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Report: Pearl To Get Show Cause Penalty

History shows that coaches who lie to NCAA investigators are very likely to get show cause penalties.  Andy Katz of says that multiple sources claim that’s exactly what’s going to happen to ex-Tennessee hoops coach Bruce Pearl and his former assistants.

Pearl “will receive a multiple-year show cause penalty” from the NCAA while assistants Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay will be handed one-year bans from college coaching.

According to Katz, the NCAA is planning to put out a news release tomorrow revealing the penalties… which likely means the Tennessee program will also find out just how it’s football and basketball programs will be punished.

UPDATE — Pearl has told The Knoxville News Sentinel that he has only been told that his punishment will be announced tomorrow and that he does not know what that that penalty will be.

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UT’s Woolridge Says Music Saved His Life; So Why’s He Giving It Up?

Tennessee forward Renaldo Woolridge has spent much of his college career making music.  The son of former NBA player Orlando Woolridge, “Swiperboy” — as he was called — has several videos of his songs posted on YouTube.

But Woolridge is walking away from his Swiperboy image.  Even though he says that image helped steer him away from suicide, as he recently wrote on his blog:

“I began doing music when I was eight (years old) as an emotional release.  I went through a lot of things in my life that have troubled me emotionally.  There have been times when I’ve contemplated things like suicide, going insane, or giving up all hope.

However, through faith, God was able to put Music into my life to keep me out of harm’s way.”

Woolridge — in typical rap fashion — went on to state that he’s “the best new rapper” in America.  So might new coach Cuonzo Martin be behind Swiperboy’s decision to put music on the back burner?

Mike Griffith of The Knoxville News Sentinel points out that Martin said way back on March 27th that “there’s a time and a place for it.”

Meanwhile, former UT assistant Tony Jones — now coaching at a Knoxville-area high school — seems to think it’s about time Woolridge put down the mic.

“Obviously, with the distraction of rapping, he hasn’t reached his full potential,” Jones said.  “Now we’ll see if his projected talents come to fruition.”

Bruce Pearl allowed Woolridge to do his thing.  Perhaps Martin isn’t as lenient when it comes to outside activities.

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SEC Headlines 7/6/2011

1. Can the 2011 Alabama defense be as good as the 1992 version?

2. Is a two-QB system good for the Crimson Tide?

3. Keep your eye on Auburn freshman QB Kiehl Frazier.

4. Tobias Singleton has qualified at Ole Miss.

5. 100 ways to improve the fan experience at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

6. The assistant recruiting coordinator for Georgia football resigns.

7. Former Tennessee associate head basketball coach Tony Jones is now head coach – at a high school.

8. Georgia – “should be taken seriously.” Auburn – “due for a sizeable tumble.” LSU - “remains the ultimate wild card.”

9. Heavy ticket demand for Auburn-Clemson in September.

10. Jadeveon Clowney – officially enrolled.

11. No suspension for Mississippi State linebacker Deontae Skinner.

12,  Top 25 countdowns: The player - Fletcher Cox. The game - Florida State vs. Florida.

13. The all-time Florida Gators NFL team.

14.Former UK and NFL player James Withrow died over the weekend.

15, Andy Staples lessons for cheating coaches - always pay cash.

16. Comparing football attendance across the South.

17. Chicken or egg? Urban Meyer or Tim Tebow?

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Pearl Talk Causes Confusion On The Eve Of The Tourney

What’s changed?

That’s the question Tennessee fans need to be asking this morning.  Well, that and why has athletic director Mike Hamilton breathed life into the Bruce Pearl controversy in the hours leading up to the NCAA Tournament?

In September, UT officials and Pearl came clean about a number of secondary violations and one very big major violation — lying to NCAA investigators.  That’s the greatest sin when it comes to the NCAA and Pearl committed it.

Still, Tennessee officials said that they would stand by their coach.  They hit him in the wallet.  They took him off the road in recruiting.  And they held their ground when America’s media screamed, “Everyone else would have fired their coach!”  (Everyone but Ohio State, apparently.)

Then SEC commissioner Mike Slive stepped in and handed down an 8-game suspension which was taken — by all but the most rabid UT fans — as a sign that the commish was trying to help UT by beating the NCAA to its punishment punch.  Ask ESPN’s Jay Bilas how he viewed the SEC’s preemptive strike.

For the most part, Tennessee and Hamilton took a beating in the press from September to January.  All the while, Hamilton kept saying that the Vols wanted to keep Pearl as long as “there aren’t any major violations we’re unaware of.”

