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Vols Facing No-Win Scenario In Pearl Case

Pity the University of Tennessee administration.  Their decision in September of 2010 to stand by Bruce Pearl is coming back to haunt them today.

For you fans of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” UT is facing the Kobayashi Maru — the ultimate no-win scenario.  The school’s options are:


A) Fire the best (and most popular) basketball coach they’ve had in decades in an effort to stave off more serious NCAA penalties to the program (as well as further embarrassment for the university in the national press).  But by doing so, they would tick off a huge slice of their fanbase and likely set back their program for several years.

Or…

B) Keep Pearl, continue to be mocked in the press and await the NCAA’s ultimate judgement knowing that nearly 100% of coaches charged with lying to the NCAA and/or trying to get others to cover up are fired and given a two-year coaching ban.  The penalties against the school will no doubt be greater if Pearl is kept and it’s possible he could be suspended for two years and his ouster forced in the long run anyway.  Those sanctions and suspension would also likely set back their program back for several years.


Now that is a no-win scenario… and UT officials would not be in such a predicament had Pearl not put them in it.  By breaking some smaller rules and then lying about it — as his assistants did, too — he backed himself and the school to the edge of a cliff.  The only alternatives are bad and worse.  And bad would be misunderstood, making it worse.

Already, many Vol fans are threatening boycotts.  Athletic director Mike Hamilton is catching the blame for wanting Pearl fired.  Only he probably doesn’t want to fire his signature hire.

In reality, no one at UT is gleeful about the situation they’re facing.  If not for the black cloud of the NCAA floating over head, Pearl would be as safe as a coach can be.  But with that black could very much in place, UT’s powerbrokers have apparently decided to choose the lesser of two evils and Hamilton is left to deliver the news to angry fans.

I have a pet and my vet recently discovered cancer in his leg.  I had the tumor removed and am hopeful that the cancer won’t return.  But if it does, I’ll face a pretty horrible set of alternatives — amputate the leg in an effort to save my pet or put him to sleep.  Believe me, I’ve stressed over that “what if” scenario.  If I choose to go the amputation route, it won’t be because I want to do it.  It will be done to avoid the more horrible option of putting a good friend down. 

UT’s powers-that-be are faced with a horrible scenario of their own.  Protect the coach who’s done more for their program than any other since the 1970s… or protect the program that he’s built up.  To put it bluntly, do they amputate Pearl in an attempt to save their program?

If the school had simply said last September that it was forcing Pearl to resign, everyone would have placed the blame on the coach for committing serious NCAA sins — lying and covering up.  But by announcing to the world that they would stand by him, UT officials sent a powerful message to Vol Nation that Pearl’s acts weren’t all that bad and that the school had his back. 

Now, faced with the threat of worse penalties and publicity than they had initially imagined, it seems the folks in Knoxville have realized that they made the wrong call back in September.  Too bad for their sakes that they’ve been standing by that decision so steadfastly and so loudly for six months.

The fact that they have only makes a no-win scenario even worse.

 


6 comments
LibbyAllVol
LibbyAllVol

When you want to stop the violations, you HAVE to cut the head off the SNAKE, namely, Mike Hamilton. Until that happens, he will continue to make decisions that are detrimental to UT (remember Lane Kiffin?) the rest of the coaching staff seems to be a "little bit dingy" themselves..I would advise the President and Chancellor of the University to let Hamilton go, before the "SHAKY" fanbase walks out on all UT sports. Bruce Pearl took a "non-existant" fan base to the top of the mountain, and now we are again faced with yet another "mediocre" Basketball Team" that no one cares about....Look at the historty before Pearl....I hope he (Hamilton) gets what HE deserves, he is, after all, them man at the top and we all know that "you know what always rolls downhill......LibbyAll Vol

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

John,
I see the situation differently. When the poop first hit the fan back in September; Hamilton had two choices. Fire or retain. If he fired Pearl for lying, he would have also had to fire the top two assistants for participating in the coverup. Thus leaving him no one to promote for a season. So he would have been searching for a new head coach that was 1: already on the market, thus unemployed, or 2: hire an assistant from a program that will have no head coaching or 3: someone so happy to job hope that he would leave his current program less than 2 months before the season. None of these situations point to long term success. So he decides to wait until the LETTER comes from the NCAA. Once UT received the letter, Pearl was as good as gone. It made no sense to pull the plug in the middle of the season since half the staff would have had to go also, and no one would be left to take over the program. Now Hamilton can compete on the open market for the best available coach to continue the growth in the program. Pearl showed the world what UT can become, and the job is much more attractive now than it was 6 years ago.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

HoustonVol...

UT had former Appy State head coach Houston Fancher in the wings for an interim gig if needed. Hamilton wanted Pearl to survive. But you don't survive lying to the NCAA. No one does. And Tressel won't either.

John

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

I agree. I expect Tressell to "retire" by this summer. What would Fancher as interim coach have done for the year? He would have had to assemble a journeyman staff because he would not be able to promise anyone more than one year on the job. No recruit would have been interested in the program knowing that it would have had another coach next season. Plus everyone in the program would have had to learn yet another system. Then you would have had the issues what if the NCAA did not bring down the unethical charges against Pearl? You would have had Pearl filing a lawsuit in a heartbeat against the university. Naming an interim coach would have set the program back several years. With Pearl riding out the bench this year, the program has not been set back as much as an interim coach would have been. A new coach can come in and build for the future, save the recruiting class and hopefully help UT avoid major sanctions.

Houstonvol
Houstonvol

John,
I really enjoy this website. It is one of the most balanced sports sites out there. Though most bleed (your school colors) fans cannot take an objective view of their school to see the neutral stance you take toward every school. In the sports world of reporting of the Finebaum's and like, you are a breath of fresh air.

I have had no confidence that Pearl would survive the season since the letter arrived back in February. With the unethical conduct charges and the pending 1-2 year ban, I could not see how they could keep him. Plus - having the lying charges hanging over him should have undermined him on the recruiting trail. Of course now UT is saying that Pearl committed another violation at the beginning of March, and that was the last straw.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

HoustonVol...

I'm just telling you, that's not what anyone close to the situation believes. Hamilton wanted Pearl to stay. And that program is a very, very difficult sell these days.

As always, thanks for reading and providing rationale, calm, honest debate.

John



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