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Slive Says He Played No Role In Pearl Dismissal

It seems even SEC commissioner Mike Slive is backing away from Tennessee’s administration these days.  The commissioner was asked yesterday if he had had any involvement in UT’s decision to finally ax Pearl in March.  He said he did not. 

“The employment relationship of a coach and athletic administrator is in the sole purview of the institution,” Slive said.  “It is not something that a conference has any authority over or gets involved in.”

It has been widely rumored that Slive — a man with strong connections to the NCAA and good knowledge of its punishments –  met with Tennessee officials at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta and shared with them a “Here’s what might happen if you keep Pearl and here’s what might happen if you fire him,” scenario.  These comments would indicate that that type of conversation never happened in Atlanta, over the phone, or anywhere else.

Supporters of the Tennessee program were angered when Slive dropped an 8-game suspension on Pearl for his violations.  It was the first such discipline from the commissioner after he was given the power to make that type of ruling just last year. 

However, some basketball analysts — like ESPN’s Jay Bilas — felt that Slive took his action in an attempt to lessen the eventual NCAA penalties on Pearl.  And former coach Jimmy Collins — the man Pearl tried to rat out in an Iowa-Illinois recruiting war in the late-80s — saw the 8-game penalty as another example of Pearl and Slive working together.

As the website Deadspin.com pointed out last month, Slive actually worked on Illinois’ defense against Pearl’s claims of cheating while he was an attorney.  Slive suggested massive self-imposed sanctions.  Collins felt that he was being railroaded by Slive who — in his view — was working with Pearl to bring down the Illini.

Yesterday, Slive was also asked if he still a good relationship with Pearl.  “Mine is,” he said with a smile. 

You can be sure Tennessee administrators appreciate the commissioner making it very clear that it was UT that had the problem with Pearl, not him.

That’s not exactly getting UT’s back, if you will.

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Elmore: Pearl Should Be Suspended For Two Years

ESPN broadcaster — and former Maryland star and member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics — Len Elmore says that Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl should be suspended for two years for lying to NCAA investigators.

“That would really be taking a stand,” Elmore says on USAToday.com.  He believes the penalties self-imposed by Tennessee as well as those handed down by the SEC were “too soft.” 

Pearl will lose $1.5 million in salary over five seasons.  He is not allowed to recruit off-campus for a year.  And he will miss the first half of UT’s SEC schedule this season.  In addition, the NCAA will hand down its own penalties in the coming months.

“That sanction is no swift penalty,” Elmore said of the the eight-game ban.  “I call it mercy.  When people perjure themselves, you have to go after them hard.”

Wow.  I wonder if Elmore is a church-going man.  If so, he’s going to the wrong one.

As for Pearl’s decision to eventually coming clean to the NCAA, Elmore said, “A lot of times people are motivated to do that because they’re going to be found out.  It’s a mitigating factor but not enough to warrant a mere eight-game sanction.  That’s a total cop-out.”

When it comes to calling for people’s heads over moral failings — and that’s what lying is — that’s not in my DNA, as you surely know by now.  Sue me.  I’m a minister’s son and I get tired of watching sinners scream for other sinners to be stoned.  So I’ll give a thumbs-down to Elmore’s anti-mercy stance.

However, when it comes to the actual facts of this case, Pearl is the man at fault.  Pearl created enemies in the coaching profession when he ratted out Jimmy Collins of Illinois 20 years ago.  He should have known better than to cheat in any way, form or fashion — even if that cheating involved a barbecue and less than a 100 phone calls.  (Some say that’s nothing, others say that’s awful, either way it’s something.)

Pearl also should have just come clean to NCAA investigators when shown a photo taken in his own house.  He did not.  Perhaps he panicked.  Perhaps he tried to mastermind a cover-up.  That’s for the NCAA to decide.

Even before this incident, Pearl’s teams were often ranked lower in the coaches’ poll than in the AP poll.  Many coaches see Pearl as a self-promoter.  They weren’t impressed by his one shirtless night at a women’s basketball game half a decade ago and they didn’t buy his tears at his mea culpa press conference in September.

For basketball people who dislike Pearl, they have the goods on him now.  The barbecue, the illegal contacts, the lie.  And that’s no one’s fault but Pearl’s.  He and the Tennessee program will have to live with that.

But to angrily — at least Elmore’s words read angrily — call for harsher, stiffer punishments while also pooh-poohing mercy?  Sorry, I won’t go there.

And in case you’re wondering why we didn’t link to news that former Georgia AD Damon Evans had his arraignment for drunk driving postponed in the Peach State today… same principle. 

There are plenty of people in this world who like to pile onto others for their moral slip-ups.  I’ll try to stick to tossing barbs about bad play-selection and poor recruiting instead.

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