Pearl deserves no sympathy over Selby

When Josh Shelby recently decommitted from the Tennessee Volunteers and Coach Bruce Pearl it showed how Pearl's recruiting tactics had come full circle over the last 24 months. While many are privately bemoaning some programs continuing to recruit Selby after he gave a commitment to UT, Pearl is not deserving of anyone's sympathy.

Once upon a time when a basketball prospect gave a commitment to a school then other schools would stop recruiting that athlete, it was something of a gentleman's unspoken agreement in the world of college basketball.

That standard no longer applies, and one of the reasons it no longer applies is Tennessee's Bruce Pearl. Following the recruitment of Hopkinsville, Kentucky's Scotty Hopson it was Pearl who dogged a committed player, as Hopson gave an early commitment to fellow SEC coach Rick Stansbury's Mississippi State team.

Unlike current senior Josh Selby, of Baltimore, Hopson never officially decommitted from Mississippi State. In March 2002 Hopson's mother Jeanette told Scout's Steve Robertson, "People around here have told us that Scotty needed to go to UK or Louisville. That's kind of hard to do when those schools are not recruiting you."

While Hopson's mother lamented the lack of action by instate schools Kentucky and Louisville, one school was overtly recruiting Hopson. The school trying to lure Hopson away from Mississippi State was Tennessee, coached by Bruce Pearl.

Now that Selby is no longer a Tennessee commitment there are many behind the scenes calling foul on the schools that continued to recruit Selby after he committed to Tennessee. In particular they have named Kentucky's John Calipari in their charges of foul play.

The flaw in their logic is that Pearl helped to set the new standard in basketball recruiting. That standard is that no player is unrecruitable until he has signed a letter of intent. Bruce Pearl being victimized by a standard he himself helped to set seems most fitting.

In football's cut throat game of recruiting verbal commitments have long been meaningless, and have only aided teams in focusing their recruiting efforts on what team they needed to beat. That is the way it should be in basketball as well, especially in the modern era of early commitments.

You cannot blame kids like Selby for listening to other schools when they come calling. What adult would not listen to a better job offer from a higher profile company? What college professor will decline to listen to an Ivy League school if they come calling? Student athletes should be afforded the same opportunities to seek out better opportunities, especially given that a verbal commitment is not in the least bit binding.

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