Bruce Pearl calls out SEC coaches for snubbing Auburn in all-league voting

The Dagger

Auburn shouldn’t lack for motivation later this week at the SEC men’s basketball tournament.

The league’s coaches egregiously snubbed the Tigers when voting for postseason awards.

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When the SEC revealed Tuesday morning which eight players its coaches named first-team all-league, there wasn’t a single Auburn player on the list. This despite the Tigers claiming a share of the SEC title for the first time since 1999.

Any coach would have to do a remarkable job to finish atop his league without one of its eight best players, but Auburn’s Bruce Pearl also was not recognized. Tennessee’s Rick Barnes instead was the recipient of SEC coach of the year honors.

Of the two snubs, it’s Auburn’s players who should feel more slighted.

Barnes was a deserving winner of SEC coach of the year honors after guiding a Tennessee team picked 13th in the league before the season to a share of the league title. What Pearl achieved at Auburn was no less impressive, but Tennessee does not yet have the stink of the FBI investigation into college basketball attached to its program.

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Auburn became ensnared in the FBI investigation in September when assistant coach Chuck Person was arrested and charged with corruption. The university subsequently held out would-be starting forwards Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy out of fear of using an ineligible player and having its season vacated as a result.

If the SEC’s coaches couldn’t stomach voting Pearl coach of the year under those circumstances, that’s understandable. If the specter of the FBI investigation contributed to the SEC’s coached diminishing the achievements of Auburn’s players, that would be unforgivable.

Point guard Jared Harper settled for second-team all-league honors even though he’s top five in the SEC in assists, top 10 in steals and top 20 in points. Sharpshooter Bryce Brown also landed on the second team even though he’s averaging 16.7 points per game and leading the conference in made 3-pointers.

Most baffling of all, Auburn’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Mustapha Heron wasn’t one of the 16 players named either first- or second-team all-league. Heron’s 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in SEC play were more than league player of the year Grant Williams (16.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) tallied during that same stretch for Tennessee.

Of course the snub did not go unnoticed among Auburn fans. Skye Underwood of Birmingham took the news especially hard, recording a video of a burning SEC cap and declaring, “Today, the SEC spit in the face of Auburn.”

While Auburn has a right to be mad, hopefully Tigers players find a more constructive way to express their anger.

They can start in Friday’s SEC quarterfinals against either Alabama or Texas A&M.

Auburn guard Mustapha Heron, right, celebrates after a victory against South Carolina on Saturday. (AP)
Auburn guard Mustapha Heron, right, celebrates after a victory against South Carolina on Saturday. (AP)

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Jeff Eisenberg is a college basketball writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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