when we start the deliberations," said Livengood, athletic director at Arizona. "But we don't look at anything like that because we don't know if they're going to forfeit games or not. We have to deal with the knowns."

What is not known is whether members of the committee would view losses to Michigan, which declared itself ineligible in November because of a recruiting scandal in the 1990s, the same way it considers a loss to Georgia or Fresno State.

There's also the issue of forfeits. St. Bonaventure is the only team that has announced it would forfeit games. Livengood said the committee cannot assume any additional punishments will be enforced against the other teams.

While the meetings are conducted privately, past committee chairmen insist that forfeits might not help determine a team's fate — even if a team advanced in its conference tournament.

Terry Holland, the committee chairman in 1997, cited a similar situation with Texas Tech and said that it was not a major topic of discussion.

The Red Raiders, then 19-8, forfeited all of their Big 12 victories after declaring two players ineligible. They withdrew from the tournament one day before the pairings were announced.

"I remember the Texas Tech situation and I don't remember them being a subject of discussion, other than they were out," Holland said.

"Even if there was a forfeit, I don't think you could count that as a win. I can't imagine that."

Livengood concedes that Georgia, ranked No. 21 this week, probably would have received a bid, and that the greatest impact of the scandals would be giving an invitation to a team other than the Bulldogs.

But Livengood insists that the selection committee will not change the way it does its job.

The committee will choose the 34 best at-large teams, remove the schools that are ineligible and consider the usual factors — wins and losses, non-conference and conference records, strength of schedule, the RPI and others.

"The way we deal with a team that's ineligible is that they're not a factor," he said.


  • John Esterbrook

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