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SEC Headlines 3/20/2014

headlines-friSEC Football

1. Urban Meyer on Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin:  ”There has been a lot of publicity about Lane Kiffin and I having issues. There’s none. ”

2. Florida coach Will Muschamp on new offfensive coordinator Kurt Roper: “Just a really good teacher, very fundamental in his approach.”

3. What do Georgia players think of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt? “I think he might be a little more meaner than Coach Grantham,”

4. Why is Georgia restricting media access to spring practice when other schools open up to media and fans alike?

5. 61-year old David Kotulski is Vanderbilt’s linebackers coach – and an expert in the 3-4 scheme.

6. Alabama center Ryan Kelly: “This is a big spring.”

7. Auburn offensive lineman Shane Callahan has gained 29 pounds – up to 304. Dead heat in the left tackle race between Patrick Miller and Shon Coleman.

8. Big focus for the Auburn offense - cutting down Nick Marshall’s fumbles in the pocket.

9. Texas A&M will have its first spring scrimmage on Saturday.  

10. Focus at LSU’s Saturday scrimmage will be third-and-long situations.

SEC/NCAA Tournament Basketball

11. Mike DeCourcy: “Those who wonder where these supposed “upsets” come from… it’s often because the 12 seeds have no business being 12 seeds.”

12. Why did Florida struggle to win Thursday?  Perhaps because Albany is not your average David.

13. SEC NIT schedule.  Georgia hosts Louisiana Tech Saturday, Southern Miss at Missouri Sunday, Arkansas and LSU play Monday.

SEC/NFL

14. In defense of Johnny Manziel: “He’s a tough, almost elastic dude, in fact the toughest guy I’ve covered…”

15. Could Jadeveon Clowney be reunited with safetey D.J. Swearinger in the NFL?

16. At Missouri’s pro day on Thursday, they came to watch defensive ends Kony Ealy and Michael Sam but a few others stood out.  Lineman Max Copeland has lost 50 pounds and wants to be a fullback.

17. Vanderbilt holding its pro day today.

Extras

18. NCAA recorded a nearly $61 million surplus for its 2013 fiscal year.

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SEC Headlines 3/20/2014

headlines-thursdaySEC Football

1. Report:  Texas A&M sophomore defensive lineman Isaiah Golden has withdrawn from school.

2. Want to own your own LSU locker?  It can be yours for $3,950.

3. LSU defense shuffling its linebacking corps.

4. LSU A. D. Joe Alleva on the current scheduling format: “The ADs will not change their votes. “The only hope for change is for the (SEC) presidents  to realize it’s not an equitable schedule.”

5. Goal for Florida this spring? “We gotta get better on offense.” Quarterback Jeff Driskel made his return Wednesday.

6. Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest on hurry-up offenses: “It’s just something that you have to prepare a little bit harder for. That’s really it.”

7. Alabama gets in the first spring practice in pads.  Coach Nick Saban: “Some of the guys have to mature a little more…”

8. How are Alabama players adjusting to new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin?  “He pays attention to everything — every little thing.”

9. Full pads and full contact for Arkansas today.

10. Ole Miss offensive lineman Aaron Morris continues his recovery from a torn ACL.  Expected to totally cleared by August.

11. Big things expected this fall for Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson.

SEC Basketball

12. Five reasons why Florida will win a national title – and five reasons they won’t.

13. Matt Hayes on the Florida program: “Embrace the beauty that is Billy Donovan, everyone.”

14. FiveThirtyEightSports says Florida has a 14% of winning it all, 2% chance for Kentucky, less than 1% for Tennesse.

15. Thursday and Friday NCAA Tournament TV schedule. Stuck at work?  You can watch online.

16. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery on Tennessee:  ”I was really impressed with those guys and the program that Cuonzo [Martin] has built there.”

17. Missouri will host Southern Miss in the second round of the NIT. Arkansas will travel to Cal. Bears beat the Razorbacks earlier this season.

