Bruce Pearl committed the violations and tried to cover-up his actions. But Tennessee’s administration is getting the blame.
At least that appears to be the message sent via email from some Vol backers. According to The Knoxville News Sentinel, Tennessee officials received 14 email messages from “high-level donors that contained name-calling and threats to pull donations in the run-up to the March 21 firing” of Pearl.
Fourteen doesn’t seem to be that high of a number, but when you’re talking about donors who have each given more than $100,000 to UT… it adds up.
A sampling of their anger:
* The day before Pearl was fired, an email was sent to Tennessee president Joe DiPietro regarding UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek, both whom worked at Florida before moving to Knoxville. “… call of your little (fellow) attack gator, Cheek. What are you AgHeads thinking???”
* The same email said, “I will never stop doing everything in my power to have you fired at the (board of trustees) level if you persist. I have donated $220,000 to UT, bit I know well 2 of the top 5 all-time donors. They feel the same as I.”
* One emailer also referenced an honorary degree given to former Vice President and Tennessee native Al Gore. “I have already cut my annual donation back after that gaffe and will slice it to the bone if Pearl is discharged.”
* Another: “I can assure you, as have several other donors that I am aware of, that should coach Pearl be terminated, there will be a detrimental affects (sic) to the UTAD financially.”
This is rather amazing stuff considering Tennessee faces 10 major violations for Pearl’s actions. The Vol basketball program is about to take a step backward from the heights Pearl had taken it to… all… because… of… Pearl. Yet it’s the dismissal of Pearl — a coach who will likely be handed a lengthy suspension from the NCAA anyway — that has some donors threatening to pull cash.
Vol athletic director Mike Hamilton also received some emails. First, regarding his interview before the NCAA Tournament in which he said Pearl’s situation would be evaluated after the season.
“What the hell were you thinking?” read the email. “Bad decision,” replied Hamilton. “Previously scheduled interview on different topics, should have canceled.”
Well, not exactly. From what the interviewer — Jimmy Hyams of Knoxville’s WNML-AM/FM — said to me at the time, he told Hamilton’s secretary that he would ask the AD about Pearl’s status. In fairness, there could have been a disconnect between Hamilton’s secretary and UT’s athletic director.
One donor did email to show support for Hamilton and disgust with a comment Pearl made following UT’s loss to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. The emailer referenced a comment from Pearl stating, “We got into this together and we should see it through together.”
“This is away more than I can choke down,” the donor wrote to Hamilton. “I am incensed at the arrogant ignorance of that comment. I, and thousands of other Tennessee supporters, had nothing to do with HIS actions. I worry for you… and some others that are caught in this meat grinder.”
Hamilton’s response: “I’m going to stand for the truth and if some want me out because of that, I can sleep at night. Lift me up in prayer when you can.”
With a fanbase that has for the most part turned on him, Hamilton indeed needs some prayers right about now.