INDIANAPOLIS -- NCAA president Mark Emmert said Tuesday that he believes coaches who lie to NCAA investigators should be subject to the same type of punishment given to student-athletes who lie to NCAA investigators.
"I certainly believe [the same guidelines] should apply, of course," Emmert said. "[They should apply] at least as much [as they apply to student-athletes]."
Emmert's comments came in the middle of an informal and wide-ranging conversation at St. Elmo Steak House here in Indianapolis with nine reporters from various national media outlets. His opinion on the subject is relevant because of the ongoing investigation into Tennessee's basketball program given that Bruce Pearl has already acknowledged lying to an NCAA investigator when initially asked about a photograph that proved he hosted a recruit at his home in violation of NCAA rules. Emmert repeatedly explained that he could not specifically discuss ongoing investigations, and that no two cases are alike. But when asked if a college coach who lies should be held to the same standard as a student-athlete who lies -- and when reminded that former Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant was suspended all of last season after lying to the NCAA -- Emmert said, "We certainly want to uphold the standards for coaches -- who are the teacher and the authority figure in that relationship -- to at least the same standards that we hold our students."
"All these situations are case-specific, so you can't easily or appropriately generalize," Emmert said. "But I want to make sure that we're creating an environment where coaches and universities are appropriately rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad behavior. I know that sounds silly and tripe. But we do need to have a situation where when coaches … are committing major infractions the penalties will be significant enough that they serve as a discouragement to that kind of behavior."
Tennessee has docked Pearl's pay and banned him from recruiting off campus for a year, and the SEC has suspended Pearl for eight league games despite the fact that the school still hasn't received a notice of allegations from the NCAA. A notice of allegations is expected to arrive no later than January. Among other things, Emmert made it clear in a back-and-forth hypothetical about possible punishments that the NCAA's Committee on Infractions could suspend a coach (in this case, Pearl) from coaching over and above what any league (in this case, the SEC) might do. Furthermore, Emmert did not dispute the notion that a suspension from coaching in the NCAA tournament even if the coach's team is allowed to participate could serve as a form of punishment for coaches who violate rules.
"That would be a really interesting outcome," Emmert said.