University of Tennessee (and Maccabi USA) men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl is a favorite of Tablet Magazine’s, even if he did a stupid thing. What was the stupid thing? He ran afoul—knowingly, it turns out—of NCAA recruiting guidelines by making excessive calls and hosting prospective players and their families for a barbecue. His punishments have included a termination of his current contract, with him negotiating for a new one that will dock his salary $1.5 million over five years, if he gets one; a ban on off-campus recruiting for one year; and current status as an at-will employee, which means he could be fired, permanently, at any time.
The fact is, the guy screwed up. The further facts are, he is still, ethically speaking, in approximately the top, top percentile among coaches at major college sports programs, most of whom are truly horrible; he is still a mensch, who tearfully apologized and admitted wrongdoing (it is notable that Maccabi USA is supporting him); the NCAA’s rules are still insanely byzantine and designed primarily to give it maximum power; and he is still a great coach. I hope he keeps his job.
In fact, if you want to question whether something is rotten in the city of Knoxville, it might be better to look at UT’s head football coach, Derek Dooley. After a loss to SEC rival Alabama, Dooley had this to say about his team’s communication breakdown:
Right now we’re like the Germans in World War II. Here comes the boats, they’re coming. You have the binoculars, and it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, the invasion is coming.’ That’s what they did, they were in the bunkers. It’s coming, they call Rommel — they can’t find Rommel. (Pretending to speak into a radio.) ‘What do we do? I’m not doing anything until I get orders.’ (Pretends to look through binoculars.) ‘Have you gotten Rommel yet?’ I don’t want the German people to get upset at me. I’m not attacking them, but that’s what happened. You had one group, they weren’t worried about what the plan was and orders and all that. When the war hits, things change. You’ve got to go. You had the other group, and they go, ‘Wait a minute. They told us the invasion was way further north’ where we had the empty tanks and we were hidding Patton out. ‘We weren’t ready for this, now what do we do?’ ‘We better wait until Rommel tells us what to do.’
Well, at least he meant the Nazi comparison in a bad way, sorta.