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NCAA Talks Tennessee; Ex-Coaches React

Why did Bruce Pearl and his assistants get hammered while Tennessee escaped further penalties?  It all came down to how they dealt with NCAA investigators.

“The cooperation the institution demonstrated in this case is in stark contrast to the conduct and failures of the former men’s basketball staff,” the NCAA’s report reads.

It has long been believed that Pearl lied to NCAA investigators about a photo of himself and then-recruit Aaron Craft that was taken at his home.  But according to today’s report, the coach did not admit to even having recruits at his home in the first place.  That may seem obvious, but in the NCAA’s eyes, it likely made Pearl’s lie appear a little bit bigger lie than most initially believed.  Not only did he not come clean about a photo, he was given every opportunity to come clean about the barbecue, but he chose not to.

During a teleconference this afternoon, the NCAA made the following points clear:

* Pearl provided false and misleading information to the NCAA

* He told three junior recruits and their families that being at his home was a violation and he encouraged them to keep quiet on the matter

* Pearl did not tell Tennessee officials about the violation and, obviously, he didn’t report it to the NCAA

* Pearl called the father of Craft in an attempt to get the man to help cover up the barbecue

All this over what would have been a secondary violation had he simply reported the matter to UT’s compliance office.  Pearl’s saga is truly Nixonian in scope.

The coach was hit with a three-year show cause ban.  If any school tries to hire him in the next three years, that school will have to explain itself to the NCAA and/or agree to suffer penalties just for hiring Pearl.

Pearl’s three ex-aides were given one-year show cause bans because they were not forthcoming in their interviews with the NCAA and because they shared information from their interviews with Pearl, after being told not to do so.

Amazingly, the attorney for Tennessee’s former assistant coaches has told The Knoxville News Sentinel that “people might always wonder what would have happened without the NCAA enforcement staff’s erroneous charge of a bump violation.”

Ah, the bump.  Shortly after Pearl and Tennessee announced their troubles to the world last fall, Pearl and assistant coach Tony Jones allegedly violated the bump rule with a prospect at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.  This was classified as a “major” violation in the NCAA’s official list of accusations against the school.  Their obvious reasoning was that since Pearl had just come clean, for him to violate another secondary rule and not turn it in amounted to a major violation.

The University of Tennessee chose to dismiss Pearl after learning of this violation.  But in the NCAA’s report today, the bump was not mentioned at all.

“The committee found no violation at all regarding the supposed recruiting bump which received so much attention,” the coaches’ attorney said.  “The speculation is what would have happened had that not come out, because the university knew everything else in the report.  That (bump) seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, in terms of the coaches’ job security.”

Seeing as how the NCAA smacked Pearl with a three-year ban and his assistants with one-year bans, it’s safe to assume that all four men would have been unemployed by the end of today anyway.

This “what about the bump” push is nothing more than a red herring.  As it turns out, Pearl’s lie was greater than anyone had known and the NCAA was clearly not pleased with the lies and cover-up orchestrated by him and his staff.  They were going to get spanked.  Firing all of them likely spared Tennessee from getting a spanking of it own.

On the football front, the NCAA wasn’t pleased with the work of Lane Kiffin and his assistants during their lone year in Knoxville.

“… The committee was troubled by the number and nature of the secondary infractions by the football coaching staff during its one-year tenure at the institution.  From January 2009 through October 2009 the staff committed 12 violations, all connected to recruiting.  This is not a record of which to be proud.”

Since, however, the violations were secondary in nature and “isolated,” no major penalties were handed down for football.

In the end, the NCAA decided to accept the 20 different sanctions either self-imposed or handed down by the SEC.  (In other words, the Vol fans who railed against Mike Slive’s 8-game suspension of Pearl last season need to realize that the commish was actually doing UT a favor… as we at stated at the time.)

Tennessee will face two years of probation and could face “repeat violator” status if found guilty of any violations between now and August 24th, 2016.

“The Committee on Infractions advises the institution that it should take every precaution to ensure that the terms of the penalties are observed.  Any action by the institution contrary to the terms of any of the penalties or any additional violations shall be considered grounds for extending the institution’s probationary period or imposing more severe sanctions or may result in additional allegations and findings of violations.”


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