An explosive piece published on Friday by Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel and Pat Forde about agents paying college basketball players sent ripples throughout the sport. There were numerous SEC ties in the story, with Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina and LSU among the programs implicated.
But SEC Network analyst Paul Finebaum considers Auburn’s Bruce Pearl to be “the most vulnerable” of all SEC coaches as the FBI’s investigation into college basketball’s underbelly continues.
On Friday, Finebaum spoke to SEC Country about Yahoo’s report and the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. He was asked if he can envision any SEC coaches losing their jobs because of the investigation and what this story’s legacy will become.
“It’s always hard to predict at the embryonic stages of any investigation, but I think I would say clearly Pearl is the most vulnerable,” Finebaum told SEC Country. “By the way, I know he wasn’t mentioned in this [Yahoo Sports story] today. But he has been mentioned already before. But I do have some concerns about him, and I don’t think that’s a big surprise.”
Despite Pearl leading Auburn to a 24-4 record (12-3 SEC) entering its game Saturday at Florida, the FBI investigation has left a cloud over the Tigers’ memorable season. In September, then-Tigers assistant Chuck Person was arrested on six federal counts of conspiracy and fraud. Pearl also has been accused of not cooperating with Auburn’s investigation into the matter.
Finebaum went on to discuss how the most recent developments could affect Alabama coach Avery Johnson and Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“To me, Pearl is the most interesting, aside from today’s report, because he has been accused of not cooperating,” Finebaum said. “I can’t quite figure out where he is. To me, the issue today is, ‘What will Avery do? What will Calipari do?’ Are they going to play these guys tomorrow? In [Collin] Sexton’s case, he was already held out for the same thing.
“I mean, there are just so many unanswered questions. I know one thing: I wouldn’t be playing a guy — maybe I’m a little conservative — I wouldn’t be playing a guy in the middle of this thing without somebody telling me it’s OK.”
The Yahoo Sports report is another eye-opening twist for college basketball. These are dark days for the sport, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see major changes at Auburn and elsewhere.
Finebaum’s interview was made possible by Pilot Flying J, which is partnering with the analyst for the Slam Dunk Sweepstakes during the SEC Tournament in St. Louis. More information about the event can be learned by clicking here.