Bruce Pearl is eligible to return to the NCAA this August. The former Tennessee men’s basketball coach was fired in 2011 amid several allegations of recruiting violations and was banned from collegiate athletics for three years. When he returns this summer, it will be to coach the Auburn Tigers.
As Gary Parrish of CBS Sports first reported on Tuesday, Pearl has reached an agreement with Auburn.
“I’m humbled and blessed to be back in the game that I love,” Pearl said. “I don’t know how long it will take, but it’s time to rebuild the Auburn basketball program, and bring it to a level of excellence so many of the other teams on campus enjoy.”
Former head coach Tony Barbree was recently fired after four seasons with the Tigers. Auburn has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2003, and the school has never reached a Final Four.
Pearl spent six seasons as head coach at Tennessee and brought the Vols to the NCAA Tournament each year. As Parrish noted, Pearl could not have described Auburn any better back in August when asked about his impending return to coaching.
“It’s going to need to be somebody that has the vision that Tennessee had,” he said at the time. “Tennessee had a vision to try to get its men’s basketball program to the level of its football program and where Pat Summitt had the women’s basketball program. That was Tennessee’s vision. They said, ‘We’re winning in everything else. We want to do it in men’s basketball, too.’”
“So that would be the job I’d want — a job where somebody has that vision. It would almost need to be a school that’s won a national championship in football or baseball. Somebody who’s done it and wants to try to do it again in men’s basketball.”
Auburn’s basketball team is not very good. Its football team just reached the BCS National Championship Game and is expected to be a powerhouse for years to come. Coaching the Tigers sounds like the exact job Pearl was looking for.