INDIANAPOLIS - If Derek Dooley hadn't been required by the NCAA to attend Saturday's hearing, Tennessee should have brought him anyway, just so it could show him off.
The NCAA is accustomed to meeting with college administrators, coaches and lawyers. It's not accustomed to meeting all three in the same suit.
UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek could have introduced Dooley to the committee as: "Our football coach and a former attorney and athletic director." It would have made a great icebreaker, although you could argue that the Committee on Infractions isn't interested in icebreakers.
Dooley easily could have been mistaken for one of the attorneys as he joined Team Tennessee for its meeting with the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Saturday morning. Contrast that with Lane Kiffin, the current football coach at Southern California and Dooley's predecessor at UT. You could put him in a suit and attach a briefcase to his hand, and he still wouldn't look like a lawyer.
But both had something in common besides football on this morning. Neither one wanted to be there.
Kiffin was there for his involvement in alleged NCAA rules violations committed during his year at UT. Dooley, like new UT basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, was there under NCAA orders.
Never mind if they had nothing to do with the charges facing UT football and basketball. Maybe the NCAA views their attendance as a deterrent.
"I would rather be home with my family celebrating my birthday," Dooley said.
But there are worse things than an innocent man having to sit through an NCAA hearing. Sitting outside one is worse.
It reminds me of the last Daytona 500 I covered from the infield media center. When the cable service was disrupted, our only connection to the race was radio play-by-play and the roar of engines outside our building. The roar wasn't loud enough to keep me awake.
I was too busy reflecting to sleep Saturday.
The NCAA and UT have been mentioned in the same sentence so often, the depth of their relationship has been distorted. It wasn't that long ago when they were only casual acquaintances.
You can't point to a date and specify when the two became an item. Nothing with the NCAA is that clear-cut.
An event does come to mind, though.
Fans gathered at the Knoxville Convention Center for a breakfast and celebration of the Vols' latest football signing class in February of 2009. Consider it Kiffin's coming-out party.
You expect a certain level of optimism at events of this nature, but UT fans hadn't been exposed to a swagger of that magnitude since Steve Spurrier was in his Florida heyday. Kiffin and his assistants might as well have unbuttoned their shirts and puffed out their chests. They appeared ready to take on the world - or at least the SEC sector of it.
And they weren't afraid to start at the top.
The first-time college head coach jokingly called out Urban Meyer for breaking an NCAA rule in his recruitment of UT signee Nu'Keese Richardson. Since Kiffin humor comes with an expression as serious as Meyer's game face, the punch line seemed lost on most folks who didn't have a rooting interest in UT.
The NCAA seemingly has had an eye for the Tennessee shade of orange ever since. So has the national media.
Secondary violations that might have barely registered on the sports consciousness if committed by another coach became boldface headlines when attributed to Kiffin. And the incidents became less and less humorous, until finally - more than two years later - there's not a chuckle to be had.
Few sports-related events could be as grim as an NCAA hearing with the Committee on Infractions. It's about as funny as a baseball slugger trying to convince congressmen that his newfound power is all natural.
The solemnity of the occasion didn't stop Pearl from smiling and waving as he walked about the small gathering of media on his way into his meeting with the committee Saturday afternoon. He even pulled back his coat to show his trademark orange suspenders.
An Associated Press reporter who routinely covers these hearings said, "You don't see many of those (smiles) around here."
Dooley was asked if the hearing compared to a trial. "Somewhere in between," he said.
Nowhere in the constitution did our forefathers assure us of fair and speedy NCAA adjudication. From the first hint of an NCAA investigation until the final verdict, weeks can turn into months, and months into years. As the NCAA plods along, the damages accumulate in its wake.
The negative publicity hasn't been the only penalty. Pearl was fired more than two months ago. UT athletic director Mike Hamilton resigned under fire last week. Ironically and fittingly perhaps, Kiffin has experienced the wrath of an NCAA judgment against the Trojans.
Another judgment is coming.
UT just doesn't know when or how severe.