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Tennessee Volunteers Dealt a Double Whammy


Smokey needs a hug and I am going to give him one. We all in Big Blue Nation don’t like the Tennessee Volunteers. We are 0-for infinity against their football team and there is just something about their basketball team that just rubs us the wrong way. Besides, who on earth actually likes that color of orange? The mom in The Blind Side even hated it and she seems like the nicest lady on planet earth.

It’s easy for us to root against Tennessee and we love rooting against them almost as much as we love rooting against the Louisville Cardinals. But today is a day that my hear truly goes out to the Volunteers. They had some terrible news hit two of the most beloved individuals in their athletic program’s history and, I for one, feel genuinely sorry for both.

Here is a little about what happened and why we should care:

Pat Summit

Pat Summit is the John Wooden of women’s college basketball. She is who Geno Auriemma looked up to when he was building the dynasty that is now the UConn women’s basketball team. Summit made the women’s team more popular than the men’s, made her sport second only to Tennessee football in Knoxville, and has the basketball court in Knoxville named after her. She is a pioneer and a visionary in her profession.

Her stats at Tennessee alone are staggering: 1,037-196 overall (84% winning percentage), she has won the SEC season title 15 times, she has won the SEC tournament 13 times and she has won the national title 8 times, that is more than the entire history of the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team. She also holds the record for the most wins in college basketball, men’s or women’s, with 1,071.

That’s why it saddened me when I heard the news that Summit has been diagnosed with the early stages of Dementia. This is an incurable disease that will likely transform her into someone that any of us that have followed her career will not be able to recognize some time in the future. She had been exhibiting symptoms of erratic behavior for a period of time before she decided to get it checked out. Once she did, the news was something that shocked us all.

Pat has decided to coach another year at Tennessee. It will be her 38th season as the head coach and, in true Summit fashion, told the press “There’s not going to be any pity party and I’ll make sure of that.” Better words could not have been spoken from a truly great coach.

Bruce Pearl

Bruce Pearl’s situation is harder to feel sorry for because his tragedy is self inflicted. We all laughed at the fiasco that Pearl created at Tennessee. He had a party at his house with high school recruits, lied to the NCAA about it, found out that the NCAA had pictures of the party and then finally came clean. Not to mention that he also made impermissible phone calls to recruits.

Pearl became a villain to UK fans the moment he stepped on to campus at Tennessee and donned the Orange Blazer that we have all come to despise. His braggadocio attitude was amplified by his sweating, shouting and screaming during games. He relished beating Kentucky and did so with regularity until his arch-nemesis John Calipari came to town. Then the hate was palpable.

Now the second most hated man next to Rick Pitino has been smacked by the NCAA, and smacked hard. The powers that be have handed Pearl a show-cause penalty, one of the stiffest for an individual college coach in the books.

Show-cause states that any university that wants to hire Pearl must go before an NCAA committee and explain why they want to hire him. Also, the would be employer must also accept any and all other fines or penalties levied against Pearl if the university decides to hire him. This sentence makes him virtually radioactive in college basketball.

Again, what happened to Pearl is of his own doing but a part of me feels bad for him. The thing he loves the most, coaching college basketball, has been stripped away from him. Maybe not for good, but for a long time to come.

Why should we care about any of this?

We should care about the Pat Summit situation simply because we are human beings. Anyone that doesn’t have sympathy for her needs to reexamine the word “fan” and change it to “fanatic”. I might root against a rival school but when there are serious health concerns involved, all that goes out the window. I think we can all agree on that.

We all need to be completely honest here as far as Bruce is concerned: many feel that John Calipari is destined to a similar fate. I am not one of those people but there are plenty of them out there, some of them are Kentucky fans.

The NCAA is handing out penalties, sanctions and even firings like candy right now. If college sport darlings such as Ohio State and USC are not safe, then nobody is. What happened to Bruce Pearl could easily happen to any college coach in the country. The fact that he lied about what he did made his punishment worse, but how many college coaches can say that they have never done anything close to what he did at Tennessee?

Imagine if the news were to break that Eric Bledsoe’s grades were in fact falsified and John Calipari knew about it. The storm that would hit Lexington would be dark, fierce and full of venom. It would be hard for us to walk down the streets with our heads held high. The ridicule would be intense and unflinching.

That’s why I am going to leave Bruce Pearl and Tennessee alone for a while. No fans should go through what they are having to go through right now. I can remember when Pearl and Summit were the most exciting thing going at the University of Tennessee. Now both are at difficult stages of their lives; one because of forces she cannot control and the other because he could not control the forces around him.

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