Cooper sees Pearl-Tressel parallels

Powell native familiar with Ohio State, UT

Ohio State, Tulsa and Arizona State coach John Cooper, 1977-2000, points to a fan during the Enshrinement Parade, Saturday July 18, 2009 in South Bend, Ind. Coaches and players will be enshrined Saturday night.

Photo by Joe Raymond, Associated Press

Ohio State, Tulsa and Arizona State coach John Cooper, 1977-2000, points to a fan during the Enshrinement Parade, Saturday July 18, 2009 in South Bend, Ind. Coaches and players will be enshrined Saturday night.

Jim Tressel resigned as the football coach of Ohio State last month after failing to disclose knowledge of improprieties by his players.

John Cooper is much closer to the more recent NCAA case that has netted a high-profile coach.

But he can easily make a connection with the previous one that went down near his old hometown as well.

The former Ohio State football coach and Powell native is obviously more versed in the issues that led to the resignation of Jim Tressel earlier this week thanks to the Coach Emeritus office Cooper occupies for the Buckeyes. But given both his professional background and continued fondness for East Tennessee, Cooper had no problem identifying the common thread for the two major programs as they deal with NCAA troubles - and how it could have been avoided.

"The message is loud and clear, and that's what the NCAA is for," Cooper said Friday by phone. "It caught up with Bruce Pearl, it caught up with Coach Tressel - you can't mislead them.

"You've got to tell the truth."

Whether it was considered outright lying, a deceptive cover-up or something else entirely, both Pearl and Tressel ultimately paid with their jobs as the NCAA was digging into their programs.

Pearl lost his after a lengthy investigation into UT basketball led to his firing in March, with his false testimony about a photograph depicting a rules violation at a barbecue among the most widely publicized aspects of the case.

After 10 years of dominating the Big Ten, posting a winning percentage of .828 and winning a national championship, Tressel just resigned from his job after details emerged about him failing to disclose knowledge of players trading memorabilia for tattoos months before the 2010 season - violations that would have made them ineligible for at least part of the campaign.

While the two cases are far from carbon copies of each other, Cooper suggested both could have kept their jobs by following the same blueprint while also bristling at the notion that a cheating pandemic has overtaken collegiate sports.

"What disturbs me is that there's a lot of people out there who think it's no big deal and it's going on all over," Cooper said. "I don't believe that. I might be in the minority, but I don't believe there's a lot of widespread cheating going on in college athletics. ... I feel very strongly that you can run a clean program. I was a head coach for 24 years, and one thing I am very proud of is the NCAA wasn't on my campus. I'm not telling you we never did anything illegal, but knowingly we did not do anything illegal.

"There's pressure on you to win when you're coaching at schools like I did. But I was fortunate at Tulsa, Arizona State and certainly here at Ohio State, I think you can say the same thing about Tennessee, you are going to have good players. You don't have to bend the rules. I'm not saying these guys did. I'm not telling you they did or didn't, that's not up to me to decide, but I am saying you don't have to. You're going to have better players than most teams you're playing."

That was definitely true for Tressel, who claimed one national crown and was in the mix for several others during his run with the Buckeyes. Pearl might not have built a program as nationally recognized as Ohio State football, but he did rebuild the Vols from almost nothing into an annual threat in the SEC and took them within a few seconds of a trip to the Final Four in 2010.

And while the levels of success might not be exact parallels, Pearl and Tressel share more than a few characteristics as they head into an uncertain future in the coaching ranks.

"It disappoints you to see coaches like Bruce Pearl and like Jim Tressel lose their jobs when they're great coaches with a great record and they're great people," Cooper said. "Gosh, it would take me a week to tell you all the great things Jim Tressel has done for the people up here in Columbus, and I'm sure Coach Pearl was the same way - all the things he does for charity, different golf outings and speaking engagements and fundraising and on and on and on.

"The players absolutely loved (Tressel). The mistake he made was not going down to the compliance people, saying, 'Hey, we've got a problem. Let's do this and this and this.' He didn't do that, and it cost him his job."

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward

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Comments » 28

dvhill100 writes:

It will be interesting to see what if any parallels in punishment are drawn between Tressel and Pearl. I get the whole different situation thing, but both lied/mislead/intentionally deceived the NCAA. The NCAA has no institutional humor where that is concerned.

VolinCalif writes:

Sounds good to Me.

earlofsandwich writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Excellent point!

dk writes:

Coaches Pearl and Tressel both lied to the NCAA. That is the only parallel that I see from these two cases. Pearl lied about a secondary violation which is just a dumb lack of thinking on his part. Admit it and you get a slap on the wrist and "don't do that again".

