Wiedmer: Four days that could end Pearl's UT career

Wiedmer: Four days that could end Pearl's UT career

February 24th, 2011 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports

Some guys never learn from their mistakes. They just don't get it. Which is why Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl may get the NCAA rule book thrown at him when college athletics' governing body gets around to sentencing the Vols in June for basketball misdeeds under his watch.

This isn't to say there were many surprises when the NCAA's notification of allegations concerning UT football and basketball were made public on Wednesday.

After all, at least where Pearl's program is concerned, both the coach and school had pretty much admitted to everything in early September in hopes that their admission and subsequent self-disciplining would make this mess go away.

But one item stood out in Wednesday's release: Four days after shedding tears of remorse during a school-called press conference to announce his mistakes, Pearl committed yet another secondary violation regarding junior recruit Jordan Adams.

Four days. Either Pearl mis-remembers more than Roger Clemens or that was some onion he rubbed near his eyes to make them cry before taking the podium that day.

Four days. He couldn't adhere to the NCAA rules book for four days? Especially when it was pretty much the same storyline that originally got him into trouble at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and now threatens his career at Tennessee?

Just what doesn't Pearl understand about keeping his distance from non-senior recruits? And why? Or does he remain convinced that whatever he's doing that he shouldn't be doing is worth the risk?

But whatever his reasons, the NCAA isn't likely to take too kindly to Pearl breaking another recruiting rule -- however small it may have been -- a mere four days after crying a river of guilt.

Not that Pearl alone is to blame for this. Just as UT athletic director Mike Hamilton must shoulder some of the responsibility for the reckless behavior of former football coach Lane Kiffin and his staff since Hamilton hired him, Hamilton must also accept responsibility for Pearl.

After all, how sincere was that press conference and the declaration that Pearl and his assistants -- other than Jason Shay -- would be taken off the road, when, in fact, they were allowed to recruit for 11 more days?

Some would argue it was grandstanding at its worst. Perhaps every Hamilton and Pearl press release should now come with a disclaimer: Beware the fine print. In fact, even that September press conference failed to disclose that the school had torn up Pearl's contract over his NCAA violations. More than a month passed before UT admitted that rather large fact.

If Pearl's career is currently under the NCAA microscope, Hamilton's management of his highest profile employees is surely on the UT brass's radar.

So there is clearly a lot for both the NCAA and the UT board of trustees to digest here.

Yet all of it might neatly have gone away if only Pearl had told the truth. But he didn't. He lied. Far worse, he encouraged others to lie for him, including recruits and their family members.

Which brings us to this: Let's say you're a parent and your son comes home from school one day and tells you that his basketball coach has asked him to lie for the coach. What would you do? Would you not want that severely disciplined, if not outright fired?

We're all adults here, and we know that Pearl's primary job is to win basketball games. But he's also a teacher, a mentor, a father figure, a supposed role model. And with all that understood, he asked impressionable high school juniors and their parents to lie for him.

Not only that, he asked them to lie for him to protect his violating a rule he had already been cited for violating at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

If someone had asked your child to do the same, what would you think? What would you want that coach's employers to do?

That's the ultimate reason why Pearl's UT coaching career is now in jeopardy. But his inability to remain contrite for even four days could be the final straw if he eventually loses his job.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273.