Todd Bozeman was the only coach to ever rebound from a show-cause penalty and return to collegiate coaching. After Bruce Pearl was hired by the Auburn Tigers on Tuesday, the Morgan State head coach has a little company. After every big football win, Auburn fans would adorn Toomer's Corner with toilet paper. The Auburn Tigers basketball home is blanketed with Charmin' because they stink.
The Tigers have experienced spurts of success before in the '80s during Charles Barkley's SEC glory days, but the program has been dormant since Cliff Ellis was fired in 2004, one season after leading Auburn to a Sweet 16. Pearl is familiar with this type of program revival.
Pearl performed a similar SEC West resurrection at Tennessee where he led the Vols to six NCAA Tournament berths between 2005 and 2011. Pearl's name was also discussed at his alma mater as a possible replacement for Boston College's Steve Donahue. However, Donahue was told he'd be retained for next season which squashed that reunion.
Cuonzo Martin dealt with the rumors that Pearl would return to Tennessee if the Vols missed out on the tournament, but kept them at bay by guiding Tennessee to the tournament.
In a conversation with Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis last month, Pearl sounded like a man who enjoyed television, but couldn't live without coaching.
"I'm enjoying television more this year because I think I'm getting better at it," he added. "The question is, can I be as good at the things I'm doing now as I was at coaching? If I can get really good at this, then I can see myself staying in broadcasting. I'm in the process of figuring that out."
Pearl won't be allowed to have contact with recruits until August when the three-year show-cause penalty expires, but he's worth the risk for a program stuck in neutral. Auburn is an improbable program to turnaround, but Tim Miles' resuscitation of the Nebraska Cornhuskers is the best-case scenario model.