University of Tennessee head basketball coach Bruce Pearl received an unprecedented penalty from his school under an NCAA investigation into his program. Pearl has acknowledged that he lied to and misled the NCAA in the process. The details have not come out and will not until the conclusion of the investigation, but Tennessee has already stepped forward with a $1.5 million reduction of salary and a ban from recruiting off-campus for an entire year. This is actually Pearl’s second penalty related to recruiting. In another story that recently broke, Pearl admitted to a “self-reported” secondary violation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Is Bruce Pearl a cheater? Maybe more appropriately, if Bruce Pearl does cheat, is he any worse than the typical college basketball coach? It’s very difficult to tell. Obviously, lying and being investigated by the NCAA multiple times are not good signs, yet Pearl remains positive and confident that his actions gained no significant advantage in recruiting. He says and does all the right things in the media and the public. Yet how should we take those words when he is in trouble for lying? I like Pearl. I loved him at UWM and he’s fun to watch and listen to at Tennessee, but I feel like an example is being made out of him and the penalties may get worse – and he has no one to blame but himself.
University of Tennessee head basketball coach Bruce Pearl joined 790 the Zone with Mayhem in the AM in Atlanta to discuss his hypocrisy in preaching character when he has committed multiple NCAA violations, if Tennessee would be justified in letting him go, when and how he understood the repercussions of lying to and misleading the NCAA, if his reputation will survive this and getting back to practice with his team.
On the hypocrisy of preaching character to players given his recent actions:
“You can’t explain it away. I have no credible reason for a couple of the reasons I made. As you know, we have an on-going NCAA investigation so there are a lot of things that I can’t comment on. But, I have provided false and misleading information to the NCAA in some questioning. All of this is going to come out obviously. The people at the University of Tennessee, while this is very serious and we have taken some unprecedented penalties, did not feel like my conduct rose to the level of my being terminated, so we are moving forward… I will say, and I do believe very strongly that in the things that we did, we did not gain a tremendous recruiting advantage. We made some bad decisions and we are paying a very serious price… Adversity does not build character, it reveals character.”
On if he thinks that Tennessee would be justified in letting him go:
“I don’t think so. No. I think it is certainly up for discussion. I don’t believe that that would be the case, otherwise that would be what’s taken place.”
On understanding the repercussions of lying to the NCAA:
“Immediately sickening and difficult. I came back and tried to remedy the situation, but, again, I can’t talk about the specifics. I cannot give you a fair and a good reason why I didn’t tell the truth… I should have handled this situation like I handled the last time and that was to self report a violation that at that time was secondary… I feel good support from the university. This is where I want to be. I want to be at Tennessee for a long, long time.”
On if he will be able to survive this:
“I believe that I will. I don’t think that this is going to define me. You have an opportunity in life to do some good and sometimes there will be some bad. I hope and pray that the good outweighs the bad. We are very serious about compliance, very serious about what we have done. I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t predict the future. But I can stand on my record in the past, know what I did and continue moving forward.”
And on getting back to practice with so much outside drama:
“It’s been great therapy. We are going to continue to coach, continue to recruit and continue to compete in the SEC. Obviously, when things don’t go well and you are around your friends and your family and the people you care about, it is great therapy. So it’s been good. We have our challenges this year… I’ve had the moment. I’ve had more than the moment and I told them that, ‘If you think for one second that I am going to ease off the pedal and expect less than you because I failed, you got something else coming.’ They understand that and they are behind me 100%.”