Posted: 8:50 am Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Auburn hires Bruce Pearl. Not sure I would have 

By Mark Bradley

The new Auburn coach poses for a selfie. (Bruce Dill/AP)

The new Auburn coach poses for a selfie. (Bruce Dill/AP)

Georgia took a risk on Jim Harrick, who’d been fired by UCLA (and then hired by Rhode Island) for lying to his bosses. Louisville just took a risk on Bobby Petrino, who’d been fired by Arkansas (and then hired by Western Kentucky) for … well, you know. So it was no great surprise that Auburn — the school that took a second chance on Cam Newton and Nick Marshall — just hired Bruce Pearl to coach basketball.

Lots of media people really like Bruce Pearl, who had– but of course! — worked for ESPN after getting fired by Tennessee for lying to the NCAA. I’m not among them. I’ve never gotten past him taping a phone call with recruit Deon Thomas that was intended to prove that Jimmy Collins, then an Illinois assistant, had offered Thomas what Pearl, having appointed himself investigator-in-chief, believed were improper inducements. (Pearl was then an Iowa assistant.) The famous Dick Vitale, who never met a coach he wouldn’t defend, found it hard to defend Pearl then, saying he’d committed “career suicide.”

With Pearl, however, there’s apparently no such thing. Even after getting caught in a lie regarding the recruitment of Aaron Craft, now at Ohio State, Pearl just got himself hired for $14.7 million. (Pearl’s lie: He told investigators he didn’t recognize the place where a cookout was being held, even though photos proved the place was his home. That wasn’t just a bad lie — it was an unbelievably dumb one.)

After Tennessee fired him, Pearl was slapped with the dreaded show-cause penalty by the NCAA, which means that any school wishing to hire that coach over the sanctioned period — Pearl’s was three years, which hasn’t yet expired — would have to go before the NCAA and give a good reason why. But Auburn, which leads the world in compliance officials, had hired David Didion, who was the lead NCAA investigator on Pearl’s case, and that dollop of serendipity was being cited last week at the SEC tournament by another conference athletic director as to why Pearl-to-Auburn was all but a done deal.

Six days after firing Tony Barbee in an Atlanta hotel after an SEC tournament loss — even Southern Cal waited until Lane Kiffin returned from Tempe before firing him on the airport tarmac — the Tigers hired Pearl. His many media allies are treating this as a case of a good guy who did a bad thing being handed a deserved second chance, and Pearl, who’s quite the charmer, has hit some of the proper notes. “I’m truly humbled and blessed,” he said. Then he started bragging about the size of his contract, which tossed aside the “humble” part.

Nobody questions that Pearl is a good coach. He took Tennessee to the NCAA tournament six years running. But the longtime consensus has been that Auburn ranks alongside Ole Miss as the worst job in the SEC. The Tigers have run through four coaches since Sonny Smith resigned in 1989, and only one of them — Cliff Ellis, who has been everywhere and is now at Coastal Carolina, which is in the NCAA field — was able to take Auburn to the Big Dance. Ellis was fired in 2004, one season after a Sweet Sixteen appearance; not incidentally, the NCAA was investigating the Tigers’ recruiting.

Which is, sad to say, the way of Auburn basketball. In 2000, Chris Porter — the best Tiger player since the days of Charles Barkley and Chuck Person — was ruled ineligible for the final eight games after it was revealed that he’d accepted $2,500 from an agent. The Tigers had entered that season ranked No. 1 by Sports Illustrated, which featured Porter on its cover. In 2012, guard Varez Ward was suspended by Barbee ahead of a point-shaving investigation. Ward was indicted the next year. In February he entered a pre-trial diversion program.

Given the peculiar nature of Auburn sports — Terry Bowden quit as football coach in the middle of a season; school officials approached Petrino, then in his first stint at Louisville, about replacing Tommy Tuberville while the latter was still employed; Gene Chizik was fired two years after leading the Tigers to a BCS title with Newton — I’m not sure this is the place for Pearl. Strange things happen in the Loveliest Village, and Pearl, who’s visible and voluble, isn’t one to shutter himself in the gym.

Back to Harrick: The charming rogue had Georgia basketball in the Top 25 when Tony Cole went on ESPN. Within two weeks, the school pulled its team from both the 2003 SEC and the NCAA tournaments. Not saying that all second chances for proven liars will meet such an egregious end. But it did seem worth mentioning.

119 comments
ntense001.
ntense001.

I guess Richt is not going to make the same mistake again he made with Marshall. The thieves are now allowed to stay. 

cloudodust
cloudodust

As long as Mike Hamilton remains under a rock on his planet, CBP might not pull a stupid. Now I'm not blaming Hamilton for CBP's errant ways, I'm blaming Hamilton for being Hamilton.

