Harris resigns from athletic director post

by John Teti and Alison Schmauch | 6/20/02 5:00am

After being hired two weeks ago, Charles Harris has withdrawn his acceptance of the Director of Athletics and Recreation post amid concerns that he misrepresented his academic record to an earlier employer.

Harris notified Dean of the College James Larimore June 10 of his decision to withdraw, and Larimore accepted the resignation after a telephone discussion with Harris late that evening.

The unexpected resignation adds to a series of gaffes in higher education athletics that began late last year when George O'Leary lost his job as football coach at Notre Dame University. O'Leary was forced out after it was made public that he had never acquired a master's degree in education, as he had claimed on his resume.

This instance is similar -- the resignation stems from concerns that Harris had falsely claimed a master's degree on a resume earlier in his career.

To accentuate the point, one reporter at a news conference June 11 asked Larimore, "Do you know who George O'Leary is?" Larimore nodded.

Larimore made clear at the press conference that he did not believe Harris ever misrepresented his record to the Dartmouth search committee. "He was very candid," Larimore said.

Rather, Harris resigned as a result of questions raised by an institution that employed him approximately "two decades" ago, according to Larimore.

According to Larimore, the College did not ask Harris to resign.

Larimore said that he learned of the concerns from this institution on June 10 from a source which he declined to specify. He admitted, however, that the information had reached him in a "roundabout way," with the institution initially sending the information to an individual at the College who then forwarded it to Larimore.

When asked if the College search committee had previously been in contact with the institution in question, Larimore said that the College "verified the information available to us."

Larimore emphasized throughout the June 11 conference on that the resignation concerned a resume that was presented to a previous employer, not to the Dartmouth search committee.

According to Larimore, the resume presented to Dartmouth listed the pursuit of a master's degree, but Larimore said that he was never under the impression that Harris had acquired that degree.Larimore said that Harris had struck him as "candid and forthright" during an interview, and said that Harris never claimed that he had acquired anything beyond a bachelor's degree.

In a letter to Larimore dated June 10, Harris attributed his earlier misrepresentation to a "youthful exuberance to manipulate the facts, in a very competitive market 24 years ago."

"In hindsight," Harris wrote, "perhaps I should have presented myself to the Dartmouth search committee solely on the basis of my professional performance in the intervening years, and asked to be evaluated in that regard.

Harris also said in the letter that he did not believe it was "in the best interest of Dartmouth nor me" to accept the Director of Athletics post.

President of the College James Wright said in a statement that he was "terribly disappointed to learn of this development."Despite Larimore's emphasis on events that unfolded on June 10, there was evidence to suggest that there were worries even before the announcement of Harris' hiring on June 6.

Larimore admitted that before releasing the search committee's decision, he and Harris had reviewed local news coverage, much of which incorrectly stated that the athletic director candidate had a master's degree.

According to one reporter at the June 11 news conference, Harris was apparently shaken enough by the errors that he began one interview by stating, "I do not have a master's degree." Larimore said that he wasn't surprised to hear that Harris had behaved in this manner.

While the retirement dinner for departing athletic director Richard Jaeger was held Tuesday night, Larimore said he remained undecided as to how to approach the search for a new replacement.

When Larimore was asked if he thought this outcome were fair given his belief that Harris had represented himself "candidly" to all College officials, the dean replied, "In any person's life, they sometimes face situations that force them to make hard decisions."

Larimore said that Harris was confronted with such a situation in this instance, and that he decided to resign out of concern for himself and the College.

"There are too many stories written about situations such as this where the focus is on the wrongdoing," Larimore said, stressing a need to balance concerns of accountability with forgiveness.