Dez Bryant: Meet Bruce Pearl

By Berry Tramel
Updated: September 18, 2010

OKLAHOMA — Last week, Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl tearfully admitted he misled NCAA investigators.

The university has self-imposed punishments on Pearl: $1.5 million in docked salary, over five years, plus a one-year ban on off-campus recruiting.

Pearl claimed he hadn’t hosted high school juniors in his home, then was presented with photos of that very NCAA violation.

The NCAA has not issued any findings in the case yet, which includes probes into the Tennessee football and men’s basketball programs.

Pearl is in a jam. But so is the NCAA. Last September, NCAA investigators caught Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant in a lie. He, too, misled investigators. Bryant told them he had not associated with former NFL star Deion Sanders, when in fact Bryant had.

The NCAA doesn’t like being lied to. It dropped a one-year hammer on Bryant. Suspended him for a full season, saying he could be eligible again in the third game of the 2010 season.

Bryant, of course, chose to enter the NFL Draft last spring.

Now comes Pearl lying to the NCAA.

There are two notable differences in the case.

1. Bryant lied about something that, turns out, WAS NOT AN INFRACTION OF NCAA RULES. He wasn’t sure about that. He didn’t know. He was scared he was going to get in trouble, so he lied. And he paid a one-year price. Pearl lied about something that absolutely was a violation of NCAA rules.

2. Pearl is a coach, who is paid millions of dollars by the Volunteers, and whose career is long and can go another 20 years perhaps. Bryant was a player whose NCAA window was short. Four years maximum as a player; 13/4 years left when the scandal broke.

Now the question. How in the world can Bruce Pearl avoid a severe — at least one year, perhaps more — suspension from the NCAA? How in the world can the NCAA NOT drop the hammer on Pearl? Ban him from games. Ban him from the sideline.

Ban him from the locker room. Ban him from the team bus.

I’ve got news for the NCAA. Big-time football and basketball coaches have become like professional athletes. It no longer is possible to hit them in the wallet. You can’t fine them enough to hurt them. The only repercussion that packs a punch is suspension. A meaningful suspension.

A you-can’t-play-for-a-year-Dez suspension. And make it legit.

Last March, OSU point guard Andrea Riley served a one-game NCAA Tournament suspension for hitting an LSU player during a 2008 NCAA game.

That suspension included no locker room, no bus ride, no team bench, no nothing, on game day.

Seems like what’s good for the athletes at OSU should be good for the coach at Tennessee. If honesty is the policy, it should be the policy for everyone. Those who wear cleats and those who wear Italian shoes.

Those who don’t have legal representation and those who corporate law firms at their call.

At the age of 20, Dez Bryant paid a high price for his dishonesty.

Does the NCAA demand the same from its 50-year-olds?