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Misplaced values

If you ever find yourself facing an NCAA investigation, I've got some advice for you - deny 'til you die.

At least, that's the tactic the NCAA seems to prefer in its most recent, high-profile coaching investigations involving Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel and Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

Tressel was fined $250,000 and suspended for two games - during which the Buckeyes will face off against "perennial powerhouses" such as Akron and Toledo - for covering up several of his players' misdeeds. The head coach "failed to disclose" knowledge regarding the sale of merchandise by Buckeye athletes. Tressel was discovered to have hidden the matter only after his e-mails were obtained by Yahoo! Sports through the Freedom of Information Act. And only when significant pressure and ridicule began to reach the coach's ears did he "volunteer" to extend his suspension to five games to match the punishment handed down to his errant players.

Pearl, meanwhile, recently was terminated by Tennessee, which retracted a great deal of the multi-million dollar contract that he had signed in 2009. Pearl's violations included seemingly innocuous events that violated the NCAA's draconian and illogical rules. According the NCAA, Pearl inappropriately made recruitment contacts in 2008 by holding a barbecue at his home. Pearl initially lied to the NCAA about the barbecue but later admitted to the violation.

Yet Tressel is considered the one who "failed to disclose," and Pearl is deemed the one who "lied." These are the labels that have been placed on the two coaches despite the fact that Pearl's admission came voluntarily while Tressel's came as a result of an investigation by Yahoo! Sports.

Now, Pearl, who committed and admitted to a less severe violation, is out of a job. Meanwhile, Tressel, who committed the more serious violation, remains at the helm of one of college football's most prominent programs.

If the NCAA wants to take a hard stand on these kinds of issues, then there's little to nothing that you or I can do about it. After all, it makes the rules. If the powers-that-be want to continue to regulate how many Facebook wall posts and messages a coach can send to a prospective player, then they can go right ahead.

But, it's cases like those involving Tressel and Pearl that reveal the NCAA's inconsistencies, contradictory positions which yield further doubt about the organization's legitimacy. And as the single-most criticized organizing body in sports, these are not questions that you want to invite.

I'm not here to pass judgment on either Pearl or Tressel, as I'm sure both mean well and are excellent coaches.

But to say that one deserved to lose his job while allowing the other to miss games against bottom-feeder programs is patently ridiculous.

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