Commentary

Bruce Pearl's dismissal overdue

Updated: March 21, 2011, 5:40 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

The Bruce Pearl era at Tennessee is over.

My friends, the University of Tennessee should have acted once Pearl admitted he lied to the NCAA about his role in a barbecue at his house involving a pair of potential recruits. When the school and athletic director Mike Hamilton did not make a move, it left Pearl twisting in the wind.

[+] EnlargeBruce Pearl
Mark Zerof/US PresswireBruce Pearl was fired after six seasons at Tennessee.

But Hamilton was also wrong to tell a radio station that his coach may not be back just a few days before the Vols played their opening-round NCAA tournament game. I believe that had an effect on the Tennessee players in their 30-point loss to Michigan. That was not fair to Pearl or his team.

The bottom line is that Pearl did not tell the truth and he has paid the price. He gave up $1.5 million, was suspended for eight SEC games and has now lost his job.

The Tennessee program will have to deal with potential NCAA sanctions. But now the school can go to the committee on infractions and say it has taken action by firing Pearl.

As for Pearl's legacy -- he has been a winner. He led the Vols to six straight NCAA appearances and he helped raise interest in the program. Plus, he did a lot of great things for charities in the community.

I think he will eventually get another chance to prove himself on the sidelines. His energy and enthusiasm will help a program in need of a boost. That won't happen right away because a potential employer may be concerned about NCAA sanctions against Pearl, but I could see him coming back to the coaching profession in two years.

For now, the saga down in Knoxville has come to an end.

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.