Has Bruce Pearl learned his lesson about ..."/> Has Bruce Pearl learned his lesson about ..."/>

Tennessee & The NCAA: Cause and Effect


Has Bruce Pearl learned his lesson about lying?

So Bruce Pearl cannot coach in the NCAA for three years. Seems appropriate, since he effectively buried the program he claimed to love like no other for that long and maybe longer. His assistants get to take a year off without pay too, and will probably have trouble getting back to the elite level of college coaching any time soon. So the villains were dealt with and the problem is solved right? Yes, but it really is not that simple.

Let’s look at this by person and examine the effect on UT’s program.

Bruce Pearl: Fired, Show cause penalty, and disgraced for doing the very thing he turned others in to the NCAA for years ago. Call it karma, schadenfreude, or anything you like, but it ain’t pretty.

Effect on UT: Tennessee gets to hire Cuonzo Martin. While an honorable man, hardly the elite coach that UT hoped they would be able to obtain when Pearl decided his time was done in Knoxville. Assuming that Martin gets three years to turn UT around, maybe more, and is not successful, then they will be searching again in a couple years and hoping for a top flite coach. Overall, this could be the stiffest penalty of all. College programs depend on a big time coach for recruiting and image. While Martin has done a decent job with his previous squads, his work would not have warranted the UT post under normal circumstances.

Assistant Coaches: Fired, one year show cause, and again the shame of what their own part was in the scandal.

Effect on UT: Negligible. UT’s self-imposed penalties more than cover what the assistant coaches were guilty of.

Mike Hamilton: Fired, has a lot of explaining to do when it comes to any future employment in college athletics. His fundraising capabilities not withstanding, he basically allowed two coaches to do whatever they wanted to in an effort to bring quick results to Knoxville.

Effect on UT: Fairly serious. Hamilton was a big time fundraiser as was stated above. Tennessee has some rather aggressive projects in the works. Whomever replaces him has to go and basically re raise that money. Convince boosters that he or she is the person to lead UT out of the hole they have gotten themselves into.

Lane Kiffin: Already gone, as he left scorched earth on his way out to Cali and a better ocean view. He got out while he could and kept himself under the line thou shalt not cross just enough that he sees no lasting effects from his hi jinks. Of course, he took over at USC, which may end up being penalty enough for now.

Effect on UT: Truthfully, UT made out like a bandit on this one, as Kiffin is a train wreck waiting to happen if he does not change his ways. Dooley is a pedigreed and stoic leader who was simply waiting for a chance at the big time. He may turn out to be the shining light at the end of the path for UT.

So, does the punishment fit the crime? Somewhat, yes. Tennessee is a really big boat adrift on the ocean right now with no compass, no running motor, and no mechanic. Does that mean they cannot refire the engines and get pointed in the right direction? No. But it does mean that to do it, everyone at that school is going to have to do all they can and then some to get them back to where they once were. The AD hire has to be perfect, because frankly, they could not get big time coaching hires due to their penalties being unknown until now. Martin and Dooley appear to be men of good character and conscience. But does that translate into W’s?

There is a lot of sentiment to bring a former Vol in to shepherd the program and calm some fears, and get the boosters back into the fold. That logic, while being sound on the surface, might backfire on Tennessee much the same way that Cliff Hagan’s return once did to Kentucky.

IMHO, Tennessee needs to look outside the personnel and area surrounding Rocky Top and find a young, energetic, but proven AD to push their programs in the right direction. This scandal, combined with the recent news concerning Pat Summitt’s health, makes Tennessee vulnerable like they have never been before.

As an outsider, I see the penalties on the surface and say, hey, they got off easy. No postseason ban, no loss of TV appearances, no vacated season, all popular penalties in today’s NCAA. But under the surface, they did the most damage to themselves in an effort to keep the NCAA at bay. While a necessary evil, the NCAA seems to be at a crossroads in these situations, and there was no clear path for them to follow here. Tennessee, by effectively crippling themselves, took the NCAA’s hand off of the chicken switch. And, although it makes for a clear conscience and excellent PR, it also makes for a very long and rocky road to recovery.

I applaud Tennessee for doing enough to keep the NCAA at bay, simply because they prevented them from having to be creative, and they also kept their dignity intact. Let’s hope that Bruce Pearl finds a way to do the same thing.

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