"I have no tolerable answer for why I didn't tell the truth. ... I let my family down, I let the university down, I let our fans down and I let my players down."
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The NCAA delivered its letter of inquiry to the University of Tennessee, and it didn't read well for the men's basketball program.
Head coach Bruce Pearl will lose $1.5 million in salary over the next five years and the $500,000 retention bonus he was due to receive in November 2012 will be deferred until June 2015 as part of UT's self-imposed penalties announced Friday.
"I provided incorrect and misleading information to the NCAA," a teary-eyed Pearl said at a hastily called news conference Friday afternoon at Neyland Stadium. "I have no tolerable answer for why I didn't tell the truth. ... I let my family down, I let the university down, I let our fans down and I let my players down.
"I have a responsibility to lead by example, and I should expect more from myself and so should you."
The news was better for the football program. There was no further disclosure of improprieties or self-imposed sanctions related to the investigation of the football Vols, and UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said he has been notified that the investigation is "substantially complete" unless other matters of substance come to light.
Pearl and members of his staff provided the inaccurate and incomplete information to the NCAA in interviews that centered around the basketball program making an excess of phone calls to prospective recruits.
The letter of inquiry listed the time frame for the possible recruiting violations as primarily during the 2008-09 through 2009-10 academic years.
Pearl, uncomfortable with his misleading testimony of June 14, approached the UT administration within days of that initial NCAA interview to confess to what Hamilton referred to as a "misstep in judgment."
Hamilton said he anticipates the NCAA will levy unethical conduct charges against Pearl and several members of his coaching staff.
Pearl and his staff underwent a second round of interviews with the NCAA on Aug. 5, after which Hamilton and UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek, working under the counsel of attorney Mike Glazer of the Bond, Schoeneck and King law firm, set to work on a series of self-imposed sanctions.
"As soon as Mike Hamilton discovered the mistakes our basketball coaches made, he realized the seriousness of the instances, and together we began to work on a proactive plan to address the violations," Cheek said. "Bruce is our coach. We value the great work that he has done on the court and off the court. I have confidence that he will do the right things in the future.
"... But he has made some serious mistakes. As you can see, he is paying a heavy penalty for those mistakes.''
So are Pearl's assistant coaches. The three involved - associate head coach Tony Jones and assistant coaches Steve Forbes and Jason Shay - will suffer a 25 percent reduction in salaries. They will not be allowed to recruit off campus for periods ranging from three months to a year, depending on the coach.
Other self-imposed recruiting restrictions pertaining to Tennessee's 2010-11 recruiting calendar include a 33 percent reduction in permissible official visits, a 20 percent reduction in off-campus recruiting opportunities and no official visits will be allowed during the next two home football weekends (Florida, Sept. 17-18, and UAB, Sept. 24-25).
Hamilton indicated that in other such cases the NCAA has shown a "presumptive penalty" of a potential one-year suspension from coaching activities, though he noted that has been rare.
"It could be that more penalties will be levied against us," Hamilton said. "We certainly hope we have taken very strong action that will be viewed in the right way ... substantially enough to justify (the NCAA) not doing any more.
"There are no guarantees."
The NCAA enforcement staff has the intention of completing its investigation by December, according to the letter of inquiry.
"The second part is a potential notice of allegations," Hamilton said. "After notice of the allegations the process involves either a summary disposition (NCAA and the institution work together to arrive at final penalties) or (an appearance before) the committee on infractions."
Hamilton said if the process includes the committee on infractions, the potential dates for resolution would be February 2011 and April 2011.
"We won't know where we stand in that regard until that time comes," Hamilton said. "If anything else were to come to light they (NCAA) can continue the investigation as long as they feel they need to do so. But we have been given the indication that they (NCAA) are nearing conclusion."
The news conference was interrupted for several minutes Friday after a fire alarm went off in Neyland Stadium.
Pearl, meanwhile, was left with precious little time to prepare for one of his most pivotal recruiting weekends of the season.
Memphis Melrose forward Adonis Thomas, widely considered the top in-state prospect in the Class of 2011, arrived in Knoxville for his official visit Friday evening.
"We're still going to take our official visit, and Adonis will visit the campus, meet people and enjoy a good football game," said Eric Thomas, the father of the star prospect. "We haven't had a chance to talk about everything as a family; that's something we'll discuss in private."