SEC notebook: Slive sticks by Pearl penalty


Published: Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 10:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 11:20 p.m.

ATLANTA — When Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive suspended Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl for eight league games last November, he flexed significant disciplinary muscle.

Looking back, Slive said he has no regrets. Pearl violated NCAA rules by misleading investigators during an investigation into the recruitment of current Ohio State freshman point guard Aaron Craft.

Slive received some criticism for handing down the suspension, most notably from ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas. Bilas called Slive's decision to suspend Pearl “stupid” during a broadcast of a Tennessee-Pittsburgh game last December.

“The first amendment is alive is well,” Slive said with a chuckle.

“Obviously in my mind, I made the right decision for our league based upon all the facts and circumstances. There are those who are critical of it, but many who thought it was an appropriate penalty.”

The Vols went 5-3 under interim coach Tony Jones. They finished SEC play 3-5 with Pearl on the bench.

“What's interesting is I don't remember any other league doing that,” Slive said. “And what's interesting to me is since then the NCAA has suspended a coach (Connecticut men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun for three Big East games) and another institution (Ohio State) has suspended a coach (football coach Jim Tressel for two games). So it may be people are following suit.”

Pearl may not be out of hot water yet. An NCAA letter of allegations revealed another instance in which Pearl and Tony Jones had impermissible contact with a recruit, just four days after Pearl's teary press conference in which he admitted to lying to NCAA investigators. Tennessee has until May 21 to respond to the allegations.

“Those are all allegations at this point that the universities will have to deal with in the future,” Slive said. “Again it's important to remember it's an allegation. When we were dealing with the suspension we were dealing with established facts.”

Also of note

• Slive said he's pleased that possibility five or six SEC teams could make the NCAA Tournament, up from three league teams in 2009. “If you use that as a baseline we are continuing to make progress,” Slive said. “We obviously have an expectation that only two (at-large teams) in is in our rear-view mirror. We've got some teams playing very good basketball now and so we're optimistic, we remain optimistic about the progress that we're making and I expect it to get better than it is and have good years to come.”

• The SEC Tournament will be held in New Orleans in 2012, before entering a multi-year agreement with Nashville for the 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2019 seasons. “Our athletic directors have been interested in moving the tournament, exposing it in different parts of our region,” Slive said. “But as we move ahead we will begin to narrow the various venues that we go to. We've already decided to have four of them in Nashville and we like to be in Atlanta, too. There may be less movement than you see in the past, but there will probably always be some movement.”

Dome no big deal

Florida junior point guard Erving Walker and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton both said they have never played basketball in a dome stadium before.

But neither seemed fazed about the prospect of playing in the Georgia Dome, which serves as this year's site for the SEC Tournament.

“It's different?” Boynton asked, then shrugged his shoulders. “Well, we're not going by the past. We're just gonna play.”

Domed stadiums can sometimes create depth perception issues for shooters used to more conventional arenas. In the first two games of the SEC Tournament, no team shot better than 38.1 percent from 3-point range.

“To me a gym is a gym, a basketball court is the same thing,” Walker said. “I think the depth perception ... I don't believe in that stuff.”

Dogs deflect bubble talk

Georgia handled Auburn 69-51 Thursday afternoon to advance to a matchup Friday with top west seed Alabama. But whether that win was enough for the Bulldogs (21-10) to clinch an NCAA Tournament at-large berth remains to be seen.

Georgia coach Mark Fox said he hasn't allowed his team to focus on the bubble.

“We begin talking about the NCAA Tournament and resume games and those type of things back in November,” Fox said. “This week we haven't talked about it one time. So they looked at it that way. We never looked at it that way.

“Today was a chance to play in the SEC Tournament and a day to advance. And that's all we have talked about all week. And I haven't allowed them to talk about anything else.”

Pelphrey in more hot water

Arkansas coach John Pelphrey deflected questions Wednesday about his job status. On Thursday, following Arkansas' 74-68 loss to Tennessee, Pelphrey dealt with questions about an NCAA secondary violation.

A photo surfaced on CBSsports.com in which Pelphrey, a former Florida assistant from 1996-2002, posed with a pair of top 2012 high school prospects — Archie Goodwin (a consensus top-20 national recruit) and teammate Trey Smith. NCAA bylaws prohibit Division I coaches to have direct off-campus contact with recruits until July 1, after their junior seasons of high school are completed. The picture was taken at a high school basketball tournament in Conway, Ark.

"We're certainly very sensitive about those things," Pelphrey said. "We take all of that stuff very, very seriously. It will be looked into with regards to our compliance people. If there is something there we will certainly cooperate and be forthcoming."

It was another embarrassing moment for Pelphrey in an Arkansas season that fell below preseason expectations. The Razorbacks (18-13, 7-9) were eliminated from the opening round of the SEC Tournament for the third straight year. Asked if he felt like he's done enough to retain his job, Pelphrey responded: "We'll talk about our team tonight and we'll talk about the SEC Tournament. There will be a time for that reflection here at some point in time."

Etc.

Former Gator guard Craig Brown (1991-94) will be honored as Florida's legend before Friday night's UF quarterfinal game. Brown, who scored more than 1,400 points in his college career, was named most inspirational player, team captain and MVP of the 1994 Lon Kruger-coached Florida team that reached the Final Four for the first time in school history. ... South Carolina senior center Sam Muldrow had seven blocked shots in South Carolina's 66-55 loss to Ole Miss, two shy of an SEC Tournament record held by Kentucky's Andre Riddick. Riddick blocked nine shots against LSU in the 1993 SEC Tournament. ... Florida assistant coaches Larry Shyatt and Rob Lanier scouted the Tennessee-Arkansas game from press row. Florida will play the winner in Friday night's quarterfinals. The Florida team didn't attend the game, staying back at the hotel.

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