September 18, 2010

Would NCAA suspend a coach for a season?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. We have two questions this week, one today and one Sunday.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl lied to NCAA investigators; last season, then-Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant lied to investigators and was ruled ineligible. Would the NCAA ever suspend a coach for a season?

David Fox's answer:
If I've learned anything over the past few months about NCAA punishments and investigations, it's that the NCAA's decisions are not created equal. Bryant shouldn't have lied to NCAA investigators. He should have been punished (but probably not to that extent). For a similar offense, Pearl should be held even more accountable for lying to the NCAA. Presumably, as a coach, he's supposed to have a better working knowledge of NCAA rules than a student-athlete; he's also being paid to follow those rules. Pearl wouldn't be the first coach to be suspended by the NCAA, but his legacy here may be to establish eligibility standards for coaches as well as players. Players can lose their eligibility in a ton of ways. Coaches can lose their jobs, or lose their ability to get new jobs, but only if they lose. Following the rules/operating with integrity are a distant second. If the NCAA wants to continue to clean up its member schools, it needs to hold coaches as accountable as players.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
The NCAA never has been fair in how it doles out punishment, and Pearl's situation certainly will be worth following. Tennessee already has announced it will dock him abut $1.5 million in pay over the next few seasons, and that's a harsh penalty. A harsher one, obviously, would be an NCAA-mandated suspension for three or four games. Given Pearl's background, I am extremely surprised he played this loose and fast with the rules. Unlike other coaches who whine and moan about coaches getting away with stuff but never do anything about it, Pearl turned in Illinois for cheating in the late 1980s. It's disappointing he felt the need to lie to the NCAA, and there is no way the NCAA is done with him.

Jason King's answer:
Would the NCAA ever suspend a coach? We'll have to wait and see. But it seems the organization would leave itself open for some well-deserved criticism if it doesn't remove Pearl from the sideline for a significant number of games. What kind of message would it send to suspend a player (Dez Bryant) for the rest of a season but not remove a coach (Pearl) from the sideline for the same transgression? The NCAA set a precedent with the Bryant case and it needs to maintain it. I can't believe I'm saying this, but a part of me thinks it will. I'm not saying Pearl will be gone for the entire season. But a handful of games wouldn't surprise me. His blatant disrespect for the NCAA will - and should - cost him.

Steve Megargee's answer:
This seemed like a good idea to me at first, but I wonder how tough it might be to enforce a coach's suspension. Suspending him for a certain number of games isn't enough because so much of a coach's work goes beyond the game itself. If the NCAA wanted to suspend a coach for a certain portion of the season, that coach also should be forbidden from leading practices, film sessions or any other team activities. And how would the NCAA be able to make sure the coach isn't involved in any of that? The difficulty in enforcing a suspension makes it difficult to hand down that type of punishment.

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