Hoppy’s Commentary for Tuesday

One of the darker chapters in WVU sports history has been reopened by a story in the New York Times about former basketball sensation Jonathan Hargett.  The Richmond, Va., phenom spent one year (2001-2002) at WVU before he was disqualified for receiving illegal payments.

When Hargett, who turns 30 this month, failed to fulfill his basketball potential, he turned to dealing drugs.  He is currently serving a five-year prison sentence in Virginia for possession of drugs with intent to deliver.

In two jailhouse interviews, Hargett claims he did not want to attend WVU in 2001, but eventually chose Morgantown, according to the Times, because he was offered $20,000 a year and his brother was going to be given a job at the University. 

According to the Times, Hargett says “he received $13,000 to $17,000 total, some from West Virginia and some from (Mike) Anderson, the intermediary for (Greg) Holloway, the financial advisor (to Hargett).”

But WVU has never been linked directly to the illegal cash, despite Hargett’s allegation. 

“Payments from West Virginia to Hargett could not be independently verified, and coaches and officials who were at West Virginia at the time deny knowledge of payment,” the Times reports.

Additionally, an investigation by WVU at the time that utilized outside counsel, as well as an NCAA review, did not find any payment by anyone at WVU to Hargett. 

Regardless of the source, the payments were a violation of NCAA rules and they led to Hargett’s disqualification. 

The Hargett story began to unfold in 2002, just as West Virginia was searching for a new coach to replace the retiring Gale Catlett.  When negotiations with Bob Huggins fell through, WVU rushed ahead and hired Dan Dakich from Bowling Green. 

Several people familiar with the interview process recall that Dakich seemed reluctant to take the job, and he surprised WVU officials when he accepted. 

Dakich got cold feet after just a few days on campus, particularly after Hargett told him that he was being paid to attend WVU.  Dakich told then-WVU Athletic Director Ed Pastilong, who immediately notified compliance director Brad Cox, who started an investigation.

Dakich also met with then-WVU President David Hardesty to tell him about Hargett.  In the Times story, Dakich implies that Hardesty knew Hargett was being paid and that Hardesty threatened Dakich if he didn’t keep quiet.

“If you go any farther with this, we’ll destroy you,” Dakich remembered Hardesty telling him.

Hardesty, in an appearance Monday on Metronews Talkline, strongly refuted Dakich’s version of the meeting.

“I flatly deny that I knew of any activity related to payments to Hargett or that I tried to cover them up or that I threatened him in order to cover them up,” Hardesty said.  “I had no reason to do that.  My goal was to keep him (Dakich) and run an honest program.”

Dakich’s version of the meeting with Hardesty doesn’t sound logical.  WVU began an inquiry into the allegations as soon as Dakich relayed them, so why would Hardesty try to stonewall something he knew was being investigated and would be turned over to the NCAA?

 WVU, of course, landed on its feet.  After Dakich left, the University hired John Beilein, who restored credibility and a winning tradition to the program.

As for Dakich, he went back to Bowling Green, and then later became an assistant at Indiana.  He left coaching in 2008.  He is now a radio talk show host in Indianapolis and a basketball analyst for ESPN.

And Jonathan Hargett?  According the Times, “He spends his days (at Indian Creek Correctional Center) helping make cleaning supplies in hope of having $500 saved to spend on his daughters when he leaves prison.”  He is scheduled for release Jan. 11, 2013. 



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