Athletic director, chancellor address NCAA investigation
Following is a complete transcript of Friday’s Tennessee athletics press conference related to the program’s receipt of an official Letter of Inquiry from the NCAA.
Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton
“As expected earlier today, the University of Tennessee has now received a letter of inquiry from the NCAA. This notice serves as formal notification of their investigation that actually has been ongoing since April of 2009. This letter serves as the first step toward bringing this matter to conclusion, as we have been notified that the investigation is substantially complete unless other matters of substance were to come to light. It’s a little odd on the timing, I understand, but I want to make sure you understand the formal process.
“During this time the (university) president and most recently the chancellor have been active and engaged in the monitoring of the process, and as will be announced in a few moments, heavily involved in some preemptive penalties that we’ll take in light of preliminary findings.
“In addition, last fall the university engaged Mike Glazier from Bond, Schoeneck and King to assist in this process. Mike has extensive experience with issues of this nature, and has been invaluable in the process.
“It’s been well-documented that a portion of this investigation has dealt with matters related to our football program. While we await final confirmation of details, it would be fair to say the issues reviewed relating to football have already been addressed in the media over the last 12 months, and we do not expect a great deal of information related to football.
“Prior to the investigation of our football program, the NCAA had initiated a look into telephone activity surrounding our basketball program and a potential of excessive phone calls to recruits. We have some level of exposure there, and we’ll deal with these issues in the appropriate manner.
“In the course of the investigation and questioning over the last several weeks, a more serious matter has arisen, and that’s what we’re here to address today. It’s come to our attention that during the questioning, members of our basketball staff, including head coach Bruce Pearl, provided misleading information and incorrect information to the NCAA. Coach Pearl came forward to admit this and to provide the correct information, and I think that should be duly noted.
“However, we anticipate potential unethical conduct charges to be levied against Coach Pearl and several members of our coaching staff. As a result, we’ve decided that it’s necessary to take serious and pro-active action to deal with this misstep in judgment.
“The following actions have been taken in regards to coach Pearl: His current compensation will be reduced 25 percent from $2 million to $1.5 million. Year two of his contract will reflect the same salary, and is a reduction from what would have been a $2.1 million salary. An additional $400,000 reduction will be spread over the remaining three years for a total financial penalty of $1.5 million. His scheduled $500,000 retention bonus in 2012 will be deferred until 2015. And lastly, coach Pearl will not be allowed to engage in off-campus recruiting activities from Sept. 4, 2010, to Sept. 23, 2011.
“Coach Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay will receive a 25-percent reduction in compensation, effective Oct. 1, 2010. In addition, coach Forbes will not be able to engage in off-campus recruiting from Sept. 4, 2010, to Sept. 23, 2011. Coach Jones from Sept. 4, 2010, through June 23, 2011, and coach Shay from Sept. 24, 2010, through Dec. 23, 2010.
“There are other penalties that were previously imposed that you will be provided a copy of with the information you will receive today.
“People make mistakes, and we all make them. I’ve made them. I make plenty. Bruce made one mistake in this incident, and he came forward to correct it. I’m glad he’s our basketball coach. This is a tough time, but we’re going to get through it together as an institution, as a basketball staff and as an athletics staff.”
Chancellor Jimmy Cheek
“As Chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, I hold our faculty, our staff, our students, our athletic directors, our coaches and our administrators to a high standard of conduct. When they don’t meet those standards, appropriate actions and penalties will follow.
“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.
“Compliance is our top priority. I believe that Mike Hamilton has put the proper procedures in place to make sure our coaches and our staff abide by rules. We have a good compliance training program in place, a good compliance system in place, and our coaches must take advantage of them and make the right decisions.
“Its Mike’s job to make absolutely certain that our coaches understand what our expectations are. I’m confident that Mike Hamilton, our athletic director, I am confident that he has faced this issue head on. He has been proactive in administering penalties, and he has made very, very tough decisions.
“I would like to add that, throughout the process, Mike has had the interest of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville at heart, not just the athletic program. Mike is a valued member of my cabinet and my leadership and administrative team.
“I want to stress that the NCAA considers our obligation to tell the truth and cooperate with them very high on their priority list, and it’s one of our highest responsibilities as well. As leaders on campus, we have the responsibility to abide by rules and set examples for others, especially our students.
“Coach Pearl is an important part of the University of Tennessee family, but he has made some serious mistakes. As you can see, he is paying a heavy penalty for those mistakes and has accepted the responsibility for his actions.
“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. He is one of our family members, and we stand with him and his family at this point in time.”
Men’s Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl
“I hold the University of Tennessee, its students and the faculty, staff and our fans in the highest regard and the highest esteem. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be the basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. I’ve made some serious mistakes, and for that I’m truly sorry. 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 that you have to tell the truth all the time. I have no tolerable answer for why I didn’t tell the truth the first time, and I take full responsibility for my actions and those of my coaching staff.
“I do apologize from the bottom of my heart that I let everybody down. I let my family down. I let the university down. I let our fans down. And the guys in that room, I let my players down. I have a responsibility to lead by example, and I should expect more from myself and so should you.
“There is a very strong culture of compliance here at the University of Tennessee. This is an institution that has control. It’s my responsibility to monitor my program, and I did not do it to the level that’s required. The NCAA should expect better of me.
“I’ve been in coaching for 28 years, and 18 years as a head coach, and I’ve tried to follow the rules and serve the NCAA and my National Association of Basketball Coaches in an exemplary way. Having been a Division II head coach and a Division I assistant and having worked my way up from being a manager and a part-time player, I’ve been so grateful for the opportunities to grow in this profession and to finally be at a place where I could coach the greatest student-athletes in the world at the greatest institution in the world and receive the kind of support that I receive from the president, the chancellor and our athletic director and all of our fans.
“But I will serve as an example for the NCAA. There is greater scrutiny that is taking place in intercollegiate athletics right now, and in the long run this is going to be good for intercollegiate athletics. I should have been forthcoming, and I should have been completely honest. And had I done that, the severity of these penalties would have been considerably less.
“I want to thank (university) president Jan Simek, who’s not here, Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and athletic director Mike Hamilton for judging my conduct, my integrity and what I’ve tried to stand for over the last six years and to accept my apology for embarrassing the university and our athletic program, and for the university to have chosen to stand by me and my coaching staff and our families.
“We are not going to allow these sanctions to prevent our program from being competitive. I love the University of Tennessee. I want to coach here for the rest of my life. I’ve put my heart and my soul into this program, and I will not let you down like this again.”