NCAA comes down hard on Pearl, 'troubled' by Kiffin's UT tenure

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 10:51pm
Staff reports

Bruce Pearl did not see fit to tell the truth to NCAA investigators. As a result, the former University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach will not be seen on the recruiting trail or the bench of an NCAA institution for the next three years.

Pearl and the UT men’s basketball program received the stiffest penalties Wednesday when the NCAA committee on infractions handed down its final ruling in an investigation of the the university’s two major sports programs. Former football coach Lane Kiffin and his staff were cited for 12 secondary violations — all related to recruiting — during a 10-month period.

UT officials said they planned no appeal of the ruling, which included two years of probation — beginning Wednesday — for the university and noted a failure to monitor the men’s basketball program.

“It is time for the University of Tennessee to put this behind us and look forward,” Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said in a release from the university. “The NCAA commented very positively about our cooperation. We have worked hard to make things right and that has been accepted by the Committee. We have great coaches and great student-athletes, and now it's time to go out there and compete.”

A show-cause order was placed on Pearl, who was fired March 21. That means that he is barred from all recruiting activities for a three-year period. Any member college or university that attempts to hire him during that time must offer reasoning to the NCAA and could face penalties for doing so.

The investigation stemmed from impermissible recruiting contact and phone calls, but it was the fact that Pearl and staff members gave false or misleading information during the investigation and encouraged others to do the same that was deemed most problematic.

“Head coaches bear primary responsibility for monitoring all aspects of their programs and promoting an atmosphere for compliance,” the committee report stated. “It is also presumed that head coaches know or should know of violations in their programs, particularly when the violations occur over an extended period of time.”

The committee found Pearl and his staff made 94 impermissible phone calls to prospects over a two-year period.

Kiffin’s tenure at UT hardly was extended — he left for USC after one season — but the committee noted it was “troubled by the number and nature of the secondary infractions” during that time.

“We appreciate the opportunity to close this chapter with the Committee's announcement today, moving forward with no major violations in our football program and no additional penalties from the NCAA,” interim vice chancellor for athletics/athletic director Joan Cronan said. “The institution cooperated fully with the NCAA and we have a strong culture of compliance, and a bright future is on the horizon for Tennessee athletics.”