Buckets, the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is something else.
Here we go...
UT coach Bruce Pearl yells in the student section before the Lady Vols college basketball game against Duke in Knoxville on Jan. 22, 2007. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
It had to happen, right
Bruce Pearl was fired Monday, capping the best six-year stretch in Tennessee basketball history.
Pearl's utter indifference to the rules that are designed to place boundaries on college athletics was his downfall.
Can these rules appear to be silly and arcane at times? Of course, but they are still rules, and Pearl simply would not or could not follow them.
Follow the chain of events:
— Pearl committed the biggest no-no in college sports by lying to NCAA investigators;
— It comes out that Pearl tried to get a recruit and his family to lie to cover up his tracks;
— Pearl comes clean with his tearful public apology in September;
— Four days later, Pearl and Tony Jones commit a "Bump" violation where they make illegal face-to-face contact with a high school junior (Side note: This is a minor violation at its core, but, well keep reading);
— Pearl does not inform his UT bosses, who learn of the bump violation from the NCAA report in February when the NCAA findings have 10 allegations against Pearl and his program;
— Monday, in UT's statement, apparently there were rules broken earlier this month by Pearl.
Rumors have those rules as being as minor as failing to properly monitor the pass list at a gate outside of Thompson-Boling Arena to reportedly having a player (Brian Williams, according to ESPN) fail UT substance abuse tests. Williams did miss the last two regular-season games for a bad back.
UT's basketball program is about to enter some form of NCAA timeout, that is certain. And if Pearl, who has proven two things — he can flat-out coach, and he flat out can't follow the rules — was in charge the penalties would have been worse. This time around and next time around whenever Pearl broke them again.
It was the sum of the parts that cost Pearl his job. (That said, $50,000 a month for the next year, is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, all things considering.)
Let's go to noted 5-at-10 scholar H.I. McDunnough, the star of "Raising Arizona," and a man who has a decidedly checkered past.
Parole Board chairman: They've got a name for people like you H.I. That name is called "recidivism."
Parole Board member: Repeat offender!
Parole Board chairman: Not a pretty name, is it H.I.?
H.I.: No, sir. That's one bonehead name, but that ain't me any more.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl pleads his case with an official at McKenzie Arena in 2007. Staff Photo by Tim Barber
Pearl's shine: What did we learn
It must seem like the phones never stop ringing in the NCAA offices.
Starting last August with Agent-Gate that snared a slew of high-profile football stars from several schools to A.J. Green missing Georgia's first four games. Then into the season that before long was dominated by Auburn on the field and by rumors, claims and innuendos about pay-for-play schemes at Auburn off the field.
Then the first slices of the Ohio State debacle around the bowl games. Then Oregon's involvement in recruiting services. Then came Jim Tressel's public image implosion.
It seems two things are certain: First NCAA compliance attorneys are not going to hurt for work. Second, when you're rival school finds itself in the NCAA crosshairs, be very careful how much grief you give your pal at work or how much smack you talk to your golfing buddy, because know this — today it may be his school, but at some point the odds are it's going to be your's. Unless your a Vandy fan, then your school is fine, and you probably won't get heckled about it anyway because you're a Vandy grad and more than likely you're the boss. So there.
Side question for the group: How tense was the morning breakfast at the casa del Tressel, who like Pearl has had a hugely successful on-field career, and like Pearl committed the ultimate NCAA no-no by lying about and trying to cover up violations? Ball's in your court Ohio State.
Butler head coach Brad Stevens yells instruction to the court during the first half of the Southeast regional second round NCAA tournament college basketball games against Old Dominion, Thursday, March 17, 2011, at the Verizon Center in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
UT opening, who's next
At the bottom of TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's piece today is his list of possible replacements for Pearl. Here's some names being tossed about the 5-at-10 offices:
- Brad Stevens, Butler — The hottest name out there by a lot. If Hamilton wants to win back some of his UT fan base, this needs to happen. It will be tough, and yes, Stevens signed a 12-year extension after leading the Bulldogs to the title game. That said, the buyout is reportedly a relatively affordable $1 million.
- Chris Mooney, RIchmond — Another guy on the speed dial for big-time ADs with job openings. Whether it's to Atlanta or Knoxville or Raleigh, Mooney will be on the move soon. And where ever he lands will be better off for it.
- Rick Barnes, Texas — The guy can coach, and his time in Texas is starting to get stale. If he's looking, Hamilton could get a proven commodity and come out smelling like Ginger cookies.
