Bruce Pearl found to be non-compliant
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl was officially cited by the NCAA on Wednesday for unethical conduct for improper hosting of recruits at a 2008 barbecue at his home and subsequently misleading investigators about who attended the event.
The NCAA officially released a report of its 22-month investigation that details the notice of allegations against the Vols men's basketball and football programs Tuesday. Tennessee posted the release Wednesday on its website.
More on the Bruce Pearl Decision
The NCAA took a step toward holding Bruce Pearl and Lane Kiffin accountable for alleged wrongdoing at Tennessee. The common thread between the two is the athletic director, and Mike Hamilton should be held accountable as well, Pat Forde writes. Column
Somehow, all signs point to Tennessee standing by coach Bruce Pearl, writes Eamonn Brennan. Blog
In 19 of the last 20 unethical conduct cases, the NCAA gave a multiyear ban, writes Dana O'Neil. Will the NCAA punish Pearl as severely? Blog
Pearl was cited for impermissible contact with student-athletes during an unofficial recruiting visit, for not being ethical about the matter, for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance, and for failing to monitor the activities of his assistant coaches.
The notice did not include potential punishments.
Tennessee has 90 days to respond to the allegations, which also included rules violations against the football program and former coach and current USC coach Lane Kiffin. The NCAA also reviewed Tennessee's baseball program during its probe, but did not levy any charges against it.
Tennessee is scheduled to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions on June 10-11 in Indianapolis. The committee takes up to four months to issue a decision in some cases, as it did in the recently concluded case against Connecticut.
Within the NCAA's report, Pearl is singled out as failing to conduct himself with high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally, by initially providing false and misleading information to Tennessee and the NCAA enforcement staff and by attempting to influence others to furnish Tennessee and the NCAA "with false and misleading information concerning their involvement."
The one new charge revealed in the notice of allegations was that Pearl and associate head coach Tony Jones were cited for a secondary violation of "bumping" 2012 recruit Jordan Adams (Lawrenceville, Ga.), on Sept. 14, 2010, during Adams' junior year when the two visited Adams at Oak Hill Academy.
According to the report, Pearl and Jones had a two-to-three-minute conversation with Adams prior to the start of basketball practice. The violation with Adams came shortly after Pearl and Tennessee held a news conference announcing the self-imposed penalties. Pearl was allowed to recruit on the road for two-plus weeks before he was shut down for a year on Sept. 24.
The three assistant coaches -- Jones, Jason Shay and Steve Forbes -- were cited for failing to provide complete and relevant information in the investigation. They were not cited for unethical conduct, as Pearl was.
According to the notice of allegations, Pearl was interviewed on June 14 and provided false information about being photographed with current Ohio State freshman point guard Aaron Craft in the coach's home. Pearl denied knowledge of the photo. Pearl also denied knowing the other person in the photo, who was Shay's wife.
The report states that Pearl also called John Craft, Aaron's father, who was also at the unofficial visit to Pearl's home on Sept. 20, 2008, and told him that it was a violation for the family to attend the cookout. Unofficial visits are supposed to take place on campus, not at a coach's home.
Pearl gave John Craft the choice of attending the cookout. According to the report, John Craft was led to believe that Pearl was trying to influence his statements to the NCAA enforcement staff.
Forbes didn't provide complete information about who was at the cookout, either, during a June 14 interview, according to the notice of allegations. Shay also provided incomplete information, then violated another bylaw by telling Pearl the contents of his enforcement interview -- after being specifically told not to do so.
Jones was also cited for not giving full information about the cookout.
"The receipt of today's notice brings us one step closer to a final resolution in this matter," Pearl said in a statement Wednesday. "Throughout this process, we have recognized that we made significant mistakes and we look forward to concluding this matter with the NCAA.
"The penalties imposed on our program to date have been severe, but I want to commend our student-athletes and staff for staying focused and working through these potential distractions. The support of our fans and administration has been amazing and appreciated by me and my entire family and reminds me every day why I have the best job in the nation."
Pearl has already been disciplined by the SEC, as commissioner Mike Slive suspended Pearl for the first eight conference games of this season. Pearl had already been docked $1.5 million over five years by Tennessee and prevented from recruiting off campus for one year, beginning Sept. 24.
The Committee on Infractions could add more sanctions against Pearl when it releases its findings after the June hearing.
Shay, Jones and Forbes were also slapped with recruiting penalties, with Shay banned from recruiting on the road for three months, Jones for six months and Forbes for one year.
Pearl's contract was voided and he is now working under a letter of appointment because of the admitted violations. But a source close to Pearl said the two sides are working on a new deal that might be done soon, although there is no indication it would be finished before the June hearing. A source close to Pearl also said he isn't fearful of losing his job, since no new information has come to light since he was penalized.
Tennessee and Pearl have the option under NCAA rules to seek a summary disposition of the case. But that option would require a consensus on all the charges and would assume the committee does not want to hear from Pearl at a hearing. According to at least one attorney on the case, that's unlikely.
"Receipt of the NCAA's Notice of Allegations ... is another step in bringing this matter to conclusion," Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said in a statement.
"Our institution has operated in complete cooperation with the NCAA since April 2009 as they have pursued their investigation," Hamilton said. "We take these allegations seriously and most items noted in this document have already been reported broadly. I would like to thank the NCAA enforcement staff for their professionalism and guidance during this process."
Senior writer Andy Katz covers men's college basketball for ESPN.com.
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