NCAA Basketball: Tennessee Self-Imposes Penalties, But Not Enough

First of all, I know that Kentucky and Tennessee are rivals in the SEC, rather more technically these days than actually, at least when it comes to football.  The basketball rivalry, however, is still alive and well, although the question of whether or not Cuonzo Martin can sustain it at its current level is open to question. 

With that said, I do not wish Tennessee to be crushed by sanctions from the NCAA.  It's bad for the entire SEC, and while they may be UK rivals, it's no fun to beat a rival that has been decimated by NCAA sanctions.  If schadenfreude must be had, the embarrassment should be sufficient by itself.

Tennessee has self-imposed two years of probation on itself among other very minor restrictions in addition to the various penalties it has imposed along the way during the buildup to the final NCAA ruling.  It's reasoning is thus:

"Sadly, this became a case of a head coach and his assistants following a somewhat correctable secondary violation with a series of bad decisions," the response reads. "Those decisions put a proud and reputable program in substantial jeopardy and eventually led to the termination of employment of the four coaches, each of whom had a promising future at the University."

Would that this were true, but it isn't.  It is one thing for Bruce Pearl to have inadvertently violated the NCAA prohibition against having recruits over to his barbecue that ultimately lead to his lie to the NCAA investigators.  That would indeed be a secondary violation. 

But the evidence demonstrates that Pearl knew he was breaking the rules, and did so with malice aforethought and a deliberate attempt to gain a recruiting advantage.  That raises any NCAA violation, in my view, to the level of a major violation for which at minimum the failure to monitor charge comes into play. Anytime a head coach shows deliberate contempt for the rules, not just carelessness or inappropriate ignorance, it will boil the NCAA's blood, and should.

In the end, Tennessee will have to surrender scholarships in its basketball program, as almost every major recruiting violator would be expected to.  Regardless of what the UT attorneys say, this cannot be considered by any means a secondary violation, and it is insulting to me that they have tried to couch it as one.  I don't think these attorneys have effectively represented Tennessee, and I expect that the NCAA will be very displeased.

I hope the NCAA does not overreact in this case.  This UT response absolutely invites them, nay, dares them to do so, but I hope they decline the invitation.  What Pearl did was ... indescribably wrong, and at least to the level of Jim Tressel's malfeasance at Ohio State. Pearl has no defense whatever available to him, and at least Tressel has the defense of abject stupidity, even if that seems a major reach given the resources available to him.

I hope I'm wrong, Volunteers, but I think the NCAA is going to demand more.  Maybe much more.

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