TOM DAVIS: Auburn coach Bruce Pearl getting rewarded yet again is a little disappointing
The passing of former college basketball and athletic administrative icon C.M. Newton Monday was indeed terrible.
The fact that much-maligned (due to his own actions) college basketball coach Bruce Pearl was awarded a contract extension on the same day, which guarantees him millions upon millions of dollars for another five seasons, was ironic.
The two situations have merged to become terribly ironic because as a man that stood for all that was good in intercollegiate athletics left us, the antithesis of Newton lives to coach (and reap large sums of cash) for another day (in fact, nearly 2,000 more of them).
Monday essentially summed up all that is wrong in intercollegiate athletics.
The message sent by Auburn University is that immoral and even illegal actions within a program won’t prevent its leader from being handsomely rewarded if the victories (and subsequent cash) mount high enough.
“One of the things we have to keep in mind is the state of college basketball is not in a good place right (now) and I’m a little disappointed that Auburn is involved in that,” Auburn Director of Athletics Allen Greene told the Montgomery Advertiser in March as he was waiting to watch the Tigers get annihilated by Clemson in record-setting fashion 84-53 in their NCAA Tournament opening game.
What made Greene “a little disappointed” was the fact that former Auburn star and current assistant coach Chuck Person, who had been hired by Pearl, had allegedly committed serious enough crimes to be indicted on six charges by a federal grand jury.
Two of the current Auburn players (Austin Wiley and Daniel Purifoy) were implicated in the matter, as well.
Yeah, that sort of stuff is always “a little disappointing.”
But Greene openly admitted what made the situation lessen in its seriousness was the fact that Auburn had simply won so many damn games this season.
The Tigers had won their first Southeastern Conference regular-season championship in nearly 20 years and that resulted in their first NCAA Tournament berth in 15 years.
War Eagle, baby!
As the leader of the Auburn athletic department, that kind of success just can’t be dismissed lightly, regardless of felonies allegedly being committed, and Greene said as much.
“That doesn’t take away from the excellent job that Coach Pearl has done with our basketball program,” Greene said of the scandal.
Of course it doesn’t. Nothing could.
The new contract was a little slower in developing than what Pearl had wished for but he told the same newspaper recently that “Allen and I have had a number of very positive conversations and again, all indications are the university is committed to us and for a long term.”
What was fascinating about that statement was that Pearl had no qualms in speaking with his athletic director when it came to the subject of a contract extension but when Auburn president Steven Leath wanted to discuss why Pearl had created a culture in which his top assistant (Person) felt comfortable giving Purifoy cash (the player was held out of last season and mill miss the initial nine games of next season), as well as engaging in behavior which drew the attention of the F.B.I., well, Pearl had no interest in talking on that matter and he shockingly didn’t.
At the time, Leath said Pearl’s refusal to meet with him was “troublesome.” He may as well have added that he was “a little disappointed.”
Despite Pearl having the arrogance to dictate to Greene and Leath (thus publicly humiliating them as spineless and unethical leaders) just how things were going to be handled, all are ecstatic to have its successful coach in the fold.
“Allen understands that the state of college basketball as a whole isn’t in a great place, but “I’m confident that (Greene) and coach Pearl will work together through all the necessary and appropriate processes and, as he said, stay the course and operate with integrity,” Leath told The Advertiser recently.
Pearl hasn’t shown the capability to do so earlier in his career (he coached six seasons at Tennessee until he was fired in 2011 after being charged by the NCAA with unethical conduct), and following how Greene and Leath have allowed him to walk over them throughout this matter, why in the world he ever alter that behavior?
He won’t is the short answer. But that doesn’t matter.
“I’m already looking forward to another exciting season of Auburn basketball,” Leath concluded.
Of course he is.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.
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