AUBURN, Ala. (WIAT) — Just days after Tony Barbee was fired hours after losing in the first round of the SEC Tournament, Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs hired former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, who was likely to be one of the most sought after names this offseason.
But Pearl comes with baggage. He’s in the final months of a show-cause penalty issued by the NCAA in 2012.
Pearl, 54, was fired by the University of Tennessee in 2011 after lying to the NCAA regarding the recruitment of Aaron Craft, who now plays for Ohio State University. He hosted Craft and two other recruits in 2008 at his home for a cookout, which is a secondary violation according to NCAA rules. Pearl lied to NCAA investigators about the cookout.
Since he was fired by Tennessee, Pearl has been working as an analyst for ESPN and as the vice president of marketing for the H.T. Hackney Company in East Tennessee.
His return to the coaching world was expected. The show-cause ends on Aug. 23 and it was widely understood that he was open to coaching again, but his circumstances meant it had to be the right opportunity. In the end, Pearl has a chance to rebuild Auburn’s program and guide them to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over a decade.
Pearl boasts a 231-99 career record and has 10 years of experience coaching in Division I. His rise to success began after guiding UW-Milwaukee to the NCAA Tournament and in 2003 and 2005. Tennessee hired Pearl in 2005 and he took the Volunteers to the NCAA Tournament in all of his six season in Knoxville.
In all, Pearl’s teams have reached the Sweet Sixteen six times and the Elite Eight once. Nationally, he’s regarded as a tenacious recruiter who already understands what it takes to succeed in the Southeastern Conference.
Auburn’s hiring of Pearl means the university had to follow the guidelines set by the NCAA in the show-cause penalty. The penalty requires schools to appear before the committee of infractions and show evidence for hiring Pearl. Additionally, he’s not permitted to recruit until Aug. 24, but NCAA rules allow him to evaluate players.
Time will tell if Pearl’s hiring is what the Auburn basketball program needs, but the splash of hiring a big name is something the program has not experienced in quite some time. Pearl’s successful track record at Tennessee, a school dominated by football, means his hiring in Auburn makes plenty of sense.
The Auburn men’s basketball program has struggled for much of the past decade and hasn’t earned an NCAA Tournament berth since 2003. The program hasn’t won the SEC Tournament since 1985 and hasn’t won the SEC regular season title since 1999.
Pearl’s experience and personality immediately make the Tigers relevant again within the landscape of college basketball, something that the program hasn’t experienced in quite some time.
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