Tressel knew about the major violations that were being carried on with his players and chose to cover it up, lied to the NCAA about it, and then petitioned the NCAA to allow his players to participate in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas so OSU could finally end their losing streak against the SEC. (Which they did narrowly)

How hard is the NCAA going to come down on these two programs? I don't know. If they are only considering that the coaches lied to them, then the punishments shouldn't be much different, but since they say that each case is handled differently, one may get a lighter sentence than the other and I'm not sure which one gets the hammer. The NCAA loves their OSU.

VolAtUGA11 writes:

I agree with dk and would add this: Pearl's lie was about a specific incident. Tressel repeatedly helped student athletes make shady money and covered up things over the course of his 20+ year career.

Pearl had a BBQ, made way too many calls and visits. Tressel helped students make thousands of bucks. Apples. Oranges (sorry for the bad pun).

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

And OSU won a Big 10 title with players that should not have been eligible to play. That sounds big to me.

vol49 writes:

in response to pj_ladyvolnMI:

And OSU won a Big 10 title with players that should not have been eligible to play. That sounds big to me.

You nailed it. Well put.

Gart5 writes:

Yes, like dk said, the lying are the only parallels. If our punishments are at all similar, then I have lost all faith in the NCAA (if I haven't already). Ours are all secondary violations, with one lie and an admission. We have already served some punishment. They have not. They continued to lie about it and really didn't admit guilt until they fired Tressel. Unfortunately, the NCAA seems to hate Tennessee and love Ohio State.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Why this might be true, I still think it's interesting that the state of Tennessee might not be known for great HS football talent, HOWEVER, this state has produced GREAT GREAT football coaches.
1)Steve Spurrier
2)Phillip Fulmer
3)Lloyd Carr
4)John Cooper
5)Johnny Majors
6)Bobby Dodd
7)Ken Sparks
8)George Quarles
9)Gary Rankin

Yeah many will argue that Cooper wasn't a great coach. PULEASE!!! Any of you who have coached at ANY level know that even though he was owned by Michigan and wasn't the best OSU coach ever, it takes a hell of a coach to be really competitve in D-1 sports. One of Cooper's problems wasd that he quit recruiting in-state kids like OSU always does which was stupid.

Also, I know some won't agree with me putting Quarles and Rankin on here. These two guys will go down as 2 of the best HS coaches EVER, and that's on a NATIONAL level. So I'm one to give credit where I think it's due. If I forgot any great football coaches from the Great State of Tennessee, feel free to add to my list.

Orange_Scooter writes:

in response to PatientlyWaiting:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Haw, haw, haw. Suuuuuure he did. Hey idiot. Everyone and their mama knows that Harris came to UT as a one and done. But, yeah, he was gonna come back the second year at UT.... for those imaginary thousands of dollars compared to the millions he'll get in the pros. I think morons like you are about to get shocked at what a slap on the wrist UT's about to get. Scholly loss and probation. Had Pearl stayed it might have been a little worse. Haw, haw, haw.

GOJO writes:

in response to PatientlyWaiting:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

****

Oh sure, Harris told you all of this, - - - he, he, he.. If you have information we common folks do not have, then "spill it." Otherwise, you just like to spread Bull Manure, & "me thinks you are full of it."

TeeBall writes:

in response to PatientlyWaiting:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Total dumb f*ck !!!

CaliVol2009 writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Why this might be true, I still think it's interesting that the state of Tennessee might not be known for great HS football talent, HOWEVER, this state has produced GREAT GREAT football coaches.
1)Steve Spurrier
2)Phillip Fulmer
3)Lloyd Carr
4)John Cooper
5)Johnny Majors
6)Bobby Dodd
7)Ken Sparks
8)George Quarles
9)Gary Rankin

Yeah many will argue that Cooper wasn't a great coach. PULEASE!!! Any of you who have coached at ANY level know that even though he was owned by Michigan and wasn't the best OSU coach ever, it takes a hell of a coach to be really competitve in D-1 sports. One of Cooper's problems wasd that he quit recruiting in-state kids like OSU always does which was stupid.

