Auburn Men's Basketball Team Put On Probation Because of Actions By Former NBA Player

Auburn University men's basketball team was placed on four years' probation after an NCAA panel found that former associate head coach and ex-NBA player Chuck Person violated ethical conduct rules. Head coach Bruce Pearl will be suspended for the next two games for failing to monitor Person and sufficiently promote compliance with the rules.

Person, a former player at Auburn, accepted $91,500 in bribes from a financial adviser to steer prospective players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy to the school, the NCAA panel found. The players or their families also received more than $10,000 from Person.

"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."

Auburn fired Person in September of 2017 after he was arrested by FBI agents cracking down on college basketball corruption. He managed to bypass serving time in prison when a federal judge directed him to complete 200 hours of community service in July of 2019.

Person was given a 10-year show-cause penalty, which means that any NCAA member school that hires him while the penalty is in effect will have to bar him from athletics-related activities and prove why the constraints should not apply.

Harris Adler, another former assistant coach, was also given a one-year show-cause penalty for allegedly paying for a walk-on player's tuition. The panel said that the penalty was for his lack of cooperation with an interview request, but they could not prove that he paid for the player's tuition.

Chuck Person Auburn Investigation
The Auburn University men’s basketball team was placed on four years' probation after an NCAA panel found that former associate head coach and ex-NBA player Chuck Person violated ethical conduct rules. Above, Person arrives at federal court in New York on July 17, 2019. Seth Wenig/AP Photo

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 previous run-ins with the NCAA. Tennessee had fired Pearl in 2011 after the NCAA charged him with unethical conduct and then additional violations surfaced.

"The panel did take into consideration the previous show cause and decided it is an aggravating factor and was factored into the penalty for coach Pearl," said Vincent Nicastro, the panel's chief hearing officer and deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the Big East Conference.

Pearl was in the final months of his show-cause penalty when Auburn hired him.

"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 against Nebraska."

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.

"In this case, based on all the evidence that the panel reviewed—which was significant—we just felt it was our judgment that the penalties that we prescribed were appropriate or the penalties that were self-imposed were acceptable to us," Nicastro said.

Auburn held out both Wiley, a five-star recruit whose parents once starred for the Tigers, and Purifoy for the entire 2017-18 season.

The panel found that Person and the school committed Level I-aggravated violations. Pearl and Adler's violations were Level I-mitigated.

"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."

Nicastro said this was the last of the federal-corruption cases to go through the NCAA's standard peer-review infractions process. An infractions committee panel issued sanctions against Oklahoma State in 2020 that included a postseason ban.

The school was able to play in the NCAA Tournament while appealing that ruling before the penalty was upheld in November, leading coach Mike Boynton to tearfully say there is no point in cooperating with the NCAA.

Yet five schools—Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, LSU and North Carolina State—still have related cases pending in the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP). The IARP is an independent investigation process designed to handle complex cases.

It was created as a product of proposals from the commission led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2018 to reform college basketball amid the federal corruption investigation into the sport.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pearl Suspension
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl will be suspended for the next two games for failing to monitor former assistant men's basketball coach Chuck Person and sufficiently promote compliance with the rules. Above, Pearl signals during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Yale on December 4, 2021, in Auburn, Alabama. Vasha Hunt/AP Photo