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Five for Friday: Phone calls, Pearl and the NCAA


Bruce Pearl just lost $2 million in salary and bonuses.

That'd make anybody cry, wouldn't it?

Bruce Pearl faces an uncertain future with an NCAA decision hanging. (US Presswire)  
Bruce Pearl faces an uncertain future with an NCAA decision hanging. (US Presswire)  
Let's do Five for Friday.

1. How serious is the situation with Tennessee basketball?

Very serious, clearly. The school called a late-afternoon news conference to announce that Pearl and his assistants -- Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay -- are all taking 25 percent pay cuts (which means a total of $2 million over the next five years for Pearl), and that they'll be banned from off-campus recruiting for various amounts of time. Pearl sat there at a table, apologized over and over again for "serious mistakes" and shed some tears for "letting a lot of people down." And the NCAA hasn't even ruled yet.

So things are bad.

And they could get worse.

2. Another scandal involving phone calls? Really?

There's a reason why a large part of the scandals at Indiana (under Kelvin Sampson) and Connecticut (under Jim Calhoun) centered on phone calls, and why North Carolina football assistant John Blake resigned earlier this week after hundreds of phone calls were discovered between he and a sports agent at the center of the investigation into UNC football. It's because phone calls cannot be disputed, and phone records are typically the launching pad for everything. A coach can deny offering cash to a family member, deny visiting a prospect during a dead period, deny cutting deals with agents, deny pretty much anything unless there is video, audio or a paper trail to prove it. But nobody can deny phone records. If the records say you called somebody 152 times, you called somebody 152 times. If the records say you spent 88 minutes on the phone with somebody, you spent 88 minutes on the phone with somebody. There is no gray area. There is no he-said/she-said. You either did it or you didn't. So one of the first things an NCAA investigator does when he or she starts looking into a program is request the phone records of everybody involved. From those, things are proven and leads are developed. And that's why we hear so much about phone records in this era of college athletics, because phone records are often the only indisputable trail of violations that coaches leave.

3. So why don't coaches get a second (i.e., secret) cell phone that isn't university issued?

Most of them do; that's among the other problems at Tennessee. Seems some of the coaches (if not all) had second cell phones that might've been used to make excessive contact with recruits, which, by the way, is a fairly common practice. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I tell you most high-major coaches and assistants have multiple cell phones -- one cell phone that's university issued, another that's in somebody else's name. Legal calls are made from the university cell phone, illegal calls from the other. Mistakes only happen when somebody gets reckless or confused. And it's a system that works perfectly ... right up until the NCAA finds the other cell phone, gets a number on it, pins it on you, and pours through the records. When that happens, well, here we are.

More on Tennessee

4. And Pearl misled the NCAA about the second phones and illegal phone calls?

Either that or something else; it's unclear, honestly. But what's known -- because Pearl acknowledged it -- is that he absolutely misled the NCAA about something, which means they asked him a question and he answered with a lie. As Dez Bryant can tell you, that's a big no-no with the NCAA. You can commit and self-report secondary violations all day and probably be cool, but if an NCAA investigator asks a question you'd better answer honestly or with the often-used "I don't recall." What you don't do is mislead or lie because there's a pattern of the NCAA hammering folks for doing those thing -- Bryant missing last football season at Oklahoma State being the most high-profile example.

5. So Alabama, Florida and Georgia allegedly have agent issues in football, South Carolina has football players living in hotels at reduced rates, Ole Miss enrolled a criminal quarterback, Kentucky has a freshman basketball player on campus who has been labeled a "pro" by the New York Times, and now Tennessee's basketball coach and top assistant won't be allowed to recruit off-campus for a year because of violations. Is there an SEC school that isn't sketchy?

Maybe Vanderbilt.

But you'd be naive to believe in anybody these days.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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