Bruce Pearl, now the former head coach of the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team, was let go on Monday after over a year’s worth of allegations and turmoil over illegal contact with recruits.
For a little background on the story you need only look back to the middle part of the fall semester when Pearl was suspended by the SEC (Southeastern Conference) for eight conference games for lying to the NCAA about infractions he had committed. During all of this time the athletics director for Tennessee, Mike Hamilton, did nothing to get ahead of this and show the rest of the conference and the country that he was serious about running a clean program.
Hamilton instead slapped Pearl on the wrist, took some of his money away and made him stay at home when his assistants were recruiting. He let Pearl coach throughout the year with this hanging over his and Pearl’s heads and chose to not stand up and say that his department would not stand for blatant and numerous violations.
Now that Hamilton has fired Pearl, just a few days after Tennessee was bounced from the NCAA tournament, many people are beginning to wonder why if this was the plan from the beginning of the season, why Pearl was allowed to coach at all?
Hamilton now looks bad for letting Pearl continue when clearly they wanted him out after the season and allowing him to coach because they were picked as one of the top teams in the SEC and the country heading into the year.
To make matters worse for Hamilton, it was not even his call that ultimately led to Pearl’s firing. The University of Tennessee’s chancellor Jimmy Cheek had the final say in the matter showing that Hamilton didn’t have either the guts or the concern to spare his athletics program from this.
Hamilton isn’t the first AD to be put in the line of fire for not putting his foot down when it came to proving he was willing to run a clean program with no exceptions. Former USC AD Mike Garrett was summarily fired from his post after failing to maintain order in his department and saying many people, including the NCAA suffered from “Trojan envy.”
Paul Krebs is another AD to fall into this category. In 2009, after the University of New Mexico head football coach punched one of his assistants, Krebs kept the coach giving him only a letter that was placed in his personnel file.
Athletics directors, especially at big-time programs, have got to start putting their foot down on issues with blatant NCAA violations. The people responsible for committing repeated violations have to be dealt with immediately instead of stringing the situations along until their backs are up against the wall.