It is considered one of the biggest sports scandals in college history. As the Department Head of Physical Education and Sports Studies at the University of Georgia (UGA), I needed to hire an instructor for a basketball coaching class. The course was designed to prepare those interested in coaching at the high school and college levels. On a warm July morning, assistant basketball coach Jim Herrick, Jr. had come to my office to interview for the position. He looked both qualified and prepared. Later we discovered he falsified his resume and supporting materials.
Because Harrick was a new instructor, I’d reach out to him every other week to see if he had questions or concerns. I also asked several students how they were experiencing the course. Both Harrick and the students reported progress and satisfaction. Two weeks before the end of the semester, I reminded Harrick that he needed to give a final exam. He assured me he had every intention to do so. That discussion would lead to one of the most embarrassing moments in the over 200-year history of the University of Georgia.
Harrick did give that exam, and when the questions became public, UGA became the target of late-night comedians’ jokes and we were the academic laughingstock of the country. Questions on that exam included “How many halves in a basketball game?” and “How many points is a 3-point shot worth?” But that wasn’t the worst part of this story.
A short time after the course concluded, a breaking news story came over ESPN. A basketball scandal was reported at the University of Georgia. A dismissed basketball player and former University student was claiming that a coach had signed him up for a course he never intended to take, told him not to attend, and he then received an A for the course. It was alleged two other basketball players had received the same non-earned grade benefit from that course. The course was coaching basketball, the coach was James Harrick, Jr, and the University was embroiled in a scandal.
Early the next morning, my office phone rang. I picked it up. The voice on the other end said “Dr. Schempp, this is Coach Dooley.” Vince “Coach” Dooley was the University’s Athletic Director. I couldn’t imagine this was going to be a pleasant call, but the next thing he said shocked me. “I want to apologize to you.” I asked “Why? What have you done that requires an apology?” He said, “I’m apologizing for the behavior of one of my coaches.” My response was “Coach, I hired him! You had nothing to do with it, so you have nothing to apologize for. It was my poor judgment that led to this, so I owe you an apology for the disgrace this has brought to the athletic association and this University.” His next words have remained seared in my memory “It happen on my watch.” He paused and then added, “I am responsible for the actions of my people.”
In life, one does not often meet an individual steeped in integrity, dignity, and willingness to assume responsibility–especially under the most disastrous circumstances. That single sentence–“It happened on my watch”–led us to a friendship that lasted over 20 years.
Vincent Dooley, the son of William and Nellie Dooley of Mobile, AL, lived the values and morals learned in his youth. Years later, during a conversation we were having over ethics and principles that guide our lives, Vince told me “The best lesson I ever learned was from my Mother. She taught me the ‘golden rule.’ ‘Do on to others as you would have them do on to you.’ “I’ve never forgotten that,” he said. “And it has served me well in life.”
Coach Dooley passed away last Friday in his beloved home in Athens, GA. The world is a darker place without his light. If I could say anything to him today, I’d say this: “Coach, those of us who were influenced by your character and inspired by your spirit will carry on. Your legacy will live. It is on our watch now.”
Rubenstein, A. (September 20, 2010). The Biggest Scandals in NCAA History. Bleacher Report, https://bleacherreport.com/articles/468221-the-25-biggest-scandals-in-ncaa-history