NoahVale
NoahVale

Bradley - Coach Pearl has paid a huge price for his indiscretions at UT, has shown genuine remorse and is deserving of this second chance.  While having a view more obstacles to overcome than in Knoxville, CBP will be greatly welcomed in Auburn.  He definitely will bring back BK excitement to The Plains as well as in the SEC.  But then again, if you truly believe Coach Pearl's character is no better that that of  Harrick or Petrino, then there's nothing anyone can say that can change your mind.  Time will be the determining factor.  And, then, I hope you'll still around to admit your misjudgement.   

Chuck_UGA
Chuck_UGA

Auburn has a history of perpetual disregard for the rules. Bama isn't much different, but they just don't get caught. Proverbial big brother, little brother. Auburn will be caught again soon enough.

As for Pearl, he can and will recruit well in both Alabama and Georgia. If he hires a good staff, will be interesting to see how well he can do. If he wins, he will take off for the higher profile opportunity. Auburn us and always will be the basement of SEC hoops. Auburn overspent here, but I think they will make some postseason play with this coach.

OldFan
OldFan

Reality....Auburn University has a Head Football who's name is Gus Malzahn.  A winner and a good guy.


             Auburn University has a Basketball Coach who;s name is Bruce Pearl.  A winner and a good guy,  Such is life......good for Auburn University,  Going forward, judge you're own staff,  make decisions based on that reality,  Peace and Love from Auburn University :

Boeingdawg
Boeingdawg

Man! these blogs on AJC are the equivalent of reading a Jerry Springer script. One or two opinions then the floodgates open and all of the nosepickers who can't carry on a civil debate start telling everyone else how ignorant they are, or otherwise verbally abusing them. It's sports, folks. Lighten up! It's not our fault your President turned out to be a gutless buffoon!!

DavidHutchings
DavidHutchings

Mark is not sure. But I am sure that ole Mark enjoys pulling Auburn's chain. It is meaningless and wearing thin. I will tell you Mark that it was an absolute BLAST playing in the championship game again this year while you for the umpteenth time predicted this was Georgia's year to run the table. And they believed you!  Again .

AlternativeDawg
AlternativeDawg

Eighty eight post on this blog. Maybe next time bradley should throw in some nick fairly if he wants a cheap pop.

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

Dumb post, this was a BRILLIANT hire!   As a UGA fan living in Auburn to go back to school, trust me, college basketball is DEAD down here!   0 % chance this will hurt anything at all down here, even if he messes up and sanctions come.  

happymadison
happymadison

Saint Mark Richt himself preaches forgiveness, right?  


Pearl paid his penance, and knows this is his last shot at a real coaching job. It is unlikely he will be breaking any rules again like hosting a recruit at his house for barbeque. The horror.


UGA fan's tears 

JayMoore
JayMoore

Very nice Mark....where were you when your alma mater hired Callipari and where are you now with the UK "one and done" absolute joke as it relates to intercollegiate athletics. Surely UK completely vented the Derrick Rose fiasco and found.......Still waiting to hear from your piousness

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

Pearl made a mistake, a big one, but he is a good coach. And matters much in college BBall. He will have Auburn dancing before too long, while we Dawgs celebrate making the NIT.


I think I am liking the Auburn AD.


DewayneDixon
DewayneDixon

Nothing like a rat and liar to led a group of young men! Way to go Auburn!

ntense001.
ntense001.

The title of this article should have been:


"A negative history of Auburn athletics so UGA fans can feel superior again"

MDBlue
MDBlue

Georgia didn't hire him, so it must be a bad thing. Who is Georgia's basketball coach, anyway? Nobody outside of Athens or Atlanta knows or cares.

You attempt to connect a lot of dots over decades to smear a rival. That's cute. It's not like the A. J. Greene scandal was Richt's fault (Or, was cash falling from the skies a product of looking the other way, until that was no longer possible.)  or, the GA basketball program got slammed 10 not that long ago:

 "The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has placed the University of Georgia on probation for four years for violations of NCAA bylaws regarding recruiting inducements, unethical conduct, academic fraud and extra benefits in the men's basketball program."

Or that coaches ever got fired from UGA.   Nope. This is about lying about burgers in the backyard (take out the lying and your talking a "secondary violation" - something Georgia has had lots of recently.) And it's something Pearl has spoken about often for which he's been punished, rightfully so.

Bradley, get off your high horse homey, stand on the ground and look at the "dots" in your own backyard. As if there aren't loads of Auburn grads in your readership to "cater" to, as you do the backyard jocks.  