18. Will new Auburn coach Bruce Pearl use the job as a springboard to another destination?  ”No way. No. Not happening,”

19. Auburn has received more than 500 ticket orders since Pearl was announced as the head coach

20. Pearl on Mike and Mike – “Still the craziest coach in the country.”

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SEC Headlines 3/19/2014

headlines-wedSEC Football

1. Why is former Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore lashing out at the Aggies athletic administration?

2. Spring practice gets underway today at Florida with a focus on the offense and new coordinator Kurt Roper.

3. Some players to watch and some questions to ask at Florida this spring.

4. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen appreciates having some depth at quarterback this spring. Bulldogs kicked off spring practice Tuesday.

5. Concern at LSU?  Tigers backfield lacks depth.

6. Those four Georgia players charged with  multiple counts of theft by deception on Monday were back on the practice field Tuesday but Mark Richt not ruling out any dismissals. Bulldogs potential national title contender in 2014?

7. Plenty of new faces and new roles along Missouri’s offensive line but center Evan Boehm will be the anchor in the middle. Is Tigers running back Russell Hansbrough one of the players poised for a breakout season?

8. Vanderbilt redshirt freshman C.J. Duncan is changing positions.

9. Germain Ifedi started every game at right guard for Texas A&M last fall.He could wind up playing tackle this fall.

10. Linebacker Trey DePriest will be a leader of the Alabama defense.

11. Auburn safety Trent Fisher, son of St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, may no longer be on the team.

12. South Carolina sophomore Jamari Smith trying to get the jump on five freshmen cornerbacks who will join the program this summer. A couple of South Carolina linebackers undergo arthroscopic surgeries.

13. Arkansas had to replace three assistant coaches in the offseason - but none of the changes came on the offensive staff.

14. Tennessee football is on spring break this week but here’s an updated look at the depth charts.

Bruce Pearl to Auburn reaction

15. Auburn’s new basketball coach meets the media.  ”When I made the mistakes that I made at Tennessee, I let a lot of people down.” Pearl gets six-year deal worth $2.2 million annually.

16. Pearl turned 54 Tuesday.  “Happy belated birthday, Bruce Almighty. Or should that now be Bruce Au-mighty?”

17. Pearl believes the hiring had the blessing of SEC Commissioner Mike Slive: ”I’m sure I wouldn’t be getting this second chance unless it met with his approval.”

18. “He will be a catalyst for change in the league, to the delight of commissioner Mike Slive.”

19. Pearl met with Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs at his Knoxville home Monday night - deal hashed out on the kitchen island.  One Tennessee reaction to Pearl’s hiring?  Relief.  

20. Kevin Scarbinsky: ‘A popular analogy already has started making the rounds...Pearl will be to (Anthony) Grant as Nick Saban was to Tommy Tuberville.

21. Paul Finebaum: (Alabama A.D. Bill Battle) “woke up today and found out his worst nightmare – at least from a basketball standpoint — has come true.”

22. Mike DeCourcy: “How many active coaches are better? Let’s just say they could all probably fit in one clown car.”

SEC Basketball

23. Tennessee meets Iowa tonight.  Vols are 0-2 in NCAA Tournament games in Dayton, Ohio.

24. The 13-year old son of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery will have surgery to remove a thyroid tumor just hours before tonight’s tipoff. Update: “Today’s surgery for my son Patrick went as planned.”

25. Georgia hosts Vermont tonight in the NIT.  Bulldogs going for their 20th win of the season.

26. LSU travels to San Francisco to meet the Dons tonight in NIT action.

27. Texas A&M plays Wyoming tonight in the CBI Tournament.  Coach Billy Kennedy:  ”Our guys have been good in practice, and it helps us more for next year more than anything, just playing another game, and practicing helps for the future.”

28. Freshman guard Shawn Smith still not with the Aggies.

29. With a win Tuesday night, Albany gets to play Florida in the first round.  Trivia question: Know their team nickname?

