Bruce Pearl

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl, right, and assistant coach Chuck Person watch the Mountain Brook/Huffman game during the 7A boys regional championship game at the NE Regional high school basketball tournament Wednesday at JSU's Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

AUBURN — Bruce Pearl said Monday that ultimately he has to take full responsibility for two of his better players losing their eligibility to play at Auburn.

Auburn officials confirmed Montgomery Advertiser reports Monday morning that the school’s athletics department was aware that the university’s appeal on behalf of Austin Wiley was denied by the Division I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement. Pearl took the blame publicly for the situation involving the suspension of Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy.

“We’ve talked about it a lot and our biggest thing, as I’ve said from the very beginning, first of all, it’s my responsibility, on my watch they lost their eligibility, at least for this portion of their careers,” Pearl said Monday. “More than anything we feel terrible about the fact that they’re not able to be with us in the games.”

The NCAA ruled Jan. 11 that Wiley will not be eligible for competition until the 2018-19 season after Auburn self-reported violations involving recruiting, extra benefits and agent-related activity.

According to the NCAA ruling, Auburn self-reported amateurism violations that involving recruiting issues, extra benefits to the student-athlete and agent-related activity.

Pearl still claimed Monday “we don’t know” the NCAA’s final position on Purifoy’s amateur status, but in the NCAA’s initial ruling on Wiley, the NCAA release stated Wiley’s reinstatement request is the only one the NCAA office has received from Auburn. This fact only suggests that, at that time of the Wiley ruling by the NCAA, Auburn had not submitted the request for Purifoy and sources have confirmed that athletics department officials have concluded neither player will play in a game this season.

The Montgomery Advertiser submitted a public records request last month for the documentation Auburn athletics submitted to the NCAA but that request has not been filled by Auburn University athletics officials.

According to the charges in the FBI report filed last September, Person said on camera to undercover agents that he passed on bribes of $11,000 and $7,500 to family members of Wiley and Purifoy to steer them toward financial advisers. The report also charges that Person allowed meetings to take place between the mothers of the players and the people Person was working with in the alleged scheme.

Pearl reiterated Monday what he said last month after the NCAA’s ruling on Wiley — he expects Wiley and Purifoy to look into the process for the 2018 NBA draft and ultimately evaluate the feedback before the June 17 early-entrant deadline.

“I think we have several players that should do that this year,” Pearl said. “You know, go see where they’re at because they can come back if they don’t like their position. While we miss Danjel and Austin on the floor, my advice to both of those guys is see where you’re at, go work out, if you like the position then you’re hearing — and one thing about the NBA, they do a really good job. They’ll let you know pretty close to about where you’re going to go. That’s what I would expect them to do.”

While it’s unclear whether an NCAA investigation is being conducted or a Notice of Allegations will be submitted by the NCAA Enforcement staff over what Auburn self-reported during its own internal investigation of the matter surrounding Wiley, the NCAA rulebook ultimately will consider Pearl responsible on some level for the situation.

Beginning in 2015, the NCAA revised its rules to include what is classified as a “head coach control clause” that states “a head coach is now presumed to be responsible for the actions of all institutional staff members who report to them, whether directly or indirectly.  A head coach must promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor the activities of all people who report directly and indirectly to him or her.  This clause means that if an assistant coach or a staff member violates an NCAA rule, a head coach is deemed responsible. According to the interpretation of this clause by the NCAA Enforcement Staff, Committee on Infractions and any appeals committee, no longer can a coach simply state that they were not aware impermissible conduct was occurring.”

Auburn (21-2, 9-1 SEC) leads the Southeastern Conference by two games with eight to play and is clearly one of the nation’s surprise teams this season as the Tigers have won 18 of its last 19 games and are on pace to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003.

Despite the success on the playing floor, Auburn president Steven Leath made it clear in Allen Greene’s introductory news conference Jan. 19 that a decision on Pearl’s future status will be primarily made by the program’s new athletics director. Greene officially assumed the role at Auburn on Thursday. Pearl has still yet to speak directly with Leath, Greene or Auburn University counsel about the timeline of events that led to the arrest and indictment of Chuck Person, the paid leave of two basketball staff members and the ineligible status of Wiley and Danjel Purifoy.

“Clearly, Bruce knows that my expectation is that sooner or later he’s going to have to come in and talk to me and others on campus about what’s going on in the program,” Leath said.