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Former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl has accepted the Auburn job that opened up when Tony Barbee was fired last week, the school announced in a press release on Tuesday morning.
“I’m humbled and blessed to be back in the game that I love,” Pearl said. “I don’t know how long it will take, but it’s time to rebuild the Auburn basketball program, and bring it to a level of excellence so many of the other teams on campus enjoy.”
Pearl met with Auburn AD Jay Jacobs on Monday night in Knoxville, where he still lives, according to a report from ESPN.com.
The headline of Auburn’s release begins, simply, “Splash!”, and it’s fitting. Pearl was one of the hottest names in college hoops this offseason, a guy that was likely to be pursued by a number of different programs. Pearl has built an impressive track record for developing successful programs. He took Milwaukee to a pair of NCAA tournaments in four years, which included a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2005 as a No. 12 seed. He was hired away to Tennessee after that season, where he turned the Vols into a power in the SEC. He went 145-61 in six seasons, made an Elite 8 and was ranked No. 1 in the country at one point.
He lost the Tennessee job in March of 2011 after lying to the NCAA during their investigation of violations that he committed during the recruitment of now-Ohio State guard Aaron Craft. He had Craft over to his house for a barbecue, which was a no-no, and got caught in a lie during the NCAA’s investigation. Then, while the NCAA was determining what his punishment would be, he was caught breaking NCAA rules again, “bumping” a recruit during an on-campus visit when no contact was allowed.
He was given a three-year show-cause penalty, which can be a death sentence for a basketball coach’s career, that expires in August. One important note: Pearl will be allowed to be out recruiting during the all-important July evaluation period, which should help him jump start his Auburn tenure.
Perhaps the best nugget of info from this hire is that the lead investigator for the NCAA on Pearl’s case is now working in the compliance office at Auburn.
Auburn will be a similar rebuilding job to Tennessee: A football school in the SEC with largely no basketball tradition and a large, but mostly dormant, fan base.
He had spent his time away from coaching in part working as an ESPN TV analyst.