Former Tennessee men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl is still waiting to hear from the NCAA if he will be punished for the actions that caused him to be fired after this past season. Pearl has been under investigation for inappropriate contact with recruits, and then for providing false information to the NCAA during that initial investigation.
In his first radio interview since being fired, Pearl is reflective and shared what he can about the process. He still can’t talk specifics as the Committee On Infractions has yet to make a ruling, but he’s not entirely mum on the whole ordeal. Pearl mentions that he answered just two questions during the investigation falsely and he believes if he simply would have answered them truthfully from the get go, he’d still have his job. Pearl also says he expects the opportunity to land another job. That’s been the big question with many of the coaches who have been fired surrounding recent NCAA troubles. Pearl thinks he’ll get a shot, it’s simply a matter of when the NCAA will allow it to happen.
Bruce Pearl joined 790 The Zone in Atlanta with Mayhem in the AM to discuss how Tennessee residents have largely been supportive of him since his firing, if and when he thinks he’ll have the opportunity to coach again, if he believes the situation at Ohio State impacted his current situation in any way, the moments where he sits and thinks about how things could have unraveled for him like this, if there’s a moment where he thinks he could have saved his job, and where the NCAA investigation stands.
On receiving mostly positive feedback from Tennessee fans since he was fired:
“That’s one of the things that’s been a real blessing. Even when Tennessee was considering letting me go at the end of the season, my approval rating was like 90 percent in a statewide poll. I think it’s because our fans have some appreciation for, I think, what we have done, the history of Tennessee basketball and the fact it had been a while since they had been successful. I think they appreciate some of the things we were trying to do in the community. The good outweighed the bad and, quite honestly, we live in a Christian community. … I’m genuinely grateful for that, because I’ve asked for their forgiveness.”
Do you think you’ll coach again?:
“I don’t know. I do think that I’m going to have the opportunity to coach again. I’ve got to wait and see what the Committee on Infractions, what they say, probably coming up sometime in the middle of August and how quickly will they allow me to come back into coaching. That’s going to go a long way towards whether or not I do coach again.”
What were your thoughts as Jim Tressel went through his situation at Ohio State?:
“Originally I thought it was going to be a good thing for me, and you know what? That’s a sorry thing to say. I read Coach Tressel’s book, I’ve heard a lot about him as a coach and a person and most of it’s really outstanding. I think that it wound up hurting me because, times as they are right now, we all kind of get lumped into one, big ‘These are the guys that violate the rules. These are the cheaters.’ I actually think that trend has kind of hurt me a little bit.”
Did you have some of those moments where you just sat there and thought, ‘How did I get to this?’:
“I’m still having them. Do you want me to write the book about how do you lose $1o million jobs? I can write the book. How can you be so dumb and so careless? … It’s not so much about what we did, it’s about how we handled it. I think in Coach Tressel’s situation, he had a situation where it wasn’t so much what he did, it’s how he handled it. The difference there would be he handled it in such a way where he played ineligible players and Ohio State gained tremendously from their play. That’s not part of our equation here. … If your guys are involved in a situation, you’ve got to kick it up to a boss as quick as you possibly can and trust the system. I don’t know that we all trust the system enough to make that call.”
Can you pinpoint one time where if you would have done something differently that you would still have a job?:
“I think there was some decisions that we made. Specifically, in my visit with the enforcement staff. I answered about 150 questions. I answered 148 of them honestly. There were two questions that I did not answer honestly. Had I answered those two questions knowingly, willingly, honestly, instead of a week later asking them to come back because I knew I had made a mistake … you guys would be interviewing the coach at Tennessee.”
On his recent meetings in Indianapolis:
“My impression of it right now was fair. My impression of it right now is I got my day in court. My impression was they were genuinely, as a committee, very much interested in listening to what happened and, to the best of their ability, trying to determine what we did wrong. Now we’re waiting on the penalty phase. … We really had penalized ourselves tremendously. We had taken ourselves off the road. There were a lot of things we had done taking ourselves off the phone. I had been suspended eight games by Commissioner Slive. … And we lost our jobs on top of everything. The question, then, was, ‘At what point does the crime fit the punishment?’ That’s what they’re going to decide.”