New UT president remarks on Pearl issue
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A letter notifying Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl that his previous contract was being terminated details how Pearl knowingly committed violations and planned to hide details from the NCAA.
The multiple violations that have been at the center of the NCAA probe into the men’s basketball program involve the Sept. 20, 2008, visit to Pearl’s house by then UT commitments and unofficial visitors Aaron Craft, Josh Selby and Jordan McRae. McRae is now a UT freshman; the other two players went elsewhere.
A “notification of termination of employment agreement” letter, dated Sept. 9 from Mike Hamilton to Pearl and obtained through an open records request, states that Pearl told the prospects and their families that their presence at his home was a violation of NCAA rules.
Pearl also told them that he was not going to tell anyone about the violation, and he asked they not tell anyone, either.
UT athletic director Mike Hamilton reiterated this morning that Tennessee was aware of all of the details of the case and that, “It’s important for people to know that Bruce is our coach.’’
UT has offered Pearl a new 5-year contract that reflects the loss of $1.5 million in salary as part of self-imposed sanctions announced in a Sept. 10 press conference. Pearl’s attorney is reviewing the contract and he’s expected to sign it shortly, Hamilton said.
Hamilton announced in the Sept. 10 press conference, which acknowledged an NCAA letter of inquiry, that Pearl had likely committed an unethical conduct violation by misleading the NCAA during a June 14, 2010, interview.
In part, the unethical conduct violation involved Pearl and his assistant coaches telling the NCAA that they could not identify the location of a picture taken of Pearl with Craft at his home on Sept. 20, 2008.
The picture of Craft and Pearl that was shown to the UT basketball staff — taken within Pearl’s home with assistant coach Jason Shay’s wife in the background — was described as black-and-white and grainy, according to a source close to the investigation.
Pearl also told the NCAA in the June 14 interview that he could not identify Shay’s wife.
Pearl requested another interview with the NCAA, on Aug. 5, during which he admitted to knowing the photo was taken at his home and that he could identify Shay’s wife.
The Sept. 9 notification letter involving Pearl’s contract also states that Pearl called a prospect’s father on June 14, 2010, before and after Pearl interviewed with the NCAA.
Three sources have confirmed that the phone call was made to the father of Craft.
When contacted by the News Sentinel, Craft, now at Ohio State, texted that he has been told not to discuss the case.
Pearl told UT that he called Craft’s father to remind him that he had informed him that coming to his house would be a violation and that he had given him the choice to attend.
“At the very least your calls to the father created the appearance that you were trying to influence the father’s statements to the NCAA,’’ the letter states.
The notification letter also charges Pearl with failing to protect the integrity of the NCAA investigation by meeting with his assistant coaches and talking about their NCAA interview before meeting with them himself.
The assistant coaches informed Pearl that the NCAA had a picture of Pearl and Craft, and assistant coach Steve Forbes told Pearl that he thought the photo was taken at Pearl’s house.