One of the worst handled situations in college basketball has finally come to an end. Tennessee Volunteers Head Coach, Bruce Pearl has been fired according to FoxSports.com’s Jeff Goodman.
The night before the Tennessee Vols were set to play their first game in the 2011 NCAA Tournament their Athletic Director felt the need to announce that Bruce Pearl’s future was uncertain. To say that the timing of the announcement was inappropriate is a gross understatement. It’s not like the players are professionals, they’re just kids, playing for a coach who they likely see as a father figure. It wasn’t fair and it’s wasn’t right for those kids to have to play with the future of their coach hanging on their backs. Many had hoped it would be a spirited performance by the team, but instead, the team looked like a team with too much on their minds other basketball.
Tennessee would go on to lose a game that was never even close to the Michigan Wolverines.
Pearl had been mired in NCAA allegations of unethical conduct and other violations since last September. He also served a suspension for which he missed eight SEC Conference games this season. Pearl is one of the more lovable figures in college basketball, but it appears that his conduct and the pending investigations by the NCAA were too much for the school to tolerate.
Pearl leaves Tennessee with a impressive coaching resume. Coach Pearl became the second fastest coach to reach the 300 win mark needing just 382 games to do it. Pearl also led the Vols to the tournament in each of the six years he ran the show in Knoxville.
Sadly, there will be those who will say Pearl had this coming.
During the 1988-89 basketball season, when Bruce Pearl was an assistant coach at the University of Iowa, he was at the center of a recruiting scandal.
Illinois and Iowa were intensely recruiting Deon Thomas, a stud high-schooler from Chicago when Pearl lost Thomas to Illinois. Allegedly, Pearl called Thomas and recorded a phone conversation in which Pearl asked Thomas if he had been offered an SUV and cash by Illinois assistant coach Jimmy Collins, and Thomas said that he had. Pearl then turned over copies of the tapes to the NCAA in a full out snitch move. The NCAA conducted its own investigation, Thomas denied the allegations, and the NCAA did not find Illinois guilty of any wrongdoing in the recruitment of Deon Thomas.
But since the investigation uncovered other violations, including Illinois’ third major violation in six years, the NCAA cited Illinois with a “lack of institutional control” and proceeded to charge and implement several recruiting restrictions on the school, including a one-year post-season ban.