The NCAA’s Verdicts On Calhoun & Pearl Raise More Questions

Posted by nvr1983 on February 23rd, 2011

Within a span of 24 hours the NCAA released a pair of statements that sent shock waves through NCAA coaching circles. The first involving Connecticut and its Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun had been expected since Yahoo! Sports broke the story on the recruitment of Nate Miles in March 2009, while the other involved Tennessee and both its basketball and football programs in an ongoing process, but just came to the media’s attention within the past year. While the verdict on Calhoun and the release of the NCAA’s notice of allegations against Tennessee has created quite a bit of controversy, they also raise a lot of questions.

Calhoun was less than thrilled with the NCAA's ruling

Before we get into the questions, it’s probably best to lay out each of the cases:

Connecticut

The Huskies were cited for the recruitment of Nate Miles that involved the use of a former student-manager-turned-agent Josh Nochimson who reportedly helped direct Miles to Storrs. Nochimson reportedly dealt with two UConn assistants in Patrick Sellars and Beau Archibald, both of whom are no longer with the program. According to the NCAA’s official release “the case includes more than $6,000 in improper recruiting inducements, (150) impermissible phone calls and (190) text messages to prospective student-athletes, failure to monitor and promote an atmosphere for compliance by the head coach, failure to monitor by the university, and unethical conduct by the former operations director, among other violations.”

The NCAA handed down the following penalties (our notes in italics):

  • Calhoun sits out the first three Big East games next year and cannot make calls to recruits for six months (This prevents him from scheduling extra soft cupcakes. The recruits can still call him, his assistants can call the recruits, and he can talk with the coaches of the recruits)
  • Three-year probation from February 22, 2011 through February 21, 2014
  • Archibald gets a two-year show-cause penalty (Basically an NCAA coaching death sentence — more on this in a bit. It is interesting to note that Sellars went unpunished by the NCAA)
  • Public disassociation of the involved booster (The booster was unnamed, but we are assuming it wasn’t this guy)
  • Loss of one scholarship for the 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13 seasons
  • Ban phones for first 30 days of recruiting period during the upcoming season (This sounds bad, but there are plenty of ways around it. As former St. John’s coach Norm Roberts notes, “Most kids have e-mail on their phone, so it’s really like a text message. You can be e-mailing them a ton. Kids don’t like to talk on the phone anyway.” And much like the Calhoun example above, players can call coaches and UConn can call the coaches of the players.)
  • Only two coaches (not the typical three) can make calls for six months after the notice of allegations (This was self-imposed by the school.)
  • Lose 40 days off-campus recruiting (90 days instead of 130) for the next three season (According to Dave Telep, most programs rarely use all 130 days.)
  • Limit of five official paid visits for 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons
  • The head coach, assistant coaches, and compliance staff must attend the NCAA Regional Rules Seminar (Our favorite part of the punishment. We imagine this being something like those classes you have to take after getting a speeding ticket to avoid points on your license. Bonus points if Bruce Pearl ends up at the same one. We can just imagine the awkward interaction between Calhoun and Pearl at one of the breaks while they get government-issue coffee.)

There have been arguments on both sides as to whether or not this was a harsh enough penalty (and you are welcome to debate in the comment section), but essentially the NCAA is saying that while Calhoun didn’t do anything directly illegal he did not demonstrate the appropriate level of supervision — basically an error of omission rather than commission.

Tennessee

The NCAA issued its notice of allegations against the school for activities pertaining to both its basketball and football programs. For the purposes of our site, we will focus on the ones relating to Bruce Pearl and leave those relating to Lane Kiffin to sites that like deciding their championships with a computer. The allegations against Pearl and the basketball program primarily relate to a cook-out he held at his house for high school juniors who he was recruiting on September 20, 2008. The most prominent of those recruits was current Ohio State starting guard Aaron Craft. When photos and information about the event (which was against NCAA regulations) surfaced, Pearl denied any knowledge of the event and according to some sources tried to influence others to change their stories to cover for Pearl.

We are guessing that Pearl won't be all smiles on May 21st

As we all know Pearl subsequently fessed up to his lies and has already received several penalties (losing $1.5 million in salary and an eight game SEC suspension, from which he recently returned), but he still hasn’t received a punishment from the NCAA. Although many media entities have stated that Calhoun’s relatively light penalty bodes well for Pearl, we would argue that those media members are looking at the wrong UConn coach. The more pertinent one in this case is Archibald (yes, the previously fired assistant coach).

As you may recall, the one thing that the NCAA hates more than anything (OK, other than questionable semi-professional Turkish contracts) is when someone lies to them. That’s where the NCAA got Archibald, and let Sellars off. The key thing that comes into play here is the show-cause penalty, which pretty much says that, while it is in effect, that individual may not be hired by another NCAA institution without permission from the NCAA, and the institution would need to explain why they shouldn’t be penalized for hiring that person before the penalty is over. It essentially amounts to a blacklist. In fact, it often acts as one for life, as only one men’s college basketball head coach (Todd Bozeman) has overcome it to get another head coaching job in college and that is at Morgan State, which is a far cry from his prior job at California, but we should note that Bozeman has gotten them to the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons.

The big question is whether the NCAA will come at Pearl with the hammer — the dreaded show-cause penalty. To be perfectly honest, we aren’t certain that they will, especially given the fact that Tennessee and the SEC have already hit him with fairly substantial penalties, but as Dana O’Neil points out, precedent argues pretty strongly in favor of Pearl getting it. In the past two years, twenty individuals have been charged with unethical conduct by the NCAA (and lying to the NCAA is one of the things that falls under that category). In nineteen of those cases, the individual received at least a two-year show-cause penalty. The only person to escape the wrath of the NCAA was a former graduate assistant who was no longer employed by the school where he had committed the unethical act, and is no longer in coaching. So as things currently stand, it doesn’t look too good for Pearl. At the very least we expect that Pearl would get a two-year show-cause, which would be handed down by the NCAA when it announces its punishment for Tennessee on May 21st. Some writers, such as Sports Illustrated‘s Steward Mandel, have stated that Pearl “is a dead man walking. He will either resign after this season or wait until the final verdict, at which point the school will have no choice but to fire him.”

We agree, Bruce. Things are not looking so good right now.

Even though Pearl is relatively young at 50 years-old, a two-year show-cause penalty would keep him out until he was at least 52 years-old. At that time he would most likely have to start out at a low-major, and we are not sure that someone of Pearl’s ego (seriously, have you seen the way he feeds off the TV lights unless they are for one of his confessional conferences?) could stand a one-bid conference even for a few years. Our guess that is instead of being forced to dream of getting a shot at being on national TV once or twice a year in March, this would spell the end of Pearl’s once promising coaching career.

nvr1983 (1324 Posts)


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