30. The President has Florida in his Final Four but picks Michigan State to win it all.

31. Florida Center Patric Young wants to become a minister after basketball.

Extra

32. Johnny Manziel and his “Fighting Ducks” Nike shoes. Merrill Hoge on Johnny Football: “He’s got bust written all over him.”

33. Here’s a look at the rings given to Florida State players and coaches for winning the BCS title.

34. Actor Vince Vaughn pays $6.5 million for Lane Kiffin’s California home.

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Pearl To Auburn A Done Deal; Tigers Get A Winner

Auburn basketball is getting an upgrade.  The Tigers have hired Bruce Pearl as their new basketball coach.

Pearl — a man who has won at Southern Indiana (D-II), Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and at Tennessee — will take over a Tiger program that has been woeful since the departure of Cliff Ellis a decade ago.

Expect the NCAA to keep a close eye on AU hoops moving forward.  Expect one heckuva game between Auburn and Tennessee next season.  And expect several people to ask questions about the way Pearl landed at AU and about potential conflict of interest inside the NCAA at the time of his show-cause ban.

Pearl has become the first major-sport coach to come off a show-cause penalty and jump right back into coaching.

Auburn will still have to go before the NCAA to ask that Pearl’s penalty be ended ahead of August, as it’s currently scheduled.  A big, big get for Auburn and — let’s face it — a big, big get for an SEC in dire need of good basketball coaches.

 

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If Pearl Lands At Auburn, Get Ready For “Conflict Of Interest” Questions For The NCAA

dave-didionAs someone who covers SEC basketball, here’s hoping Bruce Pearl lands another coaching job if that is his desire.  Ole Miss, Eastern Connecticut State, wherever, Pearl is a larger than life character and a tremendous coach.  So bully for him if/when he coaches again.

Reports this morning suggest that Auburn has entered into negotiations with the ex-Tennessee coach and current NCAA analyst.  Auburn, huh?

About that whole “happy for him to coach anywhere” thing?  Let’s amend that.  How ’bout anywhere but Auburn?

No, this isn’t some “You guys hate Auburn” push.  It’s the situation that’s questionable, not the destination.

By now you know that Auburn senior associate athletic director Dave Didion (photo at left) was the lead NCAA investigator three years ago on the Tennessee case that ultimately led that school to fire Pearl and led to Pearl being handed a three-year show-cause penalty by Didion’s organization.  Last April, Didion resigned his post as the NCAA’s director of enforcement and accepted a job handling compliance issues for AU, a school he’d worked for once before.  At the time of his job switch, Didion had this to say:

 

“It’s personal, but I just wanted to go back to campus, and Auburn is one of the few places that I could go to.  I really enjoyed the people, and I enjoyed members of the coaching staff.  It’s a great community.  It’s a beautiful university.  No reason not to go back.”

 

And these comments were posted on Auburn’s website last June:

 

“I just told (AD Jay) Jacobs what the atmosphere was like at the national office but enforcement specifically, and told him I was looking for a different opportunity… He told me he was going to work on something…

“I’ve never lost my interest in Auburn University.  Jay can tell you that, because every time something good happened, I emailed him and congratulated him.  Every time something tragic happened, I emailed him.  I’ve always loved Auburn University — loved the campus, loved the people, loved the area.”

 

Interesting, no?

First, Didion was at/near the top of NCAA enforcement during the completely mishandled investigation into the University of Miami that led to an internal purge.  No wonder he didn’t like the atmosphere in his department, it was toxic.

Second, and most importantly, Didion’s comments about never losing his interest in Auburn open up a lot of questions about just how much he loved Auburn and how much he might have wanted to drive a winning coach from his job at one of Auburn’s rival.  To be fair, there’s no proof of a conspiracy and there’s no evidence that Didion always had his eyes set on an AU return.

But.

