The NCAA has placed the Auburn men's basketball program on four years probation for unethical conduct involving former associate head coach Chuck Person and imposed a two-game suspension on coach Bruce Pearl for failing to monitor his assistant and adequately promote compliance.
An NCAA Committee on Infractions panel issued its findings Friday but mostly accepted Auburn's self-imposed penalties in the case dating back to September 2017, when FBI agents arrested Person as part of a wide-ranging investigation into corruption in college basketball.
Pearl will be suspended the next two games for the 18th-ranked Tigers starting Saturday against Nebraska in Atlanta. Wes Flanigan, a Nebraska assistant coach for Doc Sadler from 2010-12, will serve as Auburn's interim head coach.
The report released by the infractions committee panel said Pearl “violated head coach responsibility rules because he did not adequately monitor the associate head coach and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
“Further, when the head coach became aware of potentially problematic situations involving the associate head coach, he failed to ask reasonable and pertinent questions. These shortcomings allowed violations to go undetected.”
Pearl has had a previous run-in with the NCAA. Tennessee had fired Pearl in 2011 after the NCAA charged him with unethical conduct and then additional violations surfaced.
“We respect the NCAA peer evaluation process and appreciate the panel recognized we took meaningful and contemporaneous penalties,” Pearl said in a statement. "It is time to put this behind us. As part of our penalty, I will begin my two-game suspension (Saturday) against Nebraska.”
The NCAA panel found that Person violated ethical conduct rules by accepting $91,500 in bribes from a financial advisor to steer prospects Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy to Auburn. The NCAA release didn't name the coaches or players.
“The associate head coach violated the trust of his student-athletes and their families," the panel wrote in its decision. "Rather than protect them, he intentionally brought opportunists into the Auburn men’s basketball program and, using his influence, introduced them to the student-athletes and their families.”
Person, who was fired by Auburn after his arrest, avoided prison time when a federal judge ordered him to do 200 hours of community service in July 2019.
Person, a former Auburn star and NBA player and assistant, received a 10-year show cause penalty while another assistant, Harris Adler, received a one-year show cause for allegedly paying a walk-on player's tuition. During that period, any NCAA member school that hires them would have to restrict them from duties related to athletics or show why the restrictions shouldn't apply.
The committee didn't add to last season's self-imposed postseason ban and other recruiting restrictions already enforced in previous seasons. Auburn also cut one scholarship in the 2020-21 season and will lose two more during the probation period.
The NCAA fined Auburn $5,000 plus 3% of the program's budget. Auburn will vacate any wins during which the athletes played while ineligible.
Auburn held out both Wiley, a five-star recruit whose parents once starred for the Tigers, and Purifoy for the entire 2017-18 season.
“We are pleased that a conclusion has been reached in this case," Auburn said in a statement. "For the last four years, Auburn has been proactive and cooperative with the NCAA enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions.
"We have been and will continue to be committed to NCAA rules compliance. As such, we accept all penalties and are ready to move forward.”