Apparently everyone cheats in college hoops. Some intentionally push or break the rules. Others make honest mistakes because of the monstrous rulebook.
This wasn’t one of them.
Bruce Pearl’s admission that he gave misleading and incorrect information to the NCAA during a 17-month investigation of the Tennessee men’s basketball program marks a sad moment for a coach who once was a college hoops whistleblower and paid the price for it.
Should people be surprised Pearl – one of the game’s best recruiters – went too far in going after players? No. What’s surprising is that he had a chance to ease any potential fallout and didn’t.
“I’ve made some serious mistakes, and for that I’m truly sorry,” Pearl said tearfully at a news conference. “I provided incorrect and misleading information to the NCAA. I’ve learned some invaluable lessons. After I provided the false and misleading information, subsequently I went back and corrected the record.
“I learned that it’s not OK to tell the truth most of the time, but you’ve got to tell the truth all of the time,” he said.
No one likes a liar, least of the NCAA. That’s been the organization’s message in dealing with coaches who fib, such as Kelvin Sampson and Dave Bliss. (Not to mention what the NCAA does to student-athletes who lie.)
For now, Pearl’s still the coach at Tennessee. His apparent contrition during Friday’s press conference probably helped convince the school to stand by him for now (though his outstanding record at the school was likely the biggest factor). He’ll take a $1.5 million pay cut over the next five seasons and the school self-imposed recruiting sanctions in an effort to placate the NCAA.
Will that be enough? Will Pearl eventually be fired because of this? (As John Clay wonders, perhaps he should’ve been already.) Andy Katz reports the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions could certainly add to the penalties.
“Anytime you run into real ethical things, it increases the stakes. That’s pretty serious. There are trust issues here. If you can’t trust the guy, then you usually do part ways,” Don Yeager, the CAA commissioner and former chair of the committee.
“You can restrict activity at the school, even if the coach is still there. There are a lot of situations where the school says they still believe in this coach, even though he made a horrible decision.”
Horrible decision is right. He might not be done paying for it, either.