Let’s be clear before we go any further here… Petitions are the kind of thing middle schoolers get excited about when it comes to bringing a Gatorade machine to the cafeteria. Putting much stock in a petition is not a wise thing, but some Tennessee fans have apparently crafted a “Petition to Promote the Rehiring of Bruce Pearl” (currently has 27,000+ signatures). I’m not here to justify a petition, but I am here to beg someone in the SEC to please, please, please consider bring back Bruce Pearl. The SEC desperately needs a quick infusion of Bruce. The SEC is not only dangerously on the verge of putting on 2 teams in the NCAA tournament for the first time in decades, but the SEC has kind of become one of the running jokes of college basketball. With nearly half the teams currently sitting in a deadlock at 7-7, the SEC is the definition of mediocrity. Bruce Pearl is exciting. Bruce Pearl is a proven winner in the SEC, something that many of the recent coaching hires have failed to prove. Just ask Frank Martin.
Does it have to be Tennessee who hires Pearl? No, of course not. In fact, I would argue that while Tennessee is obviously a proven and seamless fit for Pearl, Tennessee is the one school that has considerable justification for not hiring him. The whole “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” mentality comes into play with Tennessee, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for not necessarily seeing the risk to go back down that road again as a worthwhile one. Although, the argument could also be made that with recent re-hirings such as Bobby Petrino at Louisville, the precedent has been set for that kind of thing to happen– and to potentially work. Sure, the first few weeks were dramatic and caused Louisville plenty of negative attention– but no one seems to be too concerned with it now that the dust has settled. In fairness though, Tennessee’s issues with Pearl involved NCAA infractions.
Take Tennessee out of the equation if you will. To any other school in the SEC drowning in mediocrity right now though– I beg the question: Why not? (Mark Stoops voice). Seriously, why not? Most of the schools in the SEC right now are struggling to fill seats. Winning non-conference games is not even #1 on the list of problems. Not only are the arenas half-empty on many nights, but the passion among the fan bases across the SEC pales in comparison to SEC football, or more importantly– other basketball teams.
When Pearl was at Tennessee, things were exciting. Tennessee basketball fans cared, and Pearl gave them something to be excited about. Pearl may not have taken Tennessee to any Final Fours, but he packed the arena on most nights and ignited a passion among the fan base that hadn’t been seen in a while before him, and hasn’t been existent since his departure.
For the Alabamas, Auburns, Texas A&Ms, South Carolinas, etc… Why not take a chance on Pearl? The SEC is so down right now, that it wouldn’t take much to catapult into the level of teams right below Florida and Kentucky. Heck, Georgia managed to do it this year with average talent. Pearl can recruit. Pearl can put fans in the seats. Pearl can win games in the SEC. The risk seems well worth the potential reward, and you can’t convince me that Pearl wouldn’t be a better option than some of the current coaching hires at these schools.
As great as it is to know that Kentucky won’t be challenged for the #2 spot in the SEC this season, the conference lacks intrigue and excitement. Someone, anyone… Please…. Bring back Bruce.