Wednesday you see him. Saturday you don’t.
Is it magic? No, it’s just a suspension. Back in November, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive suspended Pearl for the first eight SEC games as punishment for violating NCAA rules and providing false information to NCAA investigators.
That’s right, Pearl lied to the NCAA. If that sounds like a bad thing, it is. In the past, getting caught lying to the NCAA has usually resulted in a coach getting fired. If a player lied to the NCAA, you would likely never see that player in a college uniform again. He’d just move on to his pro career, where lying and not cooperating is far more common and acceptable (i.e. Brett Favre vs. the NFL).
For some reason, Pearl still coaches Tennessee even though he has been fired. That’s a fact. Pearl’s “Notice of Termination of Employment Agreement,” dated Sept. 9, 2010, has made its way around the Internet so we can all read it. It says the date of the termination is “October 8, 2010.” But on that date Pearl became “an employee at-will with no definite term of employment and will remain an employee at-will until the University enters into a new employment agreement with you.”
The NCAA still hasn’t ruled on the case. Slive took action as SEC commissioner but that doesn’t mean his preemptive strike was correct. It simply enabled the Tennessee administration to carry on along this ridiculous path that is a black eye on college sports, a shiner brighter than any of those orange jackets Pearl has ever worn during games.
It's nothing more than weak leadership. Jay Bilas said it was a “wait and see” approach. “Wait and hope” might be more accurate. Tennessee essentially is hoping the NCAA will say Slive’s punishment was enough and the whole thing will go away.
What a joke.
Pearl gets to be in practice, work his players, prepare them for games and then — based on all the reports — he must leave an arena two hours prior to tipoff and can’t rejoin his team until an hour after the game. Apparently, he won’t be around for meals or walk-throughs on game day.
Pearl says the suspension includes the ban of phone calls, e-mails or text messages at halftime or any other point during a game. “That would include any communication,” Pearl said. We’re not sure how that will be monitored or who will do it. But SEC opponents will have to put their trust in Slive and other conference officials that Pearl won’t be sitting in his hotel room with a laptop computer, diagramming plays and sending them to a student manager via .PDF files.
“The only thing that will be different on Saturday [is] I won’t be at the arena when we take on Arkansas. We’ll be a man down, but our team and coaching staff will respond.”
Associate head coach Tony Jones will slide into Pearl’s spot on the bench for the eight games he misses. Of course, the suspension is only for SEC games, so Pearl will be back in his usual spot on Jan. 22 when Tennessee plays Connecticut. That’s just another wacky element to this strange suspension.
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