Tenn. unsure about Bruce Pearl's future

Updated: March 17, 2011, 2:35 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton says he does not know if Bruce Pearl will be the Volunteers' coach after this season ends.

In an interview with WNML-AM in Knoxville that aired Wednesday, Hamilton said that he, the UT-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and school trustees will evaluate Pearl after the season ends. The ninth-seeded Vols play eighth-seeded Michigan on Friday in the NCAA tournament.

Pearl
Pearl

"We don't know the answer today," Hamilton said when asked if Pearl would be coach next season. "We've done a lot of soul searching about the direction of our program, and we'll continue to do that, and we'll decide after we're out of the NCAA Tournament what direction it is that we're going to go next.

"The jury is out with what's going to happen on that. He knows that, by the way," Hamilton said. "He knows that this is a tough situation that we're in and that we're going to weigh all the things he's done so positively for our community and for our basketball program, and that will be considered greatly as we do the evaluation process."

Hamilton did not return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking additional comment. Pearl was en route to Charlotte for the Vols' NCAA tournament game.

Pearl has been working without a contract since revealing in September that he mislead NCAA investigators during a probe into recruiting. The NCAA charged him with unethical conduct and other violations, though the NCAA has not released a final ruling on the matter.

A source close to Pearl told ESPN.com's Andy Katz in February that Pearl and the school were working on a new deal. The source also said Pearl wasn't fearful of losing his job.

"We ran into a couple of snags on the deal, and we really have just set it aside to finish up the season at this stage and will deal with it when postseason play's complete," Hamilton said. "He had a chance to have had a contract back in November and December and we just never got to the finish line. Now we've got the point where we don't feel like we can do that."

Tennessee reduced Pearl's his salary by $1.5 million over four seasons in September as punishment for lying to the NCAA and banned him from off-campus recruiting for a year. The Southeastern Conference also weighed in, suspending him for eight conference games.

Tennessee has until May 21 to respond to the dozen allegations made by the NCAA and is expected to appear at a June 10-11 meeting of the Committee on Infractions. A final decision by the NCAA and any sanctions likely would come several months after that.

Hamilton declined to speak any more specifically about what will go into Pearl's evaluation. He and other school officials have pledged their support of Pearl since the investigation was made public in September.

"I love Bruce Pearl," he said. "I think he's done tremendous things for our basketball program, tremendous things for the Knoxville community, tremendous things for our University, but we're also in a very unique situation right now with what we've gone through over the last nine months, our notice of allegations, other things we're looking at with the program. We'll make those kinds of decisions when we finish the NCAA tournament as to how we're going to move forward."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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