On Nov. 16, the Belmont mens basketball team will travel to Knoxville to open up the season against the University of Tennessee as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Regardless of what happens that night, Belmont has at least one edge up on the Vols: At least they aren’t cheaters.
Several weeks ago, a teary-eyed Bruce Pearl held a press conference. Pearl—UT’s men’s basketball head coach—announced remorsefully that he violated NCAA rules.
Here’s what went down: The good ole NCAA acquired a photo of Pearl hosting some recruits at his house. That’s a big no-no. So, investigators asked Pearl about the photo. They showed it to him. He straight-up said he had no idea where the photo was taken. But the NCAA already knew it was his place.
Pearl was caught with his pants down. Not only did he break a clear-cut NCAA rule, he lied about it to authorities. UT responded promptly by cutting his salary and placing some recruiting limits on the program. The NCAA is expected to bring unethical conduct charges against Pearl at some point. But the outcome is simple: Pearl won’t lose his job.
Two years ago, Oklahoma State all-world receiver Dez Bryant was suspended for the entire football season after he lied to the NCAA about contact with former NFL star Deion Sanders. Bryant freaked out when the NCAA asked if he had ever been to Sanders’ house. He lied and said no.
The NCAA flexed their collective muscle and laid a harsh smack-down on Bryant—even though the contact in question wouldn’t even have been a violation.
So, why did the NCAA crush the hopes of a promising—albeit foolish—player, but will likely only give Pearl a slap on the wrist? (Mind you, this is the same NCAA that mercilessly uses the images/likenesses of student-athletes to create their revenue. Yet athletes can’t accept a penny of anything.)
I hope the NCAA lays a harsh penalty down on Pearl—something that sends a message to coaches everywhere. The integrity of college athletics is hanging in the balance.
It would please—and surprise—me not to see Pearl on the sidelines against Belmont.