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Slive Says He Played No Role In Pearl Dismissal

It seems even SEC commissioner Mike Slive is backing away from Tennessee’s administration these days.  The commissioner was asked yesterday if he had had any involvement in UT’s decision to finally ax Pearl in March.  He said he did not. 

“The employment relationship of a coach and athletic administrator is in the sole purview of the institution,” Slive said.  “It is not something that a conference has any authority over or gets involved in.”

It has been widely rumored that Slive — a man with strong connections to the NCAA and good knowledge of its punishments –  met with Tennessee officials at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta and shared with them a “Here’s what might happen if you keep Pearl and here’s what might happen if you fire him,” scenario.  These comments would indicate that that type of conversation never happened in Atlanta, over the phone, or anywhere else.

Supporters of the Tennessee program were angered when Slive dropped an 8-game suspension on Pearl for his violations.  It was the first such discipline from the commissioner after he was given the power to make that type of ruling just last year. 

However, some basketball analysts — like ESPN’s Jay Bilas — felt that Slive took his action in an attempt to lessen the eventual NCAA penalties on Pearl.  And former coach Jimmy Collins — the man Pearl tried to rat out in an Iowa-Illinois recruiting war in the late-80s — saw the 8-game penalty as another example of Pearl and Slive working together.

As the website pointed out last month, Slive actually worked on Illinois’ defense against Pearl’s claims of cheating while he was an attorney.  Slive suggested massive self-imposed sanctions.  Collins felt that he was being railroaded by Slive who — in his view — was working with Pearl to bring down the Illini.

Yesterday, Slive was also asked if he still a good relationship with Pearl.  “Mine is,” he said with a smile. 

You can be sure Tennessee administrators appreciate the commissioner making it very clear that it was UT that had the problem with Pearl, not him.

That’s not exactly getting UT’s back, if you will.

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