Also, I know some won't agree with me putting Quarles and Rankin on here. These two guys will go down as 2 of the best HS coaches EVER, and that's on a NATIONAL level. So I'm one to give credit where I think it's due. If I forgot any great football coaches from the Great State of Tennessee, feel free to add to my list.

don't forget about Mack Brown, another Tennessee native.

clvolfan writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don't think coach Cutcliffe was from Tennessee,do agree with the other points.Coach Fulmer lost several tomes to Spurrier with better talent,and UT lost their home field advantage under him.I had several long late night trips home after a loss during CPF's reign.

hueypilot writes:

I was visiting my brother in Columbus and we were four Tennessee fans in a sports bar in Columbus, OH watching the Vols play UCLA in that game Jerry Colquitt tore up his knee on the opening series. Everyone there was watching Kijana Carter on TV playing for Penn St. (Carter was from that area in Ohio) Coach Cooper was in the sports bar and when the Penn St. game was over (I guess he was scouting Penn St. for a future game) he came over to us and told us to pull Tennessee through for him and told of his fondness for East Tennessee in general and specifically the Knoxville area. He had on jeans and cowboy boots and Columbus is kind of an uptight, three piece suit sort of town, not too laid back. I never thought the OSU fans fully accepted this coach from the south and when he couldn't beat the Wolverines, it ultimately cost him his job. But a good coach, who took time to say a few kind words to some Vol fans a long way from home.

jdcdjc writes:

I have no respect for the NCAA. There is no way Aub QB last year didn't know his daddy was shopping him around, & when the truth comes out, Aub outbid Miss St for his favors. And the NCAA gave him and Aub a clean bill of health. Until they get their house in order they don't have much right policeing anyone.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

The NCAA has a job to do...insuring it's own money making policies!!! It needs to be made to fit the system and not the other way around...you know...like government. I don't trust anything run by pencil pushers. That said I do like "pencil pushers" in general if they don't push their pencils too hard!
I also like the vagueness of this statement. It's my bureaucratic nature.

VOLDoll writes:

Big difference! Tressel is respected by others in the coaching fraternity and he is a damn good coach.
Pearl was a horrible coach and a ratt so most if not all coaches were against him.

Just tickled to death his sorry asz is no longer representing the UT.

VOLliven2it writes:

Both lied to or misled the NCAA. Both paid for it by losing their jobs. Both have left their universities in the lerch no matter how many games they won. As for which program gets hammered the most, that's in the hands of a body which really has no accountability. So their inconsistencies just go on and on and on. We in Vol Land and those up in Buckeyeville will just have to strap in and try to take it all in stride. We have no idea what they will do to either organizations. I can only hope the coaches in question when it all comes down gets it as much as UT and OSU. That probably will not happen.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

None of the coaches you mentioned are from Tennessee. And Fulmer will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to CaliVol2009:

don't forget about Mack Brown, another Tennessee native.

VERY VERY good call!

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to clvolfan:

Don't think coach Cutcliffe was from Tennessee,do agree with the other points.Coach Fulmer lost several tomes to Spurrier with better talent,and UT lost their home field advantage under him.I had several long late night trips home after a loss during CPF's reign.

And Bear Bryant lost to General Neyland, guess that makes him a bad coach too? Spurrier is one of the best coaches ever. Fulmer will be inducted to the Hall of Fame.

easleychuck writes:

Tressel had amnesia for 8 months. Pearl for 3 weeks.

GeneralNeylandsReturn writes:

in response to Whatthehellsgoingonoutthere:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

As one person pointed out, don't forget about Mack Brown...and yes one late 90's season had all of them, Fulmer, Carr, Brown, Cooper and Spurrier all coaching top ten teams.

GeneralNeylandsReturn writes:

http://www.secsportsfan.com/best-sec-...

Interesting Stuff...as one mentioned before...Even Bryant had his nemesis...The General.

Volunatic writes:

in response to Whatthehellsgoingonoutthere:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm pretty sure you're thinking of someone else. That would be very unlike Coach Cooper to make disparaging remarks about Southerners.

woodwr#217203 writes:

in response to pj_ladyvolnMI:

And OSU won a Big 10 title with players that should not have been eligible to play. That sounds big to me.

Luckily? The barbeque attendees did NOT matriculate or play for UT's coach, so there were not games "won" with players recruited illegally on that one day.

However, the phone call issue went on a LONG time, and phone calls may have secured players who DID help Tennessee win games.

Colliervol writes:

in response to PatientlyWaiting:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Still clueless after all these years. How many name changes you going to have to come up with to stay on here?

What Pearl did is peanuts compared to the scam that Tressel and Ohio State have been running for years up there. The mess in Buckeye Land was systemic and rotten from top to bottom. They are about to experience about double what happened to Southern Cal. Pearl made one mistake-lying to them. If he hadn't done that, he'd still be the coach.

Unless there's more than what the NCAA has announced they found and were investigating, I don't see much outside of a couple of years probation and a couple of scholarship cuts. Maybe one year out of the NCAA and we weren't going this year anyway. So no big whoop as far as I'm concerned.

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