March 18th, 2014 10:38 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: AU, Auburn, Auburn University, NCAA
As 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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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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