Tennessee fans are like the fans of any other school in America. They love a winner. Wins trump everything. Everything.
And as we’ve said regarding fans of other SEC schools, if UT fans would just admit that fact, there would be no need for wasted efforts providing thin defenses and wild spins.
We at MrSEC aren’t big on firings. That’s not kosher in the media… the media is supposed to loooooove firings. We don’t. If a coach’s program is clearly moving in reverse over a period of time, then it’s hard for us to provide a defense (which means Mark Richt had better win in 2011). But you won’t find us calling for heads. Heck, we felt bad for Billy Gillispie despite all indications that he was a bad egg and an A-1 jerk.
See, we know that coaches tend to be called A-1 jerks when they don’t win enough to suit the hometown fans. In other words, had Gillispie posted John Calipari-like victories at Kentucky, he could have water-boarded Josh Harrellson and he’d still be coaching in Lexington (rather than Lubbock) today. (Yes, he’d need to be a better ambassador, but if he’d racked up 55 wins in two seasons, he would’ve gotten a third year. And you know it, UK fans.)
A recent HBO Sports documentary on Jerry Tarkanian and UNLV drives the “wins are the thing” argument home even further. During Tark’s years on The Strip, UNLV was charged with recruiting violations, providing extra benefits to players, and grade-fixing. Over a nine-year span, he produced four — four! — graduates. And three of his players were photographed sitting in a hot tub with a man who’d been involved in Boston College’s point-shaving scandal in the 1970s.
Yet when Tarkanian was about to be forced out for all that mess, Runnin’ Rebel fans rallied ’round their man. Rules? What rules? Just win.
Win and fans will defend you. So why not just admit that and move on? It kills the need to rationalize.
For that reason, Tennessee fans should just admit the following today: Bruce Pearl is the best Vol coach in history in terms of attendance, NCAA success and national exposure. He’s made basketball fun again in the Volunteer State. Period. End of story.
Instead, even in breakdowns like this one that are lighting up inboxes across Tennessee today, there’s spin:
1. At a pro-Pearl rally yesterday, one speaker said that in America, you’re innocent until proven guilty. Nevermind the fact that Pearl has already admitted to being guilty of the charges made against him, save one violation of the bump rule.
2. It’s said that Pearl is being hammered over a simple barbecue. Nevermind the fact that Pearl had a similar violation at his last school. And that he told people at said barbecue that he knew it was a violation.
3. It’s claimed that Pearl’s infractions were all small potatoes. A few extra calls and the barbecue? Okay. But Pearl lied to investigators — the grand no-no on the NCAA’s books — and he phoned the father of a recruit at his barbecue before and after his own meeting with NCAA officials. The father — and the NCAA — believe Pearl was trying to tamper with the investigation into his program. In college sports, the NCAA serves as the police department and the court system. If in the real world you lied in open court and were found guilty of tampering with a police investigation, you’d be staring at stiffer penalties, too, regardless of the initial offense. That’s the main reason why Pearl’s in NCAA hot water today, not because of bumps and barbecues. (From speaking with media members in Columbus, Ohio, Jim Tressel is in the same boat at Ohio State, by the way.)
4. Amazingly the writer of the article linked to above — and FYI, he’s a key member of The Big Orange Tipoff Club — even claims that the NCAA is “blatantly interfering with the University’s right to employ whomever they may want” by threatening harsher penalties for the school if Pearl is kept.
Uh, no kidding. The NCAA tries to keep college sports clean. That’s why they’ve hit schools from Southern Cal to Oklahoma to Indiana to Alabama to UConn in recent years. They have an honor system in place — if we catch you, just come clean.
So if you’re breaking rules and get caught it’s a bad thing. If you cover it up, it’s worse. They try to make examples of the folks who lie and cover up. It’s their chance to show other coaches that they had better just come clean if/when they’re caught.
There’s nothing unusual about that. And as far as the NCAA overstepping its bounds, a former attorney like the author should know that these types of threats are used every day in the American justice system. “Accept this plea bargain or we’ll go for Murder One.” Hey, we’ve seen “Perry Mason.”
And yet the spin continues. Pearl’s just a little guy and the big, bad NCAA is out to get him. Pay no attention to the fact that he’s the one who thumbed his nose at the NCAA and broke it’s two Cardinal sins — don’t lie, don’t cover up.
We would like to see Pearl get another chance. We wanted to see Gillispie and John Pelphrey and Mike Shula and Georgia AD Damon Evans get a little more time too. We’re softies.
But the spin needs to stop. College fans — including Tennessee’s — need to just admit that wins trump everything. If Pearl had reached six straight NITs rather than six straight NCAA tourneys, no one would have gathered on a parking garage to try and save him yesterday. In fact, he wouldn’t have lasted past September.