Auburn men’s basketball head coach Bruce Pearl says he anticipates that his program is not done with NCAA sanctions just yet, but that he thinks the worst is already behind the team, he revealed Monday in a podcast interview with CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated reporter Jon Rothstein.
Pearl also claimed that his assistant coach Ira Bowman did not have any knowledge of what was happening with former Penn head coach Jerome Allen during Bowman’s tenure under him — and that Pearl’s relieved his former assistant Chuck Person didn’t have to go to prison after he pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy charge in federal court.
He also said Auburn has been placed under NCAA restrictions that haven’t been revealed publicly yet.
Pearl spoke with Rothstein on the latter’s College Hoops Today podcast posted online Monday.
Auburn’s rising senior center Austin Wiley sat out the 2017-18 season while fellow rising senior at forward Danjel Purifoy sat out the same year plus nine games of last season, as part of NCAA sanctions laid down when it was revealed that Person accepted thousands of dollars in bribes to steer those players as potential NBA talents to a financial adviser.
Person was sentenced to time served and two years of supervision earlier this month, at the conclusion of proceedings that saw Auburn University file a victim impact statement with the court stating that the program expects more sanctions from the NCAA in the wake of the damage done by Person accepting money to try to sway players to said financial adviser on their way into the pro ranks.
Pearl echoed that on Monday’s podcast, saying, “I am anticipating that we are not finished completely.”
However, he said: “I do feel like the worst is behind us.”
Rothstein’s interview with Pearl was posted to Soundcloud on Monday afternoon. An Auburn spokesman said Pearl would not add anything further beyond what he said on the show.
“I know the compliance that we have in this program — I’m actually pretty proud of it,” he said on the podcast. “I think a lot of the things that we did are examples of how you should do things when you’re faced with these situations.
“I’m very, very confident of the status of our program moving forward.”
Bowman was not on the bench during Auburn’s postseason run in the spring, after he was named by former Penn head coach Jerome Allen to have played part in a bribe scheme at Penn back when Bowman was an assistant there. Per a report at the time from Law360.com, Allen said in court testimony on March 8 that a Miami executive was paying Allen to help his son get admitted into Penn by way of being a basketball recruit, and that after Allen was fired but before the player made it to campus, a bank account was set up to which the parent could wire money and from which Bowman could withdraw money.
This was before Allen left Penn in 2015. Bowman stayed at Penn until the summer of 2018, when he was hired to coach at Auburn.
“We’re very, very glad that Ira Bowman only missed about a month and a half while he was kind of waiting on, or kind of looking into, things that happened at Penn three years ago. You know what I mean? It wasn’t like it was anything that happened at Auburn,” Pearl said on the podcast. “And Ira Bowman is a first-class, top assistant whose character is impeccable, and I’m glad — I appreciate the patience that was shown to kind of get through — He didn’t have any knowledge of what was going on in that situation with his head coach.”
As for Person’s sentencing, Pearl simply spoke in a grave tone when mentioning the reality of prison. He didn’t say whether he and Person are close or speaking.
“As a colleague, as a friend, someone that I worked with for a few years, I’m glad that he didn’t have to go to jail about this. You know, Book Richardson is in jail right now, Jon, and that’s just for all of us in this coaching profession, that’s sad,” he said, referencing the former Arizona assistant who was sentenced to three months in prison in June.
“At the same time, we made mistakes. … It’s my job to protect my players and protect their eligibilities and do the best I possibly can to have the right compliance in place and the right controls,” Pearl said on the podcast. “You do everything you can possibly do. Sometimes mistakes happen.
“We took some real strong penalties, a lot of which have never been made public and at some point will be,” he added. “When our players’ eligibility was in question, we sat them until we could get their eligibility cleared. That was not the way everybody did it but that was the way we felt like we should do it, and hopefully many of those decisions will serve us well as we navigate this future.”