Taylor Bell and Clyde Travis of the Chicago Sun-Times explain why the Illini Nation hates Bruce Pearl. Deon Thomas was one of the most coveted recruits in the nation, coming out of Chicago's Simeon High School in 1989. Iowa and Illinois competed mightily for his letter of intent. Bell and Travis write "we were closer to it than any other journalists. We taped an exclusive two-hour conversation with Thomas, gave depositions to attorneys representing Illinois, did extensive background checks on other key figures involved in the controversy and wondered why the NCAA never bothered to probe into Thomas' allegations of Pearl's improprieties."
To Illini fans, this investigation knocked the program from its national power track back into the Big Ten's backwaters. I entered the University just after the NCAA placed Illinois on probation. Looking back through the lens of law school, it is pretty clear to me that the NCAA's role was that of Rev. John Hale from The Crucible, not that of an even-handed investigator searching for the truth. The NCAA found no merit in Pearl's accusations, but slapped Illinois with sanctions anyway, for "lack of institutional control."
And, as Bell and Travis note, the NCAA never investigated Iowa's part in this saga. This, despite the fact that Iowa was paying Thomas' classmate to report on his every move. Despite Thomas' claim that Pearl took him and his teammates around town in Amsterdam and paid for lunch. And despite Thomas' claim that Pearl offered to double whatever Thomas got from Illinois. No investigation of Iowa at all.