Sleaze Has No Offseason: Pearl Devoid Of Ethics in APR Criticism

Mordecai BrownerAnalyst IMay 7, 2009

BIRMINGHAM, AL - MARCH 23:  Coach Bruce Pearl of the Tennessee Volunteers yells instructions to his team during the second round of the East Regional as part of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center on March 23, 2008 in Birmingham, Alabama.  (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)

March Madness may have faded from our collective rear-view mirrors, with the Tennessee Volunteers even further behind, but that does not stop Bruce Pearl from continuing his solemn trek to being college basketball's biggest tool.

When he's not paying teenagers to spy on their friends, getting kicked out of high school basketball games, revoking promised scholarships, lying to the NCAA, or scouting women on the beach, Pearl likes defending appallingly low academic standards.

Pearl, according to the Associated Press*, is now complaining about the Academic Progress Rate instituted by the NCAA to uphold some modicum of academic achievement in college athletics.  Under Pearl's warped ethical standards, the APR "discourages schools from giving opportunities to athletes who struggle academically."

No, it doesn't, and such a statement is almost as perverted as writing the NCAA a demonstrably false memo that an 18-year-old and his family are dirty while claiming no intention to harm said 18-year-old.

While the words themselves may seem innocuous, the intent oozes slime:  Bruce Pearl is upset because it's become harder for him to severely bend (most of us with moral pulses would say "break") the rules.

College is no place for those who continue to "struggle academically," regardless of vertical leap or quickness with the dribble.  The integrity of the entire university system is corrupted when those who "struggle academically" are given free passes at the university level.  Accredited schools in the United States, especially public ones like Tennessee, have a duty not to admit, retain, or graduate students who are well below academic par, all to the chagrin of used car salesmen like Bruce Pearl.

The APR is a great thing to help keep the integrity of college basketball in check, even if it came 25 years too late.

Of course, coaches can still take chances on guys who underperformed in high school, provided their admissions boards say yes.  Only now, with the APR, they actually have to do well in college.  Bruce doesn't like this one bit, as it counters his former strategy of taking academic risks and letting them do whatever they wanted.

The difference between Bruce Pearl and great coaches like Bobby Knight is that players under Knight, even if they weren't the greatest academically in high school, generally developed emotionally and academically while under a good coach's leadership.  To Pearl, however, young men are just pawns in a chess game where he writes the rules.

The APR does not discourage schools from taking kids; it discourages them from neglecting their duty to mold youth into productive, intelligent adults.

"Pearl...thinks colleges will pass over athletes who are more likely to hurt their APR scores in the future."  No, Bruce, that's only you.  Coaches who serve as real mentors like Coach K, Tom Izzo, and others, know that athletes can change and academic risks in high school can graduate college if they have work ethic and the right attitude.  You, on the other hand, view maturity and intellect as a static, immutable quality, probably because your said traits haven't increased since age sixteen.

Pearl may phrase his criticism in line with looking out for innocent high school kids, but in reality he's only looking out for number one while completely abnegating his duty as a leader.  He's no better than an irresponsible parent who argues for lower standards to pass their child to the next grade.

It continues to baffle me why anyone would send their son to play for Pearl.  Granted, I'm biased, but given his infantile behavior and ethical shortcomings, it's hard to imagine a responsible parent sending their boy to Knoxville, especially now knowing Pearl views athletes whether they can graduate or not with no intention to academically develop those who may rest on the borderline.

Look, I know big-money NCAA athletics doesn't fit its own ideals, but with the APR the NCAA has made an honest effort to maintain educational integrity.  It cannot have vocal coaches like Pearl using their marketing gimmicks and linguistic legerdemain to undermine the system for their own ends.

It's bad enough one University sees fit to employ a man who is the antithesis of what a great college basketball coach should be, a win-at-all-costs louse whose epidermis is so coated with despicable slime no amount of orange body paint can cover it up.


*Associated Press.  "Pearl: NCAA Academic Progress Rate discourages opportunities for students who struggle."  6 May 2009.  Accessed 7 May 2009, here:,0,2462140.story