Didion worked at Auburn.  Didion says he never stopped loving Auburn.  Didion was the lead investigator on the Pearl case.  Pearl got iced.  Didion landed back at Auburn.  And if reports are true, Didion has now cleared Auburn to hire Pearl.  Can you say “conflict of interest?”

Pearl was show-cause’d because he provided false information to NCAA investigators.  Aside from playing players, that violation is the grand no-no in the organization’s rule book.  And with college sports’ governing body owning zero subpoena power, it’s a necessary rule.  Well, just listen to what Didion said about those types of violations last June:

 

“What I’ve always told coaches — and it remains true — is if you do something that is wrong and you come and talk with us about it, we can fix it, we can help you, no problem.  We might have to report a secondary violation, but that’s OK.  No problem.  But if you try to hide something or don’t tell us the truth about something it’s really, really bad.  We’re not going to tolerate it.  I don’t think Jay is going to tolerate it.  I don’t think President (Jay) Gogue is going to tolerate it.”

 

Well, if Pearl lands at Auburn, the school, Jacobs, Gogue and the very man who made those comments will be hiring someone who did that very thing to the man who made those comments.

News flash: People don’t like the NCAA.  People don’t trust the NCAA.  Pearl to Auburn probably won’t help matters.  Anyone looking for a new line of attack on the NCAA will have it.

Now, in South Alabama where Pearl has gone from “cheater” (at Tennessee) to a good man done wrong (if he lands at Auburn), Didion’s clearance makes AU the perfect spot for Pearl.  Who better to clear him?  Who better to say the NCAA overreacted?

And that will have to be the spin from Auburn, correct?  Either that or Didion and company will have to admit: “There equals bad; here equals good.”

For Auburn fans grumbling that anyone might question this whole Pearl/Didion/AU storyline, let’s try and provide some perspective.  Let’s say an Alabama associate AD goes to work for the NCAA.  He then investigates Auburn which leads to Gus Malzahn receiving a show-cause ban.  Then the same man returns to Tuscaloosa — admitting that he never took his eyes off the place — and Alabama hires Malzahn to replace Nick Saban as soon as his show-cause is up.  Ya know who’d be raising holy hell?  Auburn fans.  And all of you darn well know it.

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SEC Fans All Clamoring For Pearl (Which Is Why He Should Sit Tight)

bruce-pearl3Over the weekend, Auburn sports information director Kirk Sampson decided to follow Bruce Pearl’s Twitter feed.

The internet then exploded.

Auburn fans — spurred on both by Sampson’s Twitter move and a pair of reports from AU-centric pay sites — caught Pearl Fever.  An announcement of his hiring was first expected Sunday.  Now some say an announcement could come today.  Pearl’s fellow ESPN’er Dan Dakich was having some fun with the hubbub last night, saying “War Eagle” while Pearl was across the desk from him during a bracket breakdown show.  An Auburn fan joined in the fun and games by editing Pearl’s Wikipedia page to read: “On March 16th, 2014, Pearl was hired as the head basketball coach of Auburn University.”

We’ve been down this road before with Nick Saban-to-Texas and Jon Gruden-to-Tennessee reports.  For that reason, we’ll believe the Pearl-to-Auburn rumors when the coach puts pen to paper.  That doesn’t mean AU athletic director Jay Jacobs isn’t chasing Pearl, just that we’d be surprised if he jumps at the offer.

A quick Twitter check yesterday revealed in one quick five-minute burst that fans of Auburn, Missouri, Ole Miss, and Tennessee were calling for Pearl to be hired by their favorite school.  To heck with Frank Haith, Andy Kennedy and Cuonzo Martin.  And more than a few Alabama fans were still grousing about Anthony Grant getting another year when Pearl is just sitting out there waiting for a phone call(!).

