Reports: Bruce Pearl photo in question

Updated: September 16, 2010, 1:40 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

A 2008 photo of a top recruit at Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl's home during an unofficial visit is a major component of the NCAA's investigation of the men's basketball program, according to two reports.

The picture of Aaron Craft, now a freshman at Ohio State, was taken at Pearl's home in fall 2008, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel and CBSSports.com.

Craft was a junior who had given the Volunteers a nonbinding commitment, but his presence at Pearl's house would constitute a violation of NCAA rules, which prohibit high school juniors from interacting with college coaches off-campus during an unofficial visit.

During an interview this past June, however, NCAA investigators questioned Pearl about the photo, and Pearl denied Craft had been to his home, according to the reports.

According to CBSSports.com, the NCAA already had a photo of Pearl and Craft taken in Pearl's home before any inquiry had taken place. The identity of the photographer and how the NCAA got ahold of the picture is unclear, according to the CBSSports.com report.

Pearl's assistant coaches also were asked about the photo and whether they knew the location, and they said they did not, according to the News Sentinel report.

Pearl subsequently requested a second interview with the NCAA, the News Sentinel reported, and on Aug. 5, he disclosed information about the photo to NCAA investigators.

At a Friday news conference, when Tennessee announced self-imposed penalties, Pearl had acknowledged publicly that he gave misleading and incorrect information to the NCAA about possible violations during a 17-month investigation of his program.

However, at the time, the school addressed only allegations of excessive phone calls made to basketball recruits, and there was no mention of any possible violations regarding unofficial visits.

Also at question are unofficial visits made in the same time period of fall 2008 by Jordan McRae, who enrolled at Tennessee, and Kansas freshman Josh Selby, who at the time had made a nonbinding commitment with the Volunteers, according to the News Sentinel. The newspaper reported that both players also were at Pearl's home during that unofficial visit.

"I've made some serious mistakes, and for that I'm truly sorry," Pearl said tearfully at the news conference. "I provided incorrect and misleading information to the NCAA. I've learned some invaluable lessons. After I provided the false and misleading information, subsequently I went back and corrected the record.

"I learned that it's not OK to tell the truth most of the time, but you've got to tell the truth all of the time," he said.

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said he anticipated the NCAA would levy unethical conduct charges against Pearl and his staff, and as a pre-emptive punishment, the school would cut Pearl's pay by $1.5 million over five years and prohibit him from participating in off-campus recruiting for a year beginning Sept. 24.

Pearl's three assistants also had their pay reduced and cannot participate in off-campus recruiting for periods varying from three months to a year.

The NCAA has told Tennessee that it expects to wrap up the investigation by December -- if not sooner -- unless it learns of additional potential violations. Any violations uncovered in the investigation may be forwarded to the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in 2011.

CBSSports.com reported that an attempt to contact Pearl Tuesday was unsuccessful. Craft's father, John Craft, said he had no comment about whether his son had visited Pearl at Pearl's home in fall 2008.

The News Sentinel reported that Aaron Craft, reached by text message, said he and his family were told not to comment and all questions should be directed to Ohio State.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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