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Pearl’s Suspension Set, Vols Are Back on Track

Why Tennessee is still our team

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Coach Bruce Pearl in November.(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Immediately after I lauded Coach Bruce Pearl’s then-#11 Tennessee Volunteers for defeating then-#3 Pittsburgh, Tablet Magazine’s official team went into a tailspin, achieving a 2-4 record over the rest of December, including a three-game losing streak, to mid-major teams. As this blogpost notes, it was not exactly where the Vols, who reached the Elite Eight in last year’s NCAA Tournament, wanted to be upon entering January and their conference schedule, the first eight games of which Pearl will be barred from coaching due to NCAA violations.

The blogpost above wonders why he still has a job; I won’t repeat my sermon about how big-time NCAA competition is inherently and irredeemably corrupt, and that the only thing notable about Pearl’s transgressions was that he got caught and that he was genuinely contrite. Nor will I spend much time reminding you that he is a spectacular coach and all-around mensch. I merely want to note that last night, playing their final out-of-conference game, the Vols demolished the in-state rival #22 Memphis Tigers (coached by Josh Pastner, also a Member of the Tribe), 104-84. They, in other words, are back.

Finally, a thank-you to the above blogpost for reminding me that Tennessee’s program in the 1970s was the site of the “Ernie and Bernie Show”—Ernie as in Ernie Grunfeld, as in one of the players you can select in our Choose Your All-Time Jewish-American Starting Five game. Go Vols, indeed!

Ten Games Go a Long Way for Bruce Pearl’s Future [CBS Sports]
Related: We’ve Got Game
It’s the Bernie and Ernie Show [Sports Illustrated]
Earlier: Scandal Passing, Pearl’s Vols Enjoy Success

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Eric F. says:

The NCAA may be corrupt but that’s not the point. What was most notable about Pearl’s transgressions was that he knew he was violating the rules, told the recruits involved in the rules violation that he knew they were violating the rules and not to tell anyone about it, and then lied to NCAA investigators about violating the rules. Once he got busted for lying by Tennessee, then he was contrite. Doesn’t seem as menschy as you make it out to be. Read about it here.

eric F says:

No response to this, Mr. Tracy? Oh well, I guess if the facts don’t agree with your perception of the situation, you just ignore them…

Jc charkhian says:

We love Bruce, Go big Orange!

Marc Tracy says:

my response is what I’ve said before: he broke the rules. no one denies this. he should not have broken the rules. not ‘fessing up to doing so until being caught is pretty part and parcel with that. I am saying that even with teh fact that he broke the rules, he is oen of the biggest mensches in big-time college sports, which is an inherently corrupt thing.

Michael Lustig says:

Thanks for the SI link to the Tennessee “Bernie & Ernie Show” article from 1976! As a long-time (and often suffering) Knicks fan, it was nice to revisit an earlier period in the careers of some Knicks greats!

eric F says:

I’m sure Bruce Pearl is a nice guy. I just don’t know how you can call someone one of the biggest mensches in college basketball when he cheated so blatantly and then lied about it–and argue, essentially, everybody does it. Being a mensch does include being an honorable person, doesn’t it?

Of course, the fact that everyone cheats isn’t really true anyway. I won’t use Mike Krzyzewski because I know you’re not a Duke fan, so how about Gary Williams? He doesn’t cheat. Being suspended by your own school for eight conference games is unprecedented, because what Pearl did was unprecedented–at least for someone who wasn’t fired by his school. For a guy who was basically blackballed 20 years ago for turning in another coach for cheating, it’s very disappointing.


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Pearl’s Suspension Set, Vols Are Back on Track

Why Tennessee is still our team

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