This is no knock on Auburn and if Pearl really wants to dive back into coaching, best of luck to him and the Tigers.  Lord knows the SEC needs another good basketball coach.  But why jump at the first opportunity?  Clearly, the longer Pearl sits out the more other fanbases will scream for him.  It seems he becomes a better coach with every game he doesn’t actually coach (and he was pretty darned good to start with).  Also, this time a year from now his show-cause will be over and no school hiring him will have to go before the NCAA to ask for any kind of early parole.

Auburn has a small, 9,000-seat arena.  Would Pearl view that as a big enough stage for his triumphant return?  It’ll be up to Jacobs to convince him that it would, if indeed Pearl is Jacobs’ top choice.

For those Tiger fans who’ve already gotten their hopes up — and Sampson’s Twitter move certainly set things up for some “anticipointment” if Pearl doesn’t land the job — they should remember that all coaches like to hear their names called.  It’s fun to be wanted.  So when Pearl said last week that he would listen to AU or anyone else who called him, you can believe it.  Whether that means he’ll take the first offer he gets is another matter.

For Pearl, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him wait things out for another year.  He has the personality to become ESPN’s next Dick Vitale if he decides that’s the route for him.  Meanwhile, Tennessee — Pearl still resides in Knoxville — will be rebuilding next year and Misters Martin, Haith, Kennedy, Grant, Mark Fox, Billy Kennedy and Josh Pastner at Memphis will all be just a few losses away from fans revolting.  Matter of fact, if Mike Anderson doesn’t improve things next season, expect some Arkansas fans to join in on the “We want Bruce” chants, too.  If Frank Martin at South Carolina continues to make a rear of himself… ditto.

For Auburn fans, Pearl would indeed be a home run hire if the NCAA feels he’s paid his debt in full.  He would give clout to the Tiger program, boost recruiting, and become a one-man marketing army.  Past history suggests he’d also win on the Plains.  Quickly.

But be careful not to get your hopes up, Tiger fans.  Coaches love to be chased and there are plenty of people who know Pearl who don’t believe Auburn will be his top choice.

The clock’s ticking.  Maybe we’ll know something soon.  Heck, according to some messageboards, an announcement could be coming today, remember?

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SEC Headlines 3/16/2014

headlines-sun3-150x150SEC Football

1. Arkansas opens spring practice today.  Coach Bret Bielema: “I can’t wait. I think our kids have been chomping at the bit.”

2. Georgia’s new defensive era under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt begins with spring practice starting Tuesday.

3. Tennessee coach Butch Jones on five-star running back recruit Jalen Hurd: ”I thought Jalen Hurd really started to run like we expect him to run.”

4. Missouri defensive end Shane Ray on the plan for him and teammate Markus Golden: ”We hope to have two All-Americans, two first-round draft picks. That’s the plan.”

5. Alabama coach Nick Saban on the Crimson Tide quarterback battle: “It’s going to be a long time in us developing those players…”

6. Alabama redshirt freshman wide receiver ArDarius Stewart experimenting as a safety. Backup center Chad Lindsay plans to transfer.

7. Special teams a focus for Auburn in spring practice as the Tigers have to replace both their kicker and punter.

SEC Basketball

8. Is Alabama coach Anthony Grant the first coach on the hot seat for the 2014-2015 season?

9. Cecil Hurt: “SEC basketball, unless you are at Florida and Kentucky, is a tough world, and it chews up coaches — even good coaches — pretty quickly.”

10. Key for next Auburn coach? “You have to have some Auburn in you or it’s not going to work.”

11. Florida coach Billy Donovan on the one-and-done rule: “College basketball coaches and programs are taking on all the risks.”

12. Kentucky guard James Young on today’s matchup with Florida: “We’re glad we got them. And we’re just going to fight and leave it all out on the court.”

13. Last time Kentucky lost three times to the same team in a season?  Tennessee in 1978-79.

14. Bracketology breakdown with three SEC teams in NCAA Tournament – Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Arkansas and Missouri among first five out.

