Bruce Pearl: “I accept responsibility for what I did and the resulting consequences but I’m disappointed with length of show-cause penalty.”

August 26, 2011 – 11:00 am by Chris Fedor

After months of discussions and speculation about the future of former Bruce Pearl, the NCAA finally made a decision and handed down a hash punishment for the former Tennessee hoops coach. Pearl will be given a three-year show-cause penalty, meaning any school that wants to hire him in the next three years will have to appear in front of the NCAA committee on infractions to explain why. Essentially the ruling means more than likely Pearl won’t be seen walking the sidelines on a college basketball game for three years.

Pearl is a tremendous coach and has had success everywhere he has gone but his next step may have to be at the D-League level, where he already has an offer from the Texas Legends.

Bruce Pearl joined WGFX in Nashville on the Three Hour Lunch to talk about how relieved he is that the process has been completed, if he plans on appealing the decision, on other coaches following his example from here on out, how the NCAA received the photo that ultimately led to his demise, and what is next for him in his career.

How relieved he is that the process is complete now:

“It’s a relief that the University received no further penalties and the basketball program is eligible for the postseason and didn’t lose any scholarships. That is definitely a relief and yes it’s a relief that the process has concluded. I accept responsibility for what I did and all the resulting consequences but I’m disappointed with the length of the show-cause penalty. I thought it was longer than I was anticipating or thought it could be but these are the times and I’m gonna serve as a good example of what can happen when you make these mistakes.”

If he plans on appealing:

“There is an appeal process but the appeal process is difficult and also I’ve studied the statistics on these things and they just rarely reverse what the committee has ruled. I disagree with the committee’s findings on several of the violations involving our conduct. On the day of the investigation, the day they came in prior to my interview, when I heard about this picture of myself and Aaron Craft, I called John Craft prior to my interview. I should never have called John Craft regardless of the conversation that violated the integrity of the investigation. Technically could I have called him before my interview? I suppose and certainly afterwards when I called him back after I had my interview we spoke two times that day. I never asked him to modify or change his story and on four or five occasions the enforcement staff asked him ‘did you believe Coach Pearl tried to change your story?’ Four or five times he said no. But I shouldn’t have called him because it interfered with the integrity of the investigation. Based on that I got hit with a major violation. Not everything in there I agree with but at the same time I can’t deny what I did and I can’t deny the mistakes that I made. If I had been more forthcoming and I had been honest the first time, I got very little credit for coming back and telling the truth and it’s unfortunate because if you do make a mistake and come back pretty quickly and say hey I need to be interviewed again I made a mistake and I didn’t provide information, I don’t know that I got much of a benefit on that. So hopefully that won’t be a deterrent to the next guy that finds himself in that situation.”

On coaches learning from his mistakes:

“The only way to answer that question is to say don’t lie to begin with and you have to be forthcoming right from the jump. Yes you would like for them to be able to turn around and come back and I did and even in my second interview the interview started with Coach Pearl we are back at your request, but that didn’t add up to much because the damage had already been done. The other thing too is regardless how minor, when the NCAA comes in you must have your own attorney. Someone that is going to look out for your interests and if there is something that comes up that you’re not prepared for, we prepared for 14 months for that meeting. We had to prepare a lot of things regarding phone calls, they looked at every expense report, every visit, every unofficial visit, every home visit, and eventually they came up with a few things that were secondary in nature. Then the picture came as a complete surprise. I panicked, our coaches didn’t tell the truth, well I don’t want to say they didn’t tell the truth because the coaches may not have recognized where the picture was taken and the whole thing blew completely out of (proportion), if I had an attorney there and known about the picture a few days in advance I probably would’ve had an attorney there and we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

How the NCAA learned about the photo of Aaron Craft:

“Somebody sent it in. Regardless of that the rest of it would simply be speculation.”

On the NCAA as a whole:

“99 percent of what goes on in Intercollegiate Athletics is wonderful, beyond wonderful. There’s a very small percentage that isn’t. This is part of that. Right now we are in the midst of an unprecedented number of challenges and cases involving the NCAA. That’s going to continue for a period of time. Mark Emmert has made the statements and I agree with him. We have to make tougher penalties so it acts like a deterrent and unfortunately I’m a victim of that.”

On what is next for him:

“I don’t think anybody is going to come to the NCAA for a few years. Is it possible that they will come before the end of the show-cause? Yeah maybe. I don’t have a crystal ball. All I’ve done for the last 33 years is coach. I don’t really know. It’s devastating. It’s devastating to my family, to my assistant coaches and their families. The timing of this was difficult. Clearly that thump at Oak Hill and the timing of that, our Chancellor has gone on record saying that charge as a major violation was really the beginning of the end for me. I was in a vulnerable situation and I was charged with another major that wasn’t even cited in the report because it wasn’t even secondary. I made attempts in the framework of that 20 or 30 second conversation to terminate the contact and it was just very unfortunate. In my press conference today I addressed that I think the NCAA should’ve taken greater care given the difficult situation I was in, by charging me with that, it put me in a very difficult position.”

Listen to Bruce Pearl on WGFX here

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