Saturday night Pearl was back in the spotlight — and back in Thompson-Boling Arena — co-hosting with wife Brandy a gala fundraiser for cancer awareness.
But on the professional front, UT fans who cheered his victories the past six years are wondering what the future holds for Pearl.
Pearl, no doubt, wonders as well.
When a coach runs afoul of the NCAA rules, his career is impacted. The impact can range from a stern letter for his personnel file all the way to a firing squad. Well, a metaphorical firing squad anyway.
Pearl’s case still is months from resolution. The allegations already have cost him his job at UT. But what about his next job?
He goes before the Committee on Infractions in June. Then he awaits the committee’s penalties.
The charge of unethical conduct is troublesome. If the NCAA hands down the dreaded show-cause penalty, his coaching future is in jeopardy.
A show-cause penalty would make it virtually impossible for a school to hire Pearl for the duration of the sanction. History hasn’t been kind to past recipients.
Minnesota’s Clem Haskins was hit with a seven-year show-cause in 1999. He hasn’t coached since and is retired to his cattle farm in Kentucky.
Dave Bliss was hammered with a 10-year show-cause penalty in 2003 at Baylor. These days he’s athletic director at a private academy in Bryan, Texas.
Lying to the NCAA got Indiana’s Kelvin Sampson a five-year show-cause penalty in 2008. He’s an NBA assistant who will be available again in 2013.
Todd Bozeman might be the first show-cause sanctionee to return to Division I coaching.
He was hit with an eight-year penalty in 1995 at California for lying to the NCAA. He passed the time as an NBA assistant and scout until 2006, when Morgan State hired him.
Five years later, he’s 102-65, and still at Morgan State.
A show-cause penalty can be appealed, usually to no avail. On Friday, the NCAA upheld its sanction against Southern Cal assistant football coach Todd McNair, a key figure in the Reggie Bush case.
But former Ohio State basketball coach Jim O’Brien fought and won. O’Brien was fired for several infractions, including lying, in 2004. He eventually won a lawsuit against the university and got two years knocked off his show-cause penalty.
He never coached again, though.
Rick Neuheisel is another survivor. Washington fired him as football coach in 2002 for, among other things, lying to investigators. The NCAA, however, stopped short of a show-cause penalty.
Neuheisel went to court and won a $4.5 million settlement from the school and the NCAA. After a stint as an NFL assistant, he returned to the big time at UCLA in 2008.
Basketball coach Jim Harrick was fired at UCLA for lying in 1997. But he lied to the school, not the NCAA. Thus, no show-cause. He sat out a year, got hired at Rhode Island and then at Georgia.
He resigned in the midst of another scandal in 2003, but it was his son and assistant, Jim Jr., who got a seven-year show-cause sanction.
And, meanwhile, Jim Calhoun coaches on at UConn, with a third national championship ring. All he got from the NCAA investigation was a three-game suspension. His aide, Beau Archibald, got the show-cause and the pink slip.
Pearl might dodge the show-cause bullet. He might not. His eight-game suspension, already served, is a unique wrinkle.
If he doesn’t get hammered — or if he does, but for not too long — he’ll be back on somebody’s bench whipping up the crowd.
So a lot of folks are watching to see how the NCAA punishes him.
Jim Tressel, for one.