James Jones: Pearl didn’t need to root for Alabama in Final Four

Published 7:33 am Sunday, April 7, 2024

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Auburn coach Bruce Pearl drew the ire of some Alabama fans over the Crimson Tide’s first-ever Final Four berth. 

When Alabama played defending national champion UConn on Saturday night, Pearl said he would not be rooting for the Crimson Tide. 

“Am I rooting for the SEC, yeah,” Pearl told national media this week. “ Am I rooting for Alabama? No. They are my archrival.”

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Keeping it real, I am not mad at Pearl’s reaction. Why would Pearl say “Roll Tide” when he coaches for “War Eagle”? Alabama and Auburn have an intense rivalry, especially in football and basketball. As long as nobody’s killing each other or making death threats, the Tigers-Tide rivalry is always enjoyable.

Pearl showed class after the Crimson Tide knocked off Clemson in the Elite Eight for a national semifinal berth. Pearl gave love to both Alabama head coach Nate Oats and all-american guard Mark Sears, which I appreciated. 

“I’m glad for coach Oats,” he said. “That he got there. I know what that means. You work your whole life to get there, and there are so many great coaches that have never gotten a chance to coach in a Final Four. It’s a tremendous separator. I’m happy for him. I’m happy for the Alabama program. I’m happy for Mark Sears, who I have great respect for. He’s developed into one of the best players in the history of Alabama basketball. Mark Sears should have a banner at Coleman (Coliseum) after what he’s done with this team and is doing during his career.”

Auburn was the first state school to reach the Final Four in Minneapolis, and five years later, Alabama joined the Tigers.