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SEC Headlines 3/14/2014

headlines-friSEC Football

1. The frenzy over Tennessee redshirt freshman quarterback Riley Ferguson. “He is Peyton Manning with quicker feet, Heath Shuler with more accuracy, Casey Clausen with a bigger arm.”

2. Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian on wide receiver and JUCO transfer Von Pearson: “Von’s very, very, very talented.”

3. High winds do some damage to Neyland Stadium’s Jumbotron.

4. Who will replace Cyrus Kouandjio at left tackle for Alabama?

5. Jonathon Mincy will be expected to provide leadership in the Auburn secondary this fall.

6. Texas A&M and UCLA will play a home-and-home series starting in 2016. LSU and Syracuse working on a deal.

7. Nine SEC staffs had some turnover this offseason.  Here’s a rundown of who’s in and who’s out.

SEC Basketball

8. Bruce Pearl’s top six programs in the SEC apparently don’t include Auburn.

0. Former Auburn coach Sonny Smith on the challenges the program faces: ”What makes the job somewhat difficult is the area that it’s located in.”

10. An argument to give Alabama coach Anthony Grant one more season.

11. LSU and Kentucky will meet for the third time this season. Tigers forward Johnny O’Bryant: “Oh, man, I can’t wait. Can’t wait.”

12. Would a signature victory over Florida be enough to push Missouri in to the NCAA Tournament?

13. Florida forward Casey Prather:  ”I feel like as long as we continue to stay on the path we’re going, then we’ll have no trouble.”

14. Atlanta-area starters a big part of Georgia’s success this season. Bulldogs beat Ole Miss by one point in their only regular season matchup.

15. Tennessee opens tournament play with South Carolina.  Coach Cuonzo Martin: ”I think the guys are loose.”

16. This breakdown of the NCAA Tournament says Arkansas’ loss yesterday has cost them a bid.

SEC/NFL

17. ESPN’s Mel Kiper projects three Texas A&M players going in the first ten picks of the NFL draft. Expects three Alabama players to go in first round.

SEC Media

18. Brent Musburger out – Chris Fowler in as play-by-play announcer for  ABC’s Saturday night college football broadcast.

Extra

19. Former chief executive of the Fiesta Bowl is headed to prison.

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Ruminations On The SEC Tourney, Auburn, And Pearl

Rodin-the-ThinkerJust some random thoughts and observations as we enter Day Three of the 2014 SEC Tournament…

 

*  Yesterday wasn’t the best day for the SEC’s remaining NCAA bubble teams.  Arkansas fell to South Carolina, which according to our numbers, should just about dump them from the Big Dance.  Missouri won, but the Tigers needed double-overtime to escape Texas A&M.  The committee likely won’t be too impressed with that, either.  Finally, by virtue of their win over the Razorbacks, Carolina now draws Tennessee this afternoon.  Win the Vols are probably in the tourney.  Lose to a team with RPI #150 and it’s right back onto the middle of the bubble.  In other words, UT could have better survived a loss to Arkansas than one to Frank Martin’s suddenly hot bunch from USC.

*  On the positive side for UT, MU and UA, a number of bubble squads (RPI 40ish-60ish) from other leagues lost yesterday: Oklahoma State, Iowa, SMU, Kansas State, St. John’s, and California.  Those help.  The bubble winners were Dayton, Stanford, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Xavier, Providence, MTSU, and Florida State.  Those don’t.

*  The first two days of the SEC tourney have done little to convince anyone that the Southeastern Conference iss better than they might have thought.  Mississippi State — a team with three league wins from 18 regular-season games — bounced Vanderbilt.  South Carolina snuffed out higher-seeded Auburn.  Fifth-seeded Arkansas was evicted by Carolina.  Missouri needed double-OT versus Texas A&M.  The evening session last night — LSU over Alabama and Ole Miss over Mississippi State — restored some order, but the cream hasn’t exactly risen to the top in Atlanta yet.  Maybe today.

