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SEC Headlines – 5/31/11 Part Two

1.  This writer wouldn’t be shocked if the “a compromise measure” is reached in Destin this week… kick-starting an overhaul of the oversigning system.

2.  Four former Auburn footballers accused of armed robbery will argue for youthful-offender status.

3.  This writer credits Mike Slive’s handling of Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl for making “sacred cows” and big-time winners like Jim Tressel more accountable.

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SEC Connections To Tressel’s Tribulations

Jim Tressel is trying to stay afloat in a shark tank.  Ohio State’s football coach has the NCAA and the press circling him in waters that have already been chummed with lies, rumors, ineligible players, and smoking-gun emails.

The chances of his survival are extremely slim.  Even Buckeye legends like Chris Spielman have said the clock is ticking on the man in the sweater vest.

Now Tressel’s situation is getting some play in SEC country.  In part because the coach’s sage is in the news and in part because of a comment made by his recently-hired attorney Gene Marsh.

In a sign that he’s not going to resign his post, Tressel hired Marsh — who has previously chaired the NCAA’s committee on infractions — to help with his August hearing before that very same body.  Marsh said before being hired by Tressel that the coach might escape severe penalties because of his past record as a coach and as a contributor in his community. 

In addition to the “he’s been a good guy” defense, Marsh also might play the “everybody does it” card.  On Friday he said: “Any program that’s big is going to have issues.  All you have to do is look at Tuscaloosa.  If you’re in this business, you’re going to have issues.”

In the end, Tressel stands accused of unethical conduct charges and a recent SI.com investigation showed that since 1989, 78 of the past 81 coaches/administrators who were found to have provided false information to the NCAA either quit or were fired.  (Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl being the latest.)  Tressel has already admitted to violating NCAA bylaw 10.1… just like those other 81 coaches/administrators. 

If history is any indication, OSU’s coach has less than a 4% chance of holding onto his post in Columbus.  And if he and The Ohio State University try to keep him onboard, they should expect the NCAA to rain punishment down upon them.

Meanwhile, the Tressel situation also came up at a Georgia booster club meeting in Greenville, South Carolina over the weekend.  When a fan asked Mark Richt and Mark Fox how they would prevent UGA “from becoming an Ohio State,” the moderator at the event said OSU has “a head coach who’s not truthful,” while the Dawgs’ don’t have that problem.  (As far as we know.)

Taking his turn at the mic, Fox said that schools need to educate their players to “think and not act, and not act and then alibi.”  But he couldn’t resist getting in this parting shot:

“I have yet to visit a tattoo parlor in Athens, and don’t plan to.”

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Anderson Not At Arkansas (Yet). Pearl Still At Tennessee (For Now).

“A press conference is coming soon to announce that Missouri’s Mike Anderson is heading to Arkansas for a $2 million-a-year deal.”

Or not.

“A press conference is coming soon to announce that Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl has been dismissed.”

Or not.

Welcome to the SEC where backdoor dealing, politicking and rumor-mongering are an art form.  We’ll keep you up to date on both stories as the day the moves forward, but here’s our kickoff:


Arkansas

There have been dozens of conflicting reports regarding Anderson in the last 48 hours.  Some have said that Anderson has already agreed in principle with the Hogs on a five-year deal worth $2 million per season.  Others have reported that Anderson’s agent — Jimmy Sexton — has leaked the price tag in an effort to drive up Anderson’s value (and salary) at Missouri.  And still others have said that Anderson has not even spoken with UA yet.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the talk so far has been generated by a) Twitter and b) out-of-state media types looking for Twitter hits.  Example: A television sports anchor from Tulsa, Oklahoma reported that “reports out of Arkansas” said Anderson was heading to Fayetteville on Twitter… and the Razorback Nation went berserk. 

But for now, there’s still smoke everywhere without a flame to be seen.  That could change today, but a lot of folks are currently wasting time on this subject… 140 characters at a time.


Tennessee

In Knoxville, Vol fans are waiting for word that their beloved basketball coach has been dismissed.  By Friday night, several key Tennessee boosters had indicated that a change was coming.  And more than one Bruce Pearl assistant indicated to the press that they knew their fates had been sealed.

But no announcement came on Sunday, which surprised most.  And with spring practice kicking off with media day on Rocky Top today, it’s possible no announcement will come Monday either.  That quiet has led to rumors and speculation.