- Charlie Sheen, unemployed — Sheen is all about winning. WINNING. Plus, he could come fairly cheap since he's out of work. But his recent checkered past may not be the best play for a program still awaiting word from the NCAA about its violations. Side note: Sweet Jim J. Bullock did you see Sheen's "Man Smooch." It's here.That's not about WINNING, dude. Not winning at all. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.
- Jay Greeson, Times Free Press — The 5-at-10 is breaking news that Greeson is not interested in the job. "Jay Greeson has the job Jay Greeson wants," Jay Greeson said Tuesday. (Side note: This is an all-time third-person record, since it includes actual third person and alter-ego third-person. Hope this doesn't offend you najones75, it just felt right.)
Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones runs onto the field to start at third base for a spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Thursday, March 3, 2011, in Kissimmee, Fla. Jones made his first start at third base since his season-ending injury last August. Photo: David J. Phillip / AP
Braves update, Volume 2, Chapter 2
OK, apparently there is a way to keep L-Dub off the bases. Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones, the Atlanta Braves third baseman who we fondly call L-Dub, did not play in Monday's 8-7 loss to the Mets. His numbers — .420 (21-for-50) with team-highs in hits (21), doubles (7), homers (3) and RBIs (11) — surely call for a day off here and there, right?
As for Dan Uggla's less-than-stellar spring, well, know this: Uggla, the big-money free agent addition at second base, is hitting a less-than robust .231 and has many strikeouts (14) as he does total bases. On the surface this would be cause for concern.
But now know this, Uggla was worse last spring when he hit .197 with 19 K's. He responded during the regular season with his best season ever — career-best numbers with a .287 average, 33 homers and 105 RBIs.
And brace yourself, Johnny Braves Fan, Uggla is going to strike out a lot this year. In his five-year career, Uggla has averaged 152 strike outs a season. But when Uggla makes contact, Holy Glenn Hubbard's Beard, does he rip.
On pitches he put in play last year, Uggla was 169-for-440, which is a cool .384 clip.
Marathon monster: Sumo champ Kelly Gneiting, right, a 420-pound sumo wrestler, became the heaviest marathon runner in history. (Source: AP)
This and that
— We're planning on stopping by the SportTalk studio this afternoon at 5 p.m., and here's guessing that some guy whose name rhymes with "Loose Curl" will come up in conversation.
— It's football time in Tennessee, and after all the emotion from Pearly-Gate on Monday, that has to be a good thing. Here is TFP UT ace Patrick Brown's preview. The Vols start spring drills this week, and starting tomorrow, the 5-at-10 will break UT position-by-position throughout spring practice.
— NFL pro days — scouting events for college players who are entering next month's draft — are happening all over the country. TFP college football ace David Paschall has a spot-on preview of Georgia's here. Expect a lot of scouts in Athens with projected first-round picks A.J. Green and Justin Houston working out.
— Speaking of the draft, well, the 5-at-10 loves the draft. You know this. And NFL draft guru-in-waiting Todd McShay has his by-round board posted on ESPN. Two things jumped out to the 5-at-10: First, roughly a third of the first-round picks are projected to be defensive linemen; second, UTC cornerback Buster Skrine is rated higher than any UT defensive player.
— OK, if you're done with you're morning flapjacks, get a load of this load. A 400-pound Sumo wrestler completed a marathon in L.A. Two quick things: First, the 5-at-10 feels supremely lazy at this moment; second, that's got to be tough on a pair of New Balances, right? That's 400 pounds with each step for 26.1 miles. Sweet Rubbery Souls, dude may need running shoes by Goodyear, and remember, it's all about the tires, gang.
— We're still examining the tie-breaking options for the Over/Under challenge. We'll post something in Wednesday's 5-at-10. Here are the people that are tied for first:
scole023 — Pitt/Tennessee
EC — Pitt/Georgia
Bigbearzzz — Pitt/Georgia
Pretend Al Davis — Pitt/Oakland
5-at-10 — Pitt/Wofford
BIspy4 — Pitt/Utah State
OTWatcher — Pitt/Old Dominion
ThatIdoKnow — Pitt/Missouri
Charlie S. — Pitt/Princeton
Chris Goforth from "The Show" on Fox 1310AM — Pitt/Belmont
Quake from SportTalk on 102.3 FM — Pitt/Belmont
Dr. B (He's a doctor after all) from SportTalk on 102.3 FM — Pitt/Utah State
Darrell Patterson, Channel 9 sports anchor — Pitt/Utah State
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...