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Report: Pearl Insubordination Played A Role In Firing

A radio report in Knoxville has shined a bit more light on the final weeks of the Bruce Pearl era today.  Jimmy Hyams of WNML-AM/FM reports that — as suspected — Tennessee center Brian Williams missed two late-season games due to a drug issue.  But it was Pearl’s handling of that issue that cost him some favor with his bosses.

Williams allegedly refused to take a drug test.  As a result he was held out of Tennessee’s last two regular season games against South Carolina and Kentucky.  According to a WNML source, Pearl was told to provide the old “violation of team rules” explanation for why Williams would miss two games.  Instead, he said that his senior had a back issue. 

“Backs are funny things,” Pearl told The Knoxville News Sentinel at the time.

The fact that Pearl — apparently — disobeyed the wishes of his boss AD Mike Hamilton “caused a rift between Pearl, Hamilton and UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek,” according to Hyams.

Some will no doubt say that that kind of cover-up goes on everywhere.  Maybe it does.  And some will likely say that the player was still punished… missing two games.  True enough.

But if you’ve gotten yourself, your program, your school and your boss in hot water by committing earlier NCAA violations and attempting to cover them up, it’s probably best to follow the instructions your employer gives you.

At the very least, this report — if accurate — shows that while the Tennessee administration erred in its handling of Pearl’s ouster, the coach himself asked for said ouster by not following simple, standard directions like many other “good soldier” coaches across the country.  How many times do you hear “violation of team rules” on a daily basis?  Answer: a bunch.

After sticking their necks (and their reputations) out for Pearl by keeping him, Hamilton and Cheek had a right to be angry if the man they stood behind refused to follow orders.

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SEC Headlines – 1/10/11

1.  Dee Bost isn’t worried that Mississippi State is 0-1 since his return to action.

2.  Rick Stansbury is hoping his team turns things around soon.

3.  This writer says State needs a heart transplant.

4.  Andy Kennedy saw some positives in Ole Miss’ loss at Florida on Saturday.

5.  Erving Walker went over the 1,000-point mark for the Gators this weekend.  (That would be for his career, not this season, obviously.)

6.  Charlie Weis was reportedly stripped of his play-calling duties before Kansas City’s playoff loss yesterday.  (But there’s no bad blood between him and Todd Haley.  Nope, none at all.)

7.  Following Saturday’s upset of Kentucky, Georgia is ranked for the first time in eight years… at #24.

8.  NCAA president Mark Emmert says everyone knew — including Kentucky — that Enes Kanter faced long odds in gaining his eligibility.

9.  John Calipari says he’s not worried about Kentucky basketball, but Kanter himself.

10.  Brian Williams believes John Fields is about to replace him as Tennessee’s starting center.

11.  Folks are already talking spring football in Knoxville.

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Pearl Felt “Helpless” Watching UT Lose On TV

Suspended by the SEC for misleading NCAA investigators, Bruce Pearl was forced to sit in a Fayetteville hotel and watch his Tennessee team lose to Arkansas 68-65 on television Saturday.  So how rough was that for the coach?

“It was harder because you felt pretty helpless during the game,” Pearl said.  “I took notes the whole game.”

Pearl flew back to Knoxville with the team but did not address the squad until landing back in the Volunteer State.  For their part, his players sounded as though they’ve taken the loss to the Razorbacks hard.

“I could tell by the way coach was walking when I first saw him after the game he was disappointed,” Cameron Tatum told The Knoxville News Sentinel.  “We let him down.  That was a game we should have won and sent a message that we were going to back up our coach.”

Brian Williams also felt bad for not giving assistant coach Tony Jones a victory in his first game in the captain’s chair.  “We let Coach Jones down after he put a lot of work into the scout and getting us prepared.  We don’t want to let our coaches down or our fans down.”

The Volunteers — once 7-0 — are now 10-5 and host Florida and Vanderbilt this week.  Pearl will again be in front of a television for both games.

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