GTRay
GTRay

I have a relative (who is not one of the "crazies") who has worked at Auburn for years, and he has told me so many stories regarding unethical behaviors on the part of officials in the athletics department as well as egregious behaviors by athletes, which were, of course condoned, ignored, and/or "fixed" by those officials.  And whether Auburn is a beautiful campus, has some exceptional grads, or is loved by its students has no bearing on this.

redleg24
redleg24

Bradley you are a writer (?), in essence a BSer.  So no one would ask you to start with as your comment tend to run on the negative side.  No reason for anyone to expect any kind of a sense of responsibility from an AD.  Hire the guy that will get wins. No matter if he lies, steals or cheats. Most coaches have lied in regards to- no I am not leaving for that highe paying position in the pros (Saban at LSU) and all is forgive by the new team with that first win.

kimmargolis
kimmargolis

bruce pearl seems like a bigger risk. agreed.

doggoneit
doggoneit

Mark who would you of rather them of hired? The tooth fairy? I'll take wins over values anyday!!


sign me , NO MOrals

OldFan
OldFan

This is the lowest form of journalism (if you can even call it that) that I have seen in a long time.  The ongoing onslaught of Auburn University on this site has crawled to an "over the top"status.  Auburn University is an outstanding University with a better than average reputation for its academic excellence across the country.  It just so happens the highest paid CEO in the World is a graduate of Auburn.  His name is Tim Cook and he is CEO of Apple, handpicked by its founder, Steve Jobs.  Auburn has made some errors in judgment down through the years, but its core values and creed remains intact.  Anyone who ever attended Auburn knows that it is a special place and one becomes family for life.  Most folks love Alabama Football or Georgia Football.  Auburn folks love Auburn.  It is different.  When I read this blog containing statements like "don't walk through the campus or you'll step in cow sh**........well, that about does it for me.  Has anyone ever stepped foot on the Auburn University campus?  Arguably, it is called the prettiest in the SEC and gained the name "The Loveliest Village" for its obvious natural beauty.  The gameday experience at Jordan-Hare is known as the best fan-friendly around, a quality experience.  Oh yes, Cam Newton and Nick Marshall and Bruce Pearl made mistakes.  They also paid their penance for their choices and sent to the vast wastelands of JUCO in Kansas and Texas small towns with no ESPN coverage, etc. before gaining a needed second chance.  Pearl was exiled to live in Knoxville with no basketball job.  Do us a favor, please.  Please remove the tendencies to turn the AJC into a Jerry Springer exercise by inciting the crazies on here.  It is not journalism.

JasonDeegan
JasonDeegan

- Auburn had a coach quit midseason, HARK! 

- AU fired an 18-54 basketball too quickly after ANOTHER first round SEC-tourney loss.

- AU fired a coach who lost control of a program 2 years after a title.

- Chris Porter got railroaded by the cheats at the NCAA (note, years later, one of Saban's boys would commit a crime for more value and get a whopping 2-game suspension)

- Auburn had/has two gifted athletes on their rosters that weren't choir boys, that just so happened to previously be at rival schools.

- And Jim Harrick is still a liar


These are reasons why Auburn shouldn't hire a guy who immediately is the 2nd / 3rd best coach in the SEC? 


This is really weak. With this logic, shouldn't you be writing for the Department of Justice and not this rag they call a newspaper, Mark?

tonito
tonito

@ntense001. Are you kidding??? If Rich were to allowe all criminals to stay, UThug would have to petition the NCAA to increase their scholarship number to over 500.

tonito
tonito

@ntense001. I guess you forgot that UThug has had more players arrested in the last five years than AU in its history. And if they get caught smoking pot, they are even rewarded with a starting position... Cam and Nick did not get in trouble in Auburn but in your dump...

DoctorJNB
DoctorJNB

@NoahVale    Pearl had multiple violations at Tennessee, not just one - after apologizing and appearing penitent for lying to the NCAA, he did it again a few weeks later.  Not only did Pearl lie, he incited others to lie as well.  Although not illegal, his unscrupulous actions in the Deon Thomas affair made him anathema to honest college coaches (the NCAA ultimately found Pearl's accusations not to be credible).   


At this point it is not clear whether Bradley or you will be admitting your misjudgement in the future over Pearl's hiring.

DoctorJNB
DoctorJNB

@JayMoore  Calipari has yet to violate NCAA rules at any school he coached, you can't say that about Pearl.   "One and done" wasn't Calipari's doing, it happens because of NBA rules, not the NCAA's or Calipari's choice - and indeed many of Cal's players stick around (many will this season too) instead of going pro immediately.  And "one and done" didn't seem to be an absolute joke in 2011-12 when Kentucky won it all.


UK wasn't involved in the Derrick Rose situation at all, and the NCAA has yet to provide proof that Rose cheated, they have only conjecture and speculation, but being their own judge/jury/executioner, they aren't accountable to anyone for their incompetent investigation and "legal process".  


Now you've heard your arguments refuted.   QED.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@JayMoore

"Vented the Derrick Rose fiasco" - what the heck are you talking about?  Rose went to school at Memphis.

