Thanks to a variety of recruiting shortcuts, mistakes and outright lies by former coach Bruce Pearl, new Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin inherited a brutally difficult job this offseason. By the end of the summer, Martin is likely to be overseeing a program with minimized scholarships, some form of probation and -- if the absolute worst happens -- a potential postseason ban, all of which could scare recruits away faster than you can say "another horrible shot by Scott Hopson."
Martin knew what he was getting himself into, of course, and he chose to come anyway. Clearly, he isn't backing down from the challenge. But he does find himself in a tough spot. Even tougher, perhaps, is the knowledge that he -- alongside school compliance officials, athletic director Mike Hamilton and chancellor Jimmy Cheek -- will attend Tennessee's hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions June 10-11.
There's not much Martin can add to the discussion at the hearing. After all, he was in Springfield, Mo., when Pearl hosted the barbecue heard 'round the world and wasn't even in a glint in Vols' fans eyes when Pearl lied to NCAA investigators about said barbecue. But he'll be attending anyway. From the Knoxville News Sentinel:
Tennessee men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin knows the Vols have challenges ahead on the court and on the recruiting trail. He just hopes an NCAA-imposed postseason ban isn’t involved.
“The biggest key with the recruits is what happens with the NCAA,’’ Martin said. “As long as there’s no postseason ban, we’ll be OK and we can weather the storm.’’
If there's any reason for Martin to attend the hearings -- other than being first-hand for a decision that will come to define his first few years in Knoxville, Tenn. -- it will be a symbolic one. Martin stands for the new era in Tennessee hoops, the one that doesn't cut corners or back away from scrutiny, the one that faces challenges head-first and so on and so forth -- you get the picture.
In the meantime, much of Tennessee's current case will revolve around the changes it has made on its own. See, Committee on Infractions? We fired that last guy! Here's the new one! He's a real straight shooter! You'll like him! Also, most of the players are gone, too, so you know, there's no reason to punish these guys any further, right? Right?
In the end, that might be Tennessee's best chance of avoiding a postseason ban. It's a tough spot for Martin, that's for sure. But it will be merely the first of many.