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PEARL FOR LIFE

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Bruce Pearl locks up with Auburn forever.

Clemson v Auburn Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Just a little while ago, there was an important announcement sounded from the Plains —

Yes, Allen Greene was able to broker a deal along with Ron Burgess and Rich McGlynn to lock up the services of Auburn head men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl for, well, life.

The details aren’t super clear yet, but the deal seems to be set for the time being over the next eight years until Bruce Pearl turns 70 (he’s currently 62), and the money is reported to hover around the $6M mark per year. That number alone would put Bruce up near the top of the list nationally, with John Calipari making $8M/year, and Coach K earning $7M/year. Jay Wright at Villanova is reportedly at $6M as well, so now he and Bruce share something in common.

Of course, this all comes on the heels of exponential growth for Auburn. Bruce Pearl took over a derelict program that Tony Barbee took pleasure in torpedoing, and had to work his way up from the top. When he was able to sign foundation guys like Bryce Brown, Horace Spencer, and Anfernee McLemore, he started to mold a group that would turn into stars and one of the best teams in program history. In 2018 the Tigers won the SEC regular season championship, their first in 19 years, and went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years. The next season, they won the SEC Tournament and went to the Final Four. In 2020, the Tigers were poised to do even more, finishing the regular season at 25-6 and roaring into the SEC Tournament before COVID derailed everything. And now, Auburn is the top-ranked team in the country, on a 16-game winning streak and boasting what could be the top pick in the NBA Draft.

Bruce Pearl loves Auburn. It’s pretty clear. He wouldn’t do the things he does for the school, the students, and the community if he didn’t have these kinds of feelings for the place he’s called home for the past several years. And Auburn loves him! Auburn gave him a second chance, and stuck by him through really pointless NCAA investigations. There’s confidence and trust between the two parties, and gratitude for providing a second chance and a rebirth on both ends.

We knew that with the way Auburn was trending this season that a contract extension and a raise was sure to happen after the season, but over the past couple of days these things needed to be sped along. With the way that Chris Mack was fired at Louisville, and a report that Bruce Pearl was at the top of the Cardinals’ list (yeah, with that compliance department), Auburn had to move quickly. It seems to have gone well, with the three biggest pieces of the puzzle easily solved.

  1. Bruce Pearl gets a raise and an extension.
  2. His assistants get the bump too.
  3. Auburn invests in a men’s only practice facility for basketball.

These things are easily attainable, and when word leaked out that high-level donors now had the option to give money directly to a fund dedicated to the practice facility, you knew that Auburn was making moves to keep its biggest athletic department asset and ambassador entrenched for a long time.

Here’s the deal. Some people see success at Auburn and the word “mercenary” pops into their mind. Cam Newton might be the first, but guess who ended up coming back? Cam got his degree years after playing. Bruce Pearl could’ve used Auburn as a stepping stone, but there’s a reason that he’s sticking around. He’s built something that’s certainly the most impressive feather in his cap. And now he’s taking talented basketball players and turning them into high-level NBA prospects. Chuma Okeke, Isaac Okoro, Sharife Cooper, JT Thor... these things weren’t possible in the past 15 years of Auburn basketball before Bruce, and they’re only going higher with Jabari Smith on the team this season.

Bottom line now is that Bruce Pearl is here to stay, and Auburn basketball as a whole is here as long as he’s on the Plains. War Damn Eagle, enjoy this ride!