Bruce Pearl hired as head coach at Auburn

Bruce-Pearl-Calls-Lane-Kiffin-a-DumbassBruce 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.

Cam Newton cheers in student section at Auburn basketball game (Video)

Cam-Newton-student-sectionAuburn and Alabama may not have the same type of intense rivalry in basketball that they have in football, but a special guest added a spark to the latest meeting between the two teams on Wednesday night. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton returned to his alma mater and helped cheer the Tigers to a 49-37 win over Bama.

“I wish I knew he was here. I would have put him in the game,” Auburn head coach Tony Barbee joked after the game. “He’s still got some eligibility left. I didn’t know he was here. I didn’t see him.”

I can tell you one guy who did know he was there, and that’s the dude sitting at the scorer’s table whose ear Cam was screaming into. Judging by his reaction, I don’t think he cared that it was an NFL quarterback who was blowing out his eardrum.

If Barbee really wanted to put Newton in the game, he probably could have. This is the SEC we’re talking about. Everything has a price.

H/T War Eagle Reader via The Big Lead for the video

Varez Ward’s alleged gambling ties may have been local

Earlier this week Yahoo! Sports reported that Auburn point guard Varez Ward is currently under investigation by the FBI for allegedly taking part in a point-shaving scheme.

Covers.com reported Friday that multiple Nevada and offshore sportsbooks have denied there being any suspicious betting behavior regarding Auburn basketball games and that Ward’s alleged gambling connection might just be centralized in his hometown of Montgomery, Ala.

At least two Auburn games are reportedly being looked at by the feds, in particular a 56-53 loss to Arkansas on Jan. 25 and a 69-50 loss to Alabama on Feb. 7. Auburn ended up covering the 9.5-point spread as underdogs to Arkansas, while Alabama was a five-point favorite and easily covered that line.

Ward played poorly in both contests. In the Jan. 25 game, he turned the ball over in his only possession before exiting the game with an apparent leg injury, leaving the Tigers with an inexperienced reserve point guard to take his place (his injury made it impossible for him to throw the game against the spread). In the Feb. 7 game, Ward shot 1-for-5 and turned the ball over six times in 17 minutes of action. Ward, who has reportedly denied any involvement in point-shaving, has been suspended since Feb. 25 after an unnamed Auburn player reportedly informed the coaching staff of the allegations.

That Ward’s alleged gambling ties might only be localized doesn’t make things any less bleak for him. Point-shaving is a severe allegation, and if the feds find him in the wrong, he could face considerable time in prison. It’s hard not to remember the point-shaving scandal in the 90’s involving former Arizona State standout Stevin “Hedake” Smith, who served a year behind bars for his alleged involvement in fixing games with a campus bookie.

Photo credit: Kim Klement, US Presswire

Tennessee and Auburn Lose Exhibition Games to Division II Opponents

It’s a down year for the SEC in football and wouldn’t you know, it’s looking like it will be a down year for the conference in basketball as well. Not only is Tennessee dealing with coach Bruce Pearl admitting he lied to the NCAA, but they also stunk it up on the court Monday night.

The Vols fell to D-II opponent Indianapolis 79-64 at home in Knoxville in an exhibition game. Tennessee turned the ball over 25 times — every player on the roster had a turnover. Not only that, but they also shot just 50% from the line while Indianapolis essentially won the game at the free throw line. They went 33-40 at the line, shooting 83% from the stripe.

Auburn, in its first year under coach Tony Barbee, lost an exhibition contest to D-II Columbus State. The Tigers shot just 33% from the field and 35% at the line. Additionally, Auburn was outrebounded 50-44 and saw Steve Peterson hit the game-winner against them with 15.1 seconds left. The upside for the Tigers is that it’s just an exhibition game and at least they held their opponent to 29% shooting. Regardless, losing to a Division II school in any contest looks bad, and that’s exactly what Tennessee and Auburn did. It will likely be a long year for both programs.