Why was Bruce Pearl suspended by the NCAA? A look into penalties issued to Auburn basketball

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions announced Friday it had punished the Auburn men’s basketball program for rules violations committed by former assistant coach Chuck Person. The NCAA began an investigation of Auburn after Person was arrested on federal bribery and fraud charges in 2017.

Person was given a 10-year show-cause penalty; former assistant Harris Adler received a one-year show-cause penalty; and head coach Bruce Pearl received a two-game suspension. 

The violations were first uncovered during a multiyear FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Person accepted $91,500 in bribes from a financial adviser in exchange for influencing potential student-athletes and their families to get the players to commit to Auburn. Person also provided financial inducements and benefits to two families of Auburn basketball players. Pearl was punished for not monitoring Person and his actions. Adler was punished because he “failed to meet his obligation to fully cooperate in” the NCAA’s investigation.

DeCOURCY: Infractions committee lets Auburn, Pearl off easy

Auburn released a statement following the panel’s decision.

“We are pleased that a conclusion has been reached in this case,” the university said. “For the last four years, Auburn has been proactive and cooperative with the NCAA enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions. We have been and will continue to be committed to NCAA rules compliance. As such, we accept all penalties and are ready to move forward.”

Here’s more information about the Person case and the penalties Pearl and Auburn received from the NCAA:

What NCAA rules did Chuck Person violate?

Person was arrested Sept. 26, 2017, on suspicion of bribery, fraud and conspiracy as part of an FBI investigation into corruption within college basketball. He was later indicted on six felony counts. Person made a deal with federal prosecutors to avoid a trial. On March 19, 2019, he pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. He was sentenced to two years’ supervised probation and 200 hours of community service.

Person’s financial situation sparked his illegal behavior. Person claimed he was dealing with debt after his NBA career ended. In 2016, he met with financial adviser Marty Blazer, who was cooperating with federal authorities after being charged in a separate fraud case. Blazer loaned Person $50,000 and told him he wouldn’t have to pay back the money if he brought in his players to do business with Blazer before they went to the NBA. Person agreed, and he brought in two players and their families regularly. Person wound up receiving $91,500 in bribes under the scheme.

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The meetings violated NCAA rules. Athletic department staff members are not allowed to receive benefits from hosting meetings between a student-athlete and an agent, financial adviser or a representative, according to NCAA.

“The associate head coach (Person) violated the trust of his student-athletes and their families. Rather than protect them, he intentionally brought opportunists into the Auburn men’s basketball program and, using his influence, introduced them to the student-athletes and their families,” the infractions committee said in its decision.

Person also gave one student-athlete and his mother cash payments of $700 to $800 for several months.

Auburn suspended Person after his arrest and then fired him after he was indicted. It also held players Daniel Purifoy and Austin Wiley out of competition for the 2017-18 season amid the federal investigation.

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Why was Bruce Pearl suspended?

The infractions committee concluded that Pearl violated head coach responsibilities by not monitoring what Person was doing. Pearl claimed that he followed NCAA rules in monitoring his assistants. The committee also found that Pearl did not ask Person important important questions after he found out what Person was doing.

Pearl received a two-game suspension. He will miss the Tigers’ games against Nebraska and North Alabama. Wes Flanigan will coach Auburn on Saturday against Nebraska, and Steven Pearl will coach Tuesday’s game against North Alabama.

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What are the NCAA’s penalties against Auburn basketball?

Here is the full list of the penalties Auburn’s basketball program received from the NCAA’s infractions committee, which were published on NCAA.org:

  • Four years’ probation
  • A self-imposed postseason ban for the 2020-21 season. Auburn’s men’s basketball team did not compete in the 2021 postseason.
  • A $5,000 fine plus 3 percent of the men’s basketball program budget.
  • A 10-year show-cause order for Chuck Person. Any NCAA member school where Person works must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless the school shows why he should be allowed to participate.
  • A one-year show-cause order for assistant coach Harris Adler. The same rules apply as above.
  • A two-game suspension for head coach Bruce Pearl during the 2021-22 season, effective immediately.
  • A vacation of all team records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible.
  • A self-imposed reduction of one scholarship during the 2020-21 season. This number will increase to two scholarships during the probation period.
  • A self-imposed reduction during the 2017-18 season in the number of official visits for men’s basketball. Auburn could only have 20 official visits.
  • A self-imposed ban on unofficial visits in the 2017-18 season for 19 weeks.
  • A self-imposed ban on recruiting phone calls for a 20-week period during the 2017-18 season.
  • A self-imposed reduction in the number of recruiting person days in men’s basketball by 82 days during the 2017-18 season.

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