One hot one involves a sudden change of heart from UT’s chancellor and two biggest boosters.  The theory — Tennessee will keep Pearl but dismiss athletic director Mike Hamilton and replace him with David Blackburn, the man who tried to rein in Lane Kiffin and ultimately saved the Vols from steeper NCAA accusations.

However, it’s still believed by most that UT is simply working out a buyout with its coach.  Much to the chagrin of several Vol fans who held a “save Pearl” rally yesterday.


We’ll have much more on both Anderson-to-Arkansas and Pearl-from-Tennessee this morning.

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SEC Headlines – 3/1/11 Part Two

1.  Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl says he needs more leadership from his players.  Point guard Melvin Goins says more leadership is needed “from the top all the way down.”  Uh-oh.

2.  Guard Scotty Hopson says yesterday’s practice was “as physical as it gets.”

3.  Vanderbilt will have to bring its A-game to Rupp Arena tonight… where Kentucky’s seven SEC wins have come by an average of 17.9 points.

4.  A win by the Commodores would wrap up a #2 seed and a bye in the SEC Tournament.

5.  Alabama can capture the SEC regular-season title with an upset of Florida in Gainesville tonight.

6.  If they win the SEC’s regular-season title, this writer says Bama deserves an NCAA bid.

7.  Anthony Grant says he’ll have some emotions returning to Gainesville where he served on Billy Donovan’s staff.

8.  Bama’s Marcell Dareus and Auburn’s Nick Fairley are still battling to be the top pick in the NFL draft.

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UGA’s McGarity Complains To SEC About Officiating In Loss

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity confirmed yesterday that he “expressed concerns” to the SEC office regarding officiating in the final minutes of Tennessee’s 59-57 win in Athens on Tuesday night.

Ah, the dreaded “road cooking.”

The Athens Banner-Herald reports that McGarity would not go into details about his discussions with the league office.  “There’s basically a protocal that you do.  You bring concerns to the SEC office and they deal with them.  They’ll deal with them appropriately and that’s what you do.  But you don’t discuss it publicly.” 

And that’s how you avoid a fine.

Much has been made over the buzzer-beating shot that UT’s Brian Williams lofted over UGA’s Chris Barnes to win the game.  Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl — who watched the game from his couch in Knoxville — said that that call would usually go against Williams… who appeared to go over Barnes’ back to bring in a rebound and then launch the game-winner.  Pearl, however, did point out that Williams had both hands on the ball before any contact was made with Barnes which is why — in his mind — the call might not have been made.  Barnes said after the game that “you’re not gonna get that type of call.”  In addition, it appeared as though Barnes locked his hand onto Williams as he released his shot, too.

Verdict: A judgement call that would go one way one time, the other way another time.

The Dawgs appear to have a more legitimate beef regarding a Josh Bone jumper with about 2:25 left in the game.  The Tennessee guard dropped the shot to give the Vols a 55-54 lead, but replays showed that Bone did not release the ball before the shot clock had hit zero.  Unfortunately for Georgia, officials did not go back and check the replays.

“I knew the shot clock was going down, but I didn’t know it was at zero,” Bone told The Knoxville News Sentinel.  “I saw the replay later and I was like ‘Ohhh!’  But it’s over now.”

It doesn’t sound like McGarity has reached Bone’s level of acceptance quite yet.

McGarity told The Macon Telegraph that there was no malfunction with the Stegeman Coliseum system that might explain the blown call.

“One could argue the horn could have been louder,” McGarity said.  “But as loud as it gets in that arena… there were no arena deficiencies that aided in that decision.”

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Kiffin Fires Back At Pearl

Speaking Monday at The Knoxville Quarterback Club, Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl fired a barb at former Vol football coach Lane Kiffin.  And he got a lot of laughs.

“I’ve made mistakes, I clearly did,” Pearl said.  “But what I was hoping for was that some other dumbass would get on the front page and take me off the hook.  I miss Lane Kiffin.”

Well, according to The LA Times, Kiffin returned fire yesterday.

“Bruce is really smart,” Southern Cal’s coach said.  “I can understand why he wouldn’t want to talk about not being able to coach and violations, so he mentions Lane Kiffin.  And everyone claps.”

Zing.

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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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Pearl Misses Dumbass Kiffin

Speaking to a Knoxville Quarterback Club today, Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl poked fun at his own transgressions by throwing a jab at a familiar villain.

“I was hoping some dumbass would take me off the front page.  I miss Lane Kiffin.”

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