*  The Bruce Pearl debate rages on.  It seems the majority of Auburn fans want the ex-Tennessee coach, but there are still many who feel he’ll “Bobby Petrino” them and jet at the first opportunity.  Maybe so, but if he leaves the program better than he found it wouldn’t that still make Pearl a good hire?  If he left the program better than he found it.

*  What’s amusing is the usual Our Guy vs. Your Guy double-standard that exists in Fan World.  When Pearl lost his job at Tennessee and was hit with a three-year show-cause penalty, the vast majority of rival SEC fans rejoiced.  They Pearl a cheater.  Some said he should be “banned” longer for lying to the NCAA.  Now that Pearl’s penalty has almost been paid — the show-cause ends in August — he suddenly “didn’t do anything serious.”  At least that’s the take of many on the AU messageboards.  The flip-flop from “cheater” to over-penalized Robin Hood has less to do with forgiveness and more to do with the fact now he can coach at Auburn.  At Tennessee: Big, mean, dirty, lying cheater.  At Auburn: A guy who lied about a barbecue… “and that’s not even a violation anymore!”  (Love that bit of spin.  As if lying to the NCAA and calling the parent of a player to coax him into covering up a violation weren’t the bigger issues.)

*  If Pearl were to land on the Plains, you can be sure the inverse of the Our Guy vs. Your Guy double-standard would play out in the Volunteer State.  Let Pearl beat Tennessee in an important game or — try not to gasp — win big at Auburn and many UT fans who once shared the “Aw, it was just a barbecue” defense will begin to say, “He had to have cheated down there!”  Mark.  My.  Words.  (Some, of course, would just use Pearl’s success to hammer the Tennessee administration for not firing Cuonzo Martin and replacing him with Pearl before Auburn had a chance.)

*  At MrSEC.com, we’re big fans of second chances.  We hope Pearl gets one.  And if it’s at Auburn, we hope he walks the straight and narrow and scrubs clean his reputation once and for all.  But there’s one thing that still feels a bit icky about the possibility of Pearl coaching Auburn.  As Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News pointed out this week, Auburn associate AD Dave Didion was the lead investigator on the Tennessee case that cost Pearl his job.  So who better to say his sins were small, right?  Wrong.  If Didion was one of the investigators who was lied to point-blank and he turned that information over to the NCAA only to watch the NCAA smack Pearl — and basically force Tennessee to fire him or get smacked its ownself — then it’d be a little sketchy for the same man to say, “Yeah, but he’s clean enough for us here at Auburn!”  Maybe he’s as big a fan of redemption stories as we are, but we’re not going to buy the “who better to re-hire him?” narrative that will be spun from Birmingham to Ashford.

*  Speaking of Tennessee, let’s say Martin and the Vols escape an upset bid by South Carolina today.  Then let’s imagine that they somehow find a way to upset Florida and reach Sunday’s SEC Tournament finals.  Further, let’s say the Vols get a nice draw in the NCAA Tournament and win a game or two.  Who’s to say Martin won’t leave Tennessee for another gig?  If Jarnell Stokes turns pro this summer the Volunteers will enter next season with little optimism.  Martin has listened to three years of “Bring Back Bruce” talk and he’s a smart enough man to know that next year will be a step back, at least on paper.  While many Vol fans view him simply as “Not Pearl,” another school might see Martin as a guy who runs a tight ship, never has a player in off-the-court trouble, survived in the shadow of Pearl, and won 24, 26, 19, 20 and 20+ games over his last five years at two different schools.  Worst case scenario for UT: Pearl lands at an SEC rival, Martin jets, and the AD Dave Hart is forced to roll the dice on yet another up-and-comer.

