Ds Scholarship

NCAA infractions committee lets Auburn, Bruce Pearl off easy in case that developed from FBI investigation

When the Department of Justice announced the results of its investigation into the basketball talent game more than four years ago, the element that always seemed most troubling was the accusation that Chuck Pearson, one of the greatest players in Auburn basketball history, brought the program as an assistant. The head coach, has accepted nearly $100,000 to direct players to a designated financial advisor.

It wasn’t about someone trying to win basketball games by violating recruiting rules. This charge, which the person eventually pleaded guilty to, had actual victims: athletes who were pressured by someone they trusted to take actions that may not have been in their best interests.

So who do you think that the violations committee of the National Universities Sports Authority punished severely for all this?

Well, of course, student-athletes!

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The players in the 2020-21 Tigers were the ones to be suspended after the season ended, a penalty that Auburn imposed on himself after all players signed up and could no longer move on and go to school elsewhere. It’s a shady maneuver that has the effect of protecting the program at the expense of those already in place.

The infringement commission also accepted Auburn’s self-imposed reduction in scholarships last season and insisted that Auburn “reduce the number of scholarships by two” during a four-year probationary period.

Coach Bruce Pearl, who the panel found “violated the Head Coach Responsibility rules” because he did not adequately monitor the person and “failed to foster an atmosphere of compliance,” received a two-game suspension. That’s it, though, though Pearl was hit with a three-year penalty from a wrongdoing case while he was Tennessee State’s head coach.

Speaking on behalf of the Offenses Committee, Vince Nextru of the Big East Conference said Friday that Perle’s record has been taken into account. Cited as an aggravating factor, Nicastro said, “It was factored into Coach Pearl’s penalty kick.”

One could assume that if Pearl’s previous record was pure, the wrongdoing commission might have chosen to punish him with a trip to Hawaii.

The person was tasked with a 10-year court fine, which basically means nothing because the odds are high against any athletic director hiring someone with a criminal conviction and only three seasons of college training on their resume.

Nothing that came out of the whistleblower committee’s announcement seemed to bear any connection to the apparent seriousness of the case nor to its previous harsh punishment against the state of Oklahoma.

In June 2020, the Cowboys were subject to a one-year post-season ban because one of his assistants, on the staff for just over a year and hired by a coach no longer with the program, pleaded guilty to accepting $22,000 in bribes. The committee appears to have considered a case from 2015 in the OK State football program as an aggravating factor.

So the infringement commission scared the Cowboys more than Auburn for something that happened in another sport, but she hit Auburn basketball with a feather even though her case, due to the amount of money involved, could be considered one of the most outrageous. Those that evolved from FBI operations.

The NCAA has been using scholarship sanctions in an effort to appear proactive for decades. When recruited to the extreme, as when 30 Southern California scholarships were rescinded over a three-year period, they can severely impair a team’s competitiveness.

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Auburn’s punishment is only cosmetic, and the sanctioned are athletes who would not benefit from a free education. For more than a decade, NCAA membership and the Wrongdoing Committee has refused to even consider this fact: a scholarship penalty inevitably means denying someone the opportunity to free education, because NCAA scholarship restrictions mean the pool of such awards is limited. A player who is denied the opportunity to play for Auburn can find a home in the UAB, but then a recruit who may have gotten to play with the Blazers must look elsewhere. Eventually, this food chain runs out of links.

So the NCAA Offenses Committee is using this punishment because of… well, habit.

“It’s clearly a penalty that has been used in a very standard way across cases like this and other similar cases for a long time,” Nicastro told Sporting News. “This is the punishment that has been made available to the Committee by the members as one of those which can be meaningful in providing appropriate consequences for schools that break the rules.”

Indeed, the most severe consequences fall on a few young people who are completely unrelated to any of this.

And to the five Auburn players in last year’s tournament who are no longer with the program.

Pearl will return to the Auburn seat in a week.

Auburn will return to the NCAA Championship this year.

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