By LARRY VAUGHT
Auburn’s surprising late-season surge to reach the Final Four where it plays Virginia Saturday put Bruce Pearl back in the spotlight in the NCAA Tournament and it could not have surprised him when he was asked if college basketball is a “cesspool” now because of current investigations, including one that got LSU coach Will Wade suspended just before postseason play started.
“I live it all the day and see all the good that’s taking place on college campuses with students that have opportunities to be able to change their lives that they might not have otherwise,” Pearl said before his team beat UK to earn a Final Four berth. “No, it’s not a cesspool. There are some things that are wrong with it, things that take place that are inappropriate.
“That’s the business of college basketball. The reason why the NCAA is involved in this is because it’s their job to monitor. It’s their job to enforce. It’s their job to encourage people to work hard, to do it the right way and not allow some of the other things to seep into the business because of the business and the money and the pressures.
“The question is, what do you want to focus on? We need to continue to work to keep it clean, but we need to understand all the good that’s being done.”
I talked to Auburn senior Horace Spencer at the SEC Tournament for a story about former high school teammate PJ Washington. But I also asked him what playing for Pearl was like.
“It has been an amazing four years. I love playing for coach Pearl. He is a great influence on my life and my family’s life,” Spencer said. “It has been a wonderful thing and when I leave here I am really going to miss him.
“You all really don’t know much about him. You have probably seen him flailing around on the court but off the court he is very spiritual and a great leader. He’s just a really good guy that I truly love.”