The Auburn men’s basketball program on Sunday announced it will self-impose a postseason ban for the upcoming 2020-21 season, a proactive disciplinary measure in response to its connection to the FBI scandal that was unearthed in 2017. The athletic department says it made the decision in conjunction with Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. Pearl was not directly involved in the scandal, but former Tigers associate head coach, Chuck Person, was found to have accepted bribes in exchange for exerting his influence by steering players to certain financial advisors.
Person avoided jail time for his part after facing federal charges, but Auburn for well over a year has expected a Notice of Allegations and scrutiny from the NCAA because of his involvement. It is unclear if the program has received an NOA yet, but self-punishment may soften any forthcoming NCAA sanctions.
“This was a difficult decision but the right decision,” said Pearl. “I hate it for our current players. They lost the opportunity for the postseason last year because of COVID, and now they will miss the postseason again. It’s a two-year postseason penalty for them. However, we need to take this penalty now to put it behind us.”
Person was accused of accepting $91,00 in bribery money to steer players to a specific individual whom he believed was involved in finance, but was in actuality a cooperator with the government working undercover in a large-scale operation to reveal improprieties in the college basketball world. He pled guilty to a conspiracy charge and was sentenced to 200 hours of community service during a two-year probationary period.
Though Pearl isn’t considered a guilty party here, this isn’t his first brush with the NCAA over alleged wrongdoing in the NCAA rulebook. His tenure at Tennessee ended in 2011 after the NCAA gave him a three-year show-cause penalty in response to recruiting violations and subsequently lying about it to NCAA investigators.
At Auburn, as he did at Tennessee, Pearl has rejuvenated the fanbase and the basketball program. Since his arrival in 2014, the Tigers have made two NCAA appearances and even advanced to a Final Four for the first time in program history in 2019.