Commentary

Bruce Pearl's big mistake

Updated: September 13, 2010, 12:01 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

What is going on in the world of college athletics? It has been a period where the headlines have featured sad stories.

Down at Tennessee, it was tough to watch Bruce Pearl's press conference, where he admitted giving misleading information to the NCAA during an investigation of recruiting violations. Excessive contact with recruits was one aspect of the investigation.

Vols Athletic Director Mike Hamilton jumped on the situation right away. In a pre-emptive punishment, he is reducing Pearl's pay by $1.5 million over five years and prohibiting him from off-campus recruiting for a year. There could be more significant fallout to the school and to Pearl.

When you think about it, this is a big blow to Pearl. He is not only taking a hit in the wallet, but this will hurt his recruiting in the future, and rightfully so.

Did Hamilton make this move to help save his career? Let's face it, there have been a number of off-field incidents involving student athletes, plus the hiring of Lane Kiffin turned out to be a nightmare. Now this, with the possibility of the NCAA coming down hard on the Tennessee men's basketball program, and you have to wonder what will come next.

This move by Hamilton is a way of trying to show the NCAA that the school is handling this situation. The Vols home to limit the sanctions in the future, hoping for leniency.

When you think about the issue with college football players and basketball players with agents, plus the UConn basketball issue and Kansas basketball ticket scandal still in play, it is a tough time for college athletics.

This is also a big black eye to the SEC, which has had its share of bad news in recent years.

In a way, this Bruce Pearl story is ironic. Do you think some fans in Champaign, Illinois are happy to see Pearl suffer a bit? Remember, he turned in the Illini on the Deon Thomas dilemma years ago.

Pearl seemed genuine in his apology and truly heartfelt. The bottom line is, his resume will be affected forever by this error in judgment.

I happen to like Pearl as a person. He is very generous in working with charities. His enthusiasm and energy has helped the Vol program, but right now, he has to deal with a big mistake. Fans down in Knoxville will have to deal with the possibility of more penalties being issued by the NCAA as well.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.