In February, the NCAA’s letter of allegations arrived and it included something that had not been leaked to the media: Pearl and assistant Tony Jones were accused of violating the bump rule with a high school prospect.  Pearl lost favor — it seems — by not telling his bosses about the possible violation.  (And whether he thought it was a violation or not, when you dig a hole so deep that your bosses are taking heat just for keeping you… you report anything and everything to those people who’ve stuck out their necks for you.)

But here’s the odd part: UT found out about the bump violation — from the NCAA — in November.  Yet they continued to stand by Pearl right up until January.  And no one gave any indication of a change in attitude until Hamilton’s interview ran on Knoxville radio yesterday afternoon.

(That report set several wheels in motion, by the way.  First, it crushed our servers and will force us to upgrade — again — which is a nice problem to have.  Second, Twitter was abuzz with news last night.’s Chris Low went on a Nashville radio show and said basically that the writing is on the wall with Pearl.  That was translated into “Pearl is out at the end of the year” on Twitter.  He might be, but Low, apparently, isn’t flat-out saying that.)

So why would Hamilton and Tennessee change their stance on Pearl, no longer offering him a contract as they had in November and December?

Here are a few possible reasons:

1.  Wins and losses matter.  If Pearl’s record were no better than predecessor Buzz Peterson’s he’d have been out in September.  Is it not then a possibility that some of Pearl’s base has eroded as he’s gone through his worst and most disappointing season as Vol coach?  Hard to imagine UT doing a 180 if the Vols were a #1 seed right now.

2.  Bad publicity matters.  Perhaps the grind of the University of Tennessee being smacked around in the national media has finally taken a toll.  If not on Hamilton and the UT administration, then on some of the school’s powerful alumni.  Men and women who love the school — not just the basketball program, but the school — probably haven’t liked hearing talking head after talking head running down their alma mater. 

3.  The NCAA penalties matter.  Ah.  This might just be the biggest issue.  Since the Vols stated so publicly in September that they would stand by their man, Dana O’Neil of did the research and found that 19 out of 20 people hit with unethical conduct charges were slapped with two-year “show cause” bans by the NCAA.  The 20th person was already out of coaching.  In all 20 cases, the person lost his job.  And in all 20 cases the person had lied or asked others to lie to the NCAA.

Pearl is accused of doing both.  And if the NCAA wants to hit him with a show cause ban, they can force Tennessee to fire him by dropping a multi-year suspension on him.  No program can stay afloat with an interim coach for two or more years.

Interestingly, O’Neil’s report came out in February. 

Let’s see.  Last public statements in support of Pearl in January… “show cause” report in February… UT announces its decision to reevaluate Pearl’s status at year’s end in March. 

It could be that Hamilton and Tennessee don’t like the tea leaves their reading.  If the NCAA slaps Pearl with a multi-year suspension, that verdict would likely fall sometime between July (if extremely rushed) or October.  As UT’s AD said in his interview, the desire to avoid a late-game coaching search does weigh into things.

It’s also possible — as we said at the time — that Tennessee only angered the NCAA by sticking with Pearl so steadfastly back in September.  Might word have gotten back to UT officials that the NCAA would go easier on the school if it would just cut ties with its coach?

As for the timing, perhaps Hamilton and UT are trying to prepare the Vol fanbase for what could go from a “we’ve got your back” position to a “pack your bags” position when the tourney ends.

Either way, Pearl was “caught off-guard” by Hamilton’s comments.  Now his team has a new distraction heading into tomorrow’s game with Michigan.  And if you’ve seen Tennessee play this year, you know that it’s not a team that needs any additional distractions.

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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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Yo-Yo Vols Bounce Back To Whip Memphis

Let’s try to sort this one out, shall we?

Tennessee loses an exhibition game to Indianapolis in November.  At that point, the new-players-all-over-the-court Vols are viewed as a potential dud for 2010-11.

Then the Vols hand Top 10 Villanova their first defeat of the year and win the preseason NIT tournament (or whatever it’s called these days).  They follow that up by spanking Top 10 Pitt in Pittsburgh… catapulting themselves to #1 in the RPI ratings.

At that point, everyone jumps on the UT bandwagon and says Bruce Pearl has his best-ever team in Knoxville.

But stunning losses to Oakland, Charlotte, Southern Cal and College of Charleston come next.  The only victories in that stretch are nailbiters over Belmont and Tennessee-Martin.

And at that point, everyone jumps back off the UT bandwagon and says the Vols are falling apart under the weight of the NCAA cloud hanging over their heads.

So of course they dismantle #21 Memphis 104-84 in Knoxville last night.  So much for talk of the NIT.  Ready to jump back on the Vols’ bandwagon?

No, thanks. 

It appears that the yo-yo Volunteers are one of those dreaded teams that plays up or down to the level of its competition.  That can be great at tournament time when good teams line each bracket.  But it can be murder actually trying to make said tourney.  This year’s SEC is littered with so-so to bad basketball teams.