*  There are a pair of coaches — aside from Pearl — who Auburn AD Jay Jacobs should take into consideration.  First is 56-year-old Ben Howland.  He won at Northern Arizona, he then won big at Pittsburgh (two Sweet Sixteen trips), and he then won even bigger at UCLA (three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006 through 2008).  Here are the post-Final Four records that cost him his job with the Bruins: 26-9, 14-18, 23-11, 19-14 and 25-9.  Auburn fans would take those records in a heartbeat.  The other guy actually wants the Tigers’ job — if rumors are to be believed.  Rick Stansbury, 54, should be looked at long and hard by Jacobs.  If Auburn won’t/can’t hire Pearl, Stansbury would have better odds of success than an up-and-comer from a smaller league.  How do we know this?  Because he’s already won in the SEC at Mississippi State.  Stansbury blew up his own regime by signing and then catering to Renardo Sidney, yes, but while Auburn was flopping around at the bottom of the league standings like a dying fish, MSU was posting these records: 20-13, 14-16, 18-13, 27-8, 21-10, 26-4, 23-11, 15-15, 21-14, 23-11, 23-13, 24-12, 17-13, 21-12.  That is an overall record of 293-165 with a .641 winning percentage.  There were six NCAA trips and five NIT trips thrown in for good measure.  Know what Auburn’s done since Stansbury took over at State in 98-99?  They’ve gone 264-237 (.526) with three NCAA trips, two NIT trips, and soon-to-be four coaches.  Stansbury might not be a sexy hire, but here’s guessing AU fans would be satisfied if he averaged 21 wins a year for them as he did the rival Bulldogs.

*  Every SEC fan outside of the Sunshine State is probably pulling for Billy Donovan’s squad to take it on the chin at some point over the next three days.  No one likes Goliath.  But here at MrSEC.com, we think it would be pretty darn incredible to see an SEC team go a perfect 21-0 in league play.  Hey, we like upsets as much as the next bunch of guys and we really don’t care one way or another who cuts down the nets in Atlanta, but if history is made, we’re gonna savor seeing it.

*  Good luck to Missouri, Florida, Carolina, Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Georgia today.

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SEC Headlines 3/13/2014

headlines-thuSEC Football

1. Is Florida the best coaching job in the SEC?  Athlon ranks all 128 college football jobs from a coaching perspective.

2. NCAA grants Florida wide receiver/returner Andre Debose a sixth year of eligibility.

3. Who will step up at wide receiver for LSU? 95-percent of receiver production for the Tigers is gone.

4. Will linebacker Kris Frost be a force in the middle for Auburn this fall?

5. South Carolina redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kwinton Smith no longer with the team.

6. Tennessee defensive tackle Danny O’Brien on his offseason arrest: ”I’m glad it happened. It taught me a life lesson that I’ll know forever.”

7. The Internal Revenue Service is auditing three bowls – one of them is the Gator.

SEC Media

8. Expect to see a lot of Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer when the SEC Network launches in August.

SEC/NFL

9. Several NFL coaches on hand for Alabama’s pro day on Wednesday.

10. Does AJ McCarron think he’s the best quarterback in this draft?  ”Yeah, why not?”

SEC Basketball

11. Texas A&M vs Missouri.  What’s the status of Aggies leading scorer Jamal Jones?  “If he can walk and chew gum, we will play him because we need him.”

12. Does Missouri need to win the SEC Tournament to reach the Big Dance?

13. South Carolina vs Arkansas.  Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade: ”I want to finish out with a bang.”

14. Alabama vs. LSU.  Tigers guard Andre Stringer: “I want that sense of urgency to come now.”

15 .Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss.  Rebels need big contributions from Anthony Perez if they’re to have any chance of repeating as tournament champs.

16. Could the SEC Tournament do more harm than good for Kentucky?

17. When Florida plays Friday, it will be the first time all season the Gators have played in a domed stadium.

18. Since 1979, Tennessee has gone one-and-done in the SEC Tournament 15 times.

19. Cutting former Auburn coach Tony Barbee no slack: “It wasn’t working. So it was time for him to go.”

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