Readers of this site know that beginning in January — when the “Bruce Pearl will be the hottest coaching candidate in the country” talk began — we consistently wrote that if any school were to make a play for a man currently riding the NCAA pine due to a show-cause penalty it would be Auburn. Obviously, Auburn did indeed make Pearl their new coach.
So did Pearl have any other major schools chasing him? Did he have serious offers from any smaller schools? Not according to what the Tigers’ new boss told The Birmingham News today:
“I did have a couple calls but they were early on and from mid-major programs who wanted to know if I’d be interested. (Auburn AD) Jay (Jacobs) wasted absolutely no time. So then I looked, as you should, if Jay’s interested, maybe somebody else is. What else is open? One, I really wanted to go to work for someone who wanted me with all my baggage, my history, my challenges, with a show-cause. And do you really want me knowing I can’t recruit until August? (Auburn associate AD) Dave Didion, who was director of enforcement of the NCAA during my investigation, he knew what we did, he knew what we didn’t do. He wanted me? Here?”
According to reports, Didion’s review had more to do with “he’s learned his lesson” than it did with what Pearl did or didn’t do to earn himself a three-year show-cause penalty.
The bigger question is this: If Pearl wasn’t a hot commodity, how did he and his attorney milk a six-year, $14.7 million deal out of Auburn? Pearl’s $2.2 million salary is larger than what he was paid at Tennessee before spending three years in NCAA lock-up. Consider Pearl’s contract to be his first big victory on the Plains.
If Pearl wins ballgames, too — and it’s likely he will — Jacobs and AU may well look at Pearl’s salary as money well spent. But if he doesn’t win, then you can bet there will be some questions asked of Jacobs regarding his contract negotiation skills.
As for Pearl’s show-cause penalty, the coach isn’t ready to say whether or not he and Auburn will launch an official appeal that would end his punishment early, before August:
“When I got my penalty, I had 30 days to appeal. I thought my penalty was too harsh and I said that. But I chose to not appeal because I had a choice between trying to get less or being accountable… I’ve already missed three seasons of basketball. I’ve missed three recruiting cycles. I am serving my sentence. I didn’t know this, but when Auburn chose to hire me, there then was another 30-day window where Auburn has to show cause as to why they hired me and in that there’s an opportunity to discuss what the rest of the show-cause looks like. And between three years ago and now, have some circumstances changed? Now I have a job; I didn’t before. I’ve served my three years; I hadn’t before. So I think we’ll be discussing the timing of a June (2011) hearing and an August (2011) penalty and see what that looks like.”
So long as Pearl avoids future NCAA entanglements, it’s hard to imagine his hiring being anything less than a hit at Auburn, where basketball has languished since the turn of the century.