One lesson for coaches this summer? Speak the truth

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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Fear.

Finally, in the wake of the recent forced dismissals of Ohio State's Jim Tressel and Tennessee's Bruce Pearl that crossed sporting lines, coaches are scared.

Obviously, the lesson they have learned: tell the truth.

But there's clearly more to it than that. The coaching community is on edge.

Thad Matta believes with the new task force, coaches will take heed. (Getty Images)  
Thad Matta believes with the new task force, coaches will take heed. (Getty Images)  
"The answer is yes," Buckeyes men's basketball coach Thad Matta said when asked about the presence of that sentiment. "Obviously, with the new task force, there appears to be more of a sense of urgency."

"Loud and clear," added Notre Dame's Mike Brey. "Coaches understand now they need to handle their business the right way -- and I personally welcome it."

But some, like Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, aren't quite as convinced that the recent NCAA activity will totally change the culture, one in which plenty of coaches feel they can do whatever they want without much concern over the repercussions.

"I hope so," Coach K said. "But I still think people feel that it won't be them."

Krzyzewski isn't the only veteran guy who feels that way.

"I'm just not sure," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "Who knows?"

Pearl was fired by Tennessee just days after the season ended for lying to the NCAA about illegally hosting recruits at his home on an unofficial visit, hardly an offense that would ordinarily cost someone their job.

Tressel is now history in Columbus after he lied as well, with his record of success ultimately crumbling under the weight of those lies. Tressel was 106-22 in his decade as the head coach in Columbus. He won the national championship in 2002 and had a 9-1 mark against rival Michigan.

His reputation, relative to the rest of college football, was squeaky-clean.

Pearl didn't have the same clean-cut rep, but took a somewhat irrelevant program down in Knoxville and made the Vols legitimate Final Four contenders. His resume shows six seasons and six NCAA tournament appearances -- including an Elite Eight two years ago.

The combined records of Tressel and Pearl are an astounding 251-83. Now both are counting their earnings on the unemployment line.

"It definitely makes people sit up and take notice," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "Sometimes people make mistakes. Just be up front about it."

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"Everyone's attentive," said Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli. "I think everything that's happened does matter."

Tressel and Pearl aren't the only coaches who have lost their jobs due to being less than truthful. Former Radford coach Brad Greenberg -- older brother of Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg -- was forced out after he also lied to the NCAA about taking a player on road trips who wasn't eligible to do so.

And now we have the situation with Oregon football coach Chip Kelly, whose program is in the midst of an NCAA investigation for paying a scouting service with ties to recruits that ultimately wound up playing for the Ducks.

Kelly could be next.

Even Michigan State's Tom Izzo, considered to be among those of the highest integrity in college basketball circles, felt the wrath of the NCAA. He was suspended for one game last season due to employing an individual associated with a prospect at one of his camps, which is against NCAA rules.

"It was the most embarrassing moment of my career," Izzo said.

It showed no one is immune.

Many coaches interviewed feel those who have been cheating for years are unlikely to change their ways, but that those who have lived in the grey area are now fearful enough to think twice about losing their lucrative jobs.

Others said that the media, which is often ahead of the NCAA in sniffing out below-board practices, has made as significant a contribution to the renewed 'fear factor' as the NCAA's harder-line approach.

"Guys aren't nearly as scared of the NCAA as they are of the media," said one high-major head coach who requested anonymity. "That's the way this game will get cleaned up."

I'm not sure the sport will ever be cleaned up, but watching high-profile names such as Tressel and Pearl lose their jobs should help. At least in the near future.

"Some coaches are just dumb," Louisville's Rick Pitino said. "But I think this is a wake-up call."

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