Patrick Magee

Count me among those disappointed in Donnie Tyndall

ADAM LAU/ASSOCIATED PRESS 
 Former Southern Miss and Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall was given a 10-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA on Friday.
ADAM LAU/ASSOCIATED PRESS Former Southern Miss and Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall was given a 10-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA on Friday. AP

Donnie Tyndall built the image of an affable character on his rise from Morehead State to Southern Miss to Tennessee.

On Friday, Tyndall showed his true colors in his worst hour - an obstinate man who refuses to be accountable for his program's actions from 2012-14 as the USM basketball coach.

The NCAA handed down severe punishment for Tyndall on Friday while USM avoided a further postseason ban. The school will have to reduce basketball scholarships by four over the next three years.

With a 10-year show-cause stamped in red letters across his forehead by the NCAA, Tyndall again pointed the finger elsewhere rather than owning up to the NCAA's claim that he is the man who orchestrated a plan to blatantly cheat at USM.

"There are 4,000 pages of transcripts and documentation, 40 people were interviewed, and not one bit of evidence directly links me to the violations, and not one person involved linked me to the violations except Adam Howard," Tyndall told CBS Sports. "And Adam Howard said this after he initially lied. And then he lied again. And then we had to fire him at Tennessee. And then he cut a deal in March for full immunity if he would talk on me. So then he talked on me."

Tyndall is trying to paint the 30-year-old Howard, one of his top assistants at Morehead State, USM and Tennessee, as a bitter former employee who turned on him late in the NCAA investigation for his own benefit. This is the same Adam Howard who Tyndall praised as someone who reminded him of himself as a young coach when he first arrived at USM.

Overwhelming evidence

If you want to scour the 47 pages of the NCAA's ruling, you'll find all the information you need to understand how far Tyndall went to break the rules and then cover it all up with investigators breathing down his neck.

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Howard helped the NCAA piece together a case that made it impossible for Tyndall to get out unscathed when the former coach and USM went before the NCAA to defend themselves on Jan. 21.

The NCAA investigation found that two of Tyndall's USM graduate assistants and a full-time assistant traveled around the nation doing coursework for junior college prospects.

Tyndall also helped provide cash and prepaid credit card payments to two prospects from their former coaches, according to the NCAA probe.

Tyndall, who said he plans to appeal the ruling, tried to convince the NCAA that USM had cleared these transactions, but the topic was never brought up to the school's director of compliance.

In an effort to cover up these transactions, Tyndall asked a staff member to fabricate a document showing that USM had approved the payments two years after they happened.

The investigation's findings show that Tyndall lied repeatedly to the NCAA.

A good front

Tyndall was fired at Tennessee on March 27, 2015, after the NCAA informed the school what it had found up to that point.

In the aftermath, Tyndall did his best to polish his image and keep a good face through radio interviews and reaching out to other media outlets, but he couldn't contain his anger over the dire situation.

At the end of the day, Tyndall wasn't who he wanted everybody to think he was.

Tyndall went out of his way to give off the impression that he was winning the right way at USM, going 56-17 with two NIT bids in two seasons.

The Michigan native wanted the media and fans to know he was holding players to a certain standard. He punished a player for leaving the locker room after a game to buy a soda and made one of his players step on a weight scale prior to games to earn the right to compete.

It's obvious now that Tyndall didn't hold himself to a high standard.

Tyndall gave off the image of a boy scout during his two years in Hattiesburg and made a lot of positive steps in engaging the fan base. On the court, he proved himself to be a talented coach.

Count me among the members of the media who grew to appreciate Tyndall at USM for his open-door policy and his abilities as a basketball coach.

That's what makes it so frustrating for those who knew him in Hattiesburg. He squandered what was a promising career due to blind ambition.

All this being said, Tyndall can coach. He should be given a chance to coach basketball again.

He's currently serving as a volunteer associate athletic director at NAIA Tennessee Wesleyan, but Tyndall may be better suited to serve on a pro staff.

It's a sad story, but one of Tyndall's making.

Contact Patrick Magee at pmagee@sunherald.com, follow him on Twitter at @Patrick_Magee and Facebook at Facebook.com/MageeOnSports.

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