In the aftermath of Bruce Pearl's admission that he provided false and misleading information to the NCAA, many have repeated a common refrain: "He's lucky to have his job."
This is not exactly true. As Andy Katz reported last week, Pearl's contract includes clauses that protect him from termination until the NCAA makes a "ruling" that alleges Pearl committed a "significant violation." The contract is almost unprecedented in the level of protection it offers the coach; in most cases, that he-should-be-fired chorus would be right. But Pearl has a bit more leeway than that.
Whether he'll need it is another matter altogether. The NCAA will eventually rule on Pearl's behavior, and the seriousness of that ruling will have a lot to do with whether or not Tennessee decides to keep their embattled but prominent head coach after the dust settles. In the meantime, though, Pearl is publicly hoping that isn't the case. Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn saw Pearl at his first public appearance since the announcement press conference and asked Pearl whether or not the worst was yet to come:
"I don't know," Pearl told SI.com in an interview following the clinic. "We did what we felt like we needed to do, to take steps proactively to penalize ourselves. I think the penalties were unprecedented in some scope. But we made mistakes. We provided false and misleading information to the NCAA.
"I should be made an example of, and I am -- I'm embarrassed. But I hope that the things we did don't rise to the level of termination, because we run a clean program. We got investigated in a lot of areas."
As with his initial announcement, Pearl is handling this about as well as you can imagine anyone handling it. He's contrite, chastised, and apologetic. He isn't lashing out or deflecting blame. More than anything, though, he's being realistic. He very well could lose his job, and he seems to realize that much. In a weird way, that's sort of admirable.
Of course, giving good interviews isn't enough to keep one out of the NCAA's crosshairs. But if Pearl's job comes down to his ability to convince the NCAA Committee on Infractions that he understands what's at stake, he'll be in awfully good shape.