SimpleDawg
SimpleDawg

@ntense001. It's well documented that Awbarn's reputation is well deserved.....in fact earned.

tonito
tonito

@GTRay I have a friend who worked at the UThug Atheletic Dept. who thought it had to be the most corrupt in the country... And in spite of all the money handed out, they can´t reach the national championship game year and year...which makes UThug looservile USA.

stiggs
stiggs

@GTRay Wow, really, a third cousin told you. I believe you maybe you should write a book or go on ESPN they will want to hear your amazing stories.


RDHarris
RDHarris

@GTRay I assume the GT in your name stands for Georgia Tech. How long has it been since Tech's been relevant in any sport? I'm sure any person working in any collegiate athletic dept can tell you stories about coaches and players that can make one shake their heads---including Georgia Tech (or at least when they were relevant).

RangeRover
RangeRover

@OldFan  

Perhaps instead of pissing and moaning about a journalist questioning a university's pervasive pattern of hiring and recruiting people of questionable character and morals, you could devote the same amount of time and energy by exemplifying the integrity (know that word?) to question Auburn yourself?  This is why your university and fans like you can't garner a smidgen of respect; all you care about is trophies and you'll ignore, overlook or circumvent anything--and even embrace anyone--that can put something on your glass shelf.

Here's the single biggest difference...do you think the University of Georgia or The Georgia Institute of Technology would hire Pearl to coach their respective basketball teams?  No, absolutely not, and this is why those two schools--although clearly not perfect--I respect a great deal more because they are telling their parents and students "we indeed want to compete for championships, but we will never compromise our values and integrity to shortcut the process.  And we certainly hope this stance will be one day appreciated by you and your children."

Sure, you have a pretty campus and I'm equally sure the great, great majority of your students and faculty are fine people.  But there's a pattern at Auburn impossible to ignore...and the smell is loud!

For the record, I attended neither UGA or GT.

DirtyDawg
DirtyDawg

Gee Bradley, whataya mean finding fault with the school 'in the loveliest plain old village'? I mean they didn't ask Pat Dye to do all that crap (thanks old fan for taking him off our hands)...they didn't have anything to do with, The King, Bobby Lowder's iron rule over the Board...they didn't tell 'Uncle Milty' McGregor to make those free debit cards available to recruits/players at his casino...there was no such thing as Trooper Taylor being the 'bag man' going around the Southeast handing out all that money...they never liked Bowden or Tubberville anyway, so they weren't sad when they were forced out by Lowder, et.al., because they refused to participate further in the 'play for pay' program. You see, none of this actually happened cause the 'cracker-jack' investigation team from the NCAA 'couldn't find it out'...or refused to 'take down' the school because it would be just too devastating to the 'old fans'. But believe me, and from high-placed folks close to Lowder and Dye and Uncle Milty, it all happened. So just stick to your 'cognitive dissonance' and continue to 'live your lie', who knows maybe Pearle might be able to get some of that 'bag money' for some BBall players...then the sky's the limit.

slaughdog
slaughdog

@OldFan  Thank you OLD Fan. I'm just glad, not all of metro ATL pays attention to what  Mark Bradley thinks about Auburn University. Out of the 25,000 plus students who attend AU, metro ATLANTA is second,(the state of Alabama is # 1), as home residency.

WDE

thebucket
thebucket

@OldFan  "Please remove the tendencies to turn the AJC into a Jerry Springer exercise by inciting the crazies on here.  It is not journalism." Translation: Please don't report on the stories that make my school look bad. Just write the articles that make everyone else's school look bad so I can post on those stories! I see you can dish it out, but you can't take it.

thebucket
thebucket

@OldFan  I wish I could reach through my keyboard and give you a big hug right now. Poor pitiful Auburn. If you don't want the solid reputation of your school tarnished you might want to encourage your coaches not to recruit players that have been dismissed from other SEC schools and you might want to encourage Jacobs not to hire a basketball coach that was dismissed from an another SEC school for lying and cheating.

tonito
tonito

@PaulinNH @JayMooreWhen you are a looser, you throw mud at everybody who is a winner...that is UThug`s history.

mlove919
mlove919

@RangeRover @OldFan  FYI, does the name Jim Harrick ring a bell or do you just have selective memory?  A coach fired TWICE from UCLA and Rhode Island for cheating.

MDBlue
MDBlue

Auburn won championships with those guys who made mistakes and paid for them. But, auburn did that cleanly and with respect for the system - rumor mongers not with standing.   How's Georgia and Tech been doing in that department?   Like the man said...Much love, silly.

@thebucket @OldFan

OldFan
OldFan

@thebucket @slaughdog@OldFanMany Atlanta High School grads prefer Auburn over Tech or UGA.  Much of it has less to do with academic qualifications to enter, but more to do with family history, love of University and quality programs.  I am a part of that group, thank you.

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