Assistant coach Tony Jones will be calling the shots for the Vols at Arkansas on Saturday.  If he’s smart, he’ll stress the Razorbacks’ 10-3 record to his team and not the Hogs’ #140 RPI.  Better his Vols go into Fayetteville believing they’re underdogs.

In honor of Tennessee’s team (do yourself a favor, click it)…

And in honor of my mother (class yourself up a bit with a click)…

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Pearl Can Call UT Assistants During The Games He’ll Miss

When Mike Slive announced last week that Bruce Pearl would be suspended for eight SEC games this season, the immediate reaction around the net all went in one direction:

“The commissioner has chosen to hammer Pearl which just goes to prove that he should be fired.”

For those who chose not to rush to judgement — a rarity on the internet — a bit more mulling over of the situation led to a different conclusion:

“The commissioner is mad, but he also has been working with Tennessee on its internal penalties.  It’s likely he’s trying to help UT avoid more serious NCAA sanctions.”

Well it continues to look as though the latter is more true than the former.’s Andy Katz discussed Pearl’s suspension in an NIT preview article yesterday.  He broke down all of the major details:

* 8 games away from his team
* Can coach against UConn in a non-conference game
* Can have some contact with his team on gameday
* Can continue to run practices — just not in the hours before a game
* Can travel with the team

And Katz mentioned this nugget as well: Pearl can relay game strategy to his assistants and fill-in coach Tony Jones by way of halftime phone calls.

Slive’s punishment of Pearl sends a loud message to the masses.  It also served Pearl up on a platter to the New York media.

But if Katz is correct and Pearl can still talk to his coaches at halftime, then it’s even more apparent that the league’s penalties were designed to impress the NCAA rather than punish the Tennessee program.

Don’t get me wrong… not having the head coach on the sideline is a first-of-its-kind penalty and it is serious.  But Pearl isn’t being banned from his program for a month.  Not even close.  This is a little like a smack across the face.  It’s loud and embarrassing, but it’s not as painful as a closed-fisted punch to jaw.

So how will the NCAA respond?

Will it take Slive’s unprecedented punishment into account and lessen its own penalties for Pearl?  Will it view the punishment as being mainly for show and act independently of Tennessee’s and the SEC’s penalties.  Or will the NCAA try to trump Slive’s work and come down even harder on the Vols’ coach? 

There’s no telling with the NCAA.

But the more details we get on Pearl’s suspension, the more we can tell that Slive’s punishments were designed to help Pearl stay in the league… rather than force him out of it.

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UT Responds To Pearl’s Suspension

Associate head coach Tony Jones will take over head coaching duties during Tennessee’s first 8 SEC games of the season.  Tennessee made that announcement today.

The Vol athletic department also released the following statement from athletic director Mike Hamilton and chancellor Jimmy Cheek:

“While disappointed in the severity of commissioner Slive’s additional punishment, we respect that he is acting on the authority that the league’s athletic directors, presidents, and chancellors granted him earlier this year to address matters of this nature.

“As we move forward, we are hopeful the Tennessee family will now rally behind Coach Pearl, his staff and particularly our student-athletes as they focus on the 2010-11 season, and we advance toward bringing this matter to conclusion over the next several months.”

The NCAA is expected to turn over its findings to Tennessee next month.  People inside the athletic department believe that no new dirt has been found and that Pearl’s cover-up is still a greater sin than his rules violations.

For Jones, he could be getting some on-the-job training that might come in handy next season.  Considering how seriously the NCAA takes lying to its investigators, there’s a chance Pearl could be suspended for a substantial period of time in 2011-12.

If that’s the case, Hamilton has made it clear that Pearl will remain UT’s coach and the Vols will be led by an interim coach.  That coach would likely be Jones… if he avoids an NCAA suspension of his own.  Remember, UT’s assistants were punished by Tennessee for their involvement in the Vols’ rules violations.

Two quick sidenotes –

1.  Pearl will miss Tennessee’s games: at Arkansas, vs Florida, vs Vanderbilt, at Georgia, versus LSU, at Ole Miss, at Auburn and vs Alabama.  It appears as though Pearl can coach on January 22nd against non-conference foe UConn.  (Whaddya think the press will talk about leading up to that Pearl versus Jim Calhoun matchup?)

2.  It’s possible that Slive’s punishment could actually work in Pearl’s favor.  If the NCAA decides to suspend Pearl in 2011-12 for any length of time, it could shorten its suspension by 8 games and consider it “time served.”  We’re a long way from finding out just what the NCAA will do, but it’s important to keep all possibilities in mind.

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