The latest incident with Bruce Pearl bringing the University of Tennessee basketball program under suspicion due to lying about recruiting calls simply echoes the issues going on across the campus. Tennessee football has, at least recently, been notorious for off the field issues, ranging from drug convictions to the unnecessary injury of a Knoxville Police officer outside of Bar Knoxville in early July 2010. You can suspend players, kick them off the team, scold them and say how "embarassed" you are at their actions, as Derek Dooley said of the incident in July. However, this is like a doctor treating the symptom and not the illness. While I seriously doubt this will ever happen, there is one word that should be engraved on the walls and doorways all around the campus and athletic department buildings at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville: integrity.
Integrity is defined by Merriam-Webster as a "firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values" (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity). In this sense, I am talking about moral integrity, the integrity my grandparents' generation actually practiced. This is the integrity that our churches and religious institutions attempt to instill in us. This is the morality the world has drifted so far away from. I think it is time to come back to integrity, to make the world a better place one University at a time.
Not too long ago, a man's word was his bond. A man could tell his neighbor he would return his hedge trimmers and actually do it. You could leave your doors unlocked at night and not have to worry about vandals or thieves. Are those days gone? Most likely. However, they don't have to be completely extinct. If there is anything that needs to be taught to our college students, the people on the cusp of the professional world, it is integrity.
Will Bruce Pearl get fired? Of course he won't. He's a good coach aside from this misstep and the Volunteers have been waiting for a good one to come along for a long time. The thing is, it isn't just Bruce Pearl's issue. This environment of lies and rebellion has been brewing on Tennessee's campus for a long time. I said goodbye to a childhood friend of mine about a year ago who was attending the University of Tennessee and was shot to death by a group of athletes because they owed him money. This has to end, but I don't see it happening anytime soon.
I guess integrity is a difficult concept to pick up if you grow up in the society we live in today. It may be the only saving grace for the University of Tennessee Knoxville.