Dan Wolken: Actions by Tennessee's Pearl give lie to sincerity of recent apology

University of Tennessee Head Men's Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl, left, Knoxville Chancellor Dr. Jimmy Cheek, center, and Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton during a press conference Friday, Sep. 10, 2010 to discuss the 'Letter of Inquiry' from the NCAA concerning basketball recruiting. The press conference was interrupted and by a fire alarm and then resumed.

Photo by Michael Patrick

University of Tennessee Head Men's Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl, left, Knoxville Chancellor Dr. Jimmy Cheek, center, and Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton during a press conference Friday, Sep. 10, 2010 to discuss the "Letter of Inquiry" from the NCAA concerning basketball recruiting. The press conference was interrupted and by a fire alarm and then resumed.

Bruce Pearl comments on NCAA investigation

Bruce Pearl lied to the NCAA earlier this year and lied about lying last weekend, a streak of dishonesty so egregious that his suddenly fraudulent image seems to be the least of his problems at the University of Tennessee.

Those who were inclined to roll their eyes at Pearl's tearful apology last Friday surely found satisfaction in the revelation earlier this week that an incriminating picture -- not his "conscience," as he initially claimed -- compelled him to tell the truth about recruiting violations after initially misleading NCAA investigators.

But if you want to understand why Pearl's guilty admission was even less sincere than it now seems, there was no better place to be Wednesday than Memphis, where Pearl and his top assistant, Steve Forbes, were making the rounds at local high schools in a desperate attempt at damage control.

"They were over for about three hours," Melrose coach Jermaine Johnson said, undoubtedly to see top-10 recruit Adonis Thomas, who visited Tennessee last weekend and is also the top recruiting target for Memphis and others.

Understand, in an attempt to appear proactive and stave off harsher sanctions last Friday, Tennessee banned Pearl and Forbes from off-campus recruiting for a year. Another assistant, Tony Jones, will be off the road for nine months while a third assistant, Jason Shay, will be allowed to recruit off campus after three.

It's a significant penalty to self-impose, no doubt.

But by not implementing the sanctions until Sept. 24, Tennessee's punishment appears disingenuous, perhaps giving the NCAA additional fodder for a hard whack once all the allegations are put on paper.

Sept. 24, after all, was not picked out of thin air. If Tennessee really wanted to show seriousness about its penalty, it would have pulled the coaches off the road immediately after receiving the letter of inquiry. Instead, athletic director Mike Hamilton gave his coaches two weeks to save their 2011 recruiting efforts and lay the groundwork for 2012 prospects.

"I don't think (the off-campus recruiting ban) will hurt them," Johnson said.

You have to wonder if Tennessee's transparent attempt at penalty convenience will sit well with the NCAA, especially given Pearl's performance in front of investigators earlier this year.

According to a report by Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, Pearl committed a violation in fall 2008 by hosting recruits Josh Selby and Aaron Craft at his home. Both players were high school juniors at the time and visiting Tennessee unofficially, which means they were not allowed to interact with Pearl off-campus.

While a clear and intentional violation of NCAA rules, it's not the worst offense in the world. The problem is, when questioned about whether Craft and Selby had been to his house, Pearl denied it, according to Parrish's sources, not realizing the NCAA already had in its possession photographic evidence of the violation.

The NCAA caught one of the nation's highest-profile coaches in an out-and-out lie, and that's no small matter. Jim Harrick was fired from UCLA in 1996 -- about a year after winning the national championship -- for lying about attendees at a recruiting dinner, even though the NCAA actually cleared him of wrongdoing.

This is a particular blow for Pearl because he had built, and in fact encouraged, a mythology about his career going back to his days as an Iowa assistant. After giving the NCAA recorded tapes of recruit Deon Thomas that implicated Illinois assistant Jimmy Collins in recruiting violations, Pearl was vilified within the profession but publicly celebrated for exposing a cheater. Now, it just makes him look like a phony.

And at what point does that start to become a theme? He wasn't sincere in his conversations with NCAA investigators. He wasn't sincere about his conscience. And even the self-imposed recruiting ban, which seems tough on the surface, is less than sincere in its application.

Nobody knows yet where this all leads, how tough the NCAA's judgment will be or even if Pearl will be able to keep his job once an official notice of allegations arrives. Certainly, recruits will have significant pause before signing with Tennessee in November, unsure what the state of the program will be by next summer.

But even in the midst of stormy times as Tennessee's head coach, we know one thing for sure about what Pearl will do in the next eight days, before his off-campus recruiting ban takes effect.

"He said he'll be back," Johnson said.

At least he told the truth about something.

To reach Dan Wolken, call 901-529-2365 or e-mail wolken@commercialappeal.com

@mgrif32 The NCAA gets what they can get. In this case, they caught the head coach of a major program in a lie. It's a big problem.Wed Sep 15 14:16:09 via TweetDeck

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Comments » 91

8ball writes:

No excuse for pearl but sounds like memphis newspaper is trying to recruit for tigers ( AD THOMAS )

VolsToTheWall writes:

hopefully Thomas will see the headline, get confused, and move on.

TommyJack writes:

Right or wrong, guilty or not, piling on begins.

jzt writes:

Fitting that a Memphis writer would chime in with this. Everything in the Bluff City is done above board, there has never been any cheating or scandals down there. The only place Calipari could exist for 10 years.

tnnavyvol writes:

It would be better for them to be coached by someone who isn't a fraud. FIRE PEARL NOW!

77VolFS writes:

A Memphis hack doing what he can to help Tiger High. They sure don't have any credibility here.

taylor2077 writes:

If I was as close to Memphis as Wolken is I would never bring up lying as related to recruiting. Memphis is a shining example "for all to follow". But thanks for your "unbiased opinion" anyway. In the future you might consider that when you live so near a glass house (Memphis U.) you might consider not throwing this type of "stone".

TkelynN writes:

It is pretty ironic that a Memphis kitty cat would chime in on the biggest news in the state. The only thing phony here is that every program out there, that claims to be with in the rules, is guilty of things like these. Some coaches do a really great job of covering it up, i mean recruiting, and others do not. When people wake up and realize that collegiate sports is 85% violation and 80% toleration then we can believe in a truly clean program. You take away the events that go unreported to the mass media such as rapes, burglaries, illegal drugs, under age drinking, acedemic cheating (which is the only way half of athletes pass class) and truly hand out scholarships to the kids who really deserve it, then and only then shall someone pipe up and make a big deal about a program who happened to be in the 5% to get caught. With that taken into consideration you would have a truly clean program but it would not be competitive and it would probably be an all white team. Thats the nature of the beast.... GO VOLS!

AlpharettaVol writes:

Since this came from Memphis, I believe I would refrain from criticizing anyone. Here's a guy who keeps saying he doesn't have all the facts yet, but it doesn't keep him from throwing stones. Careful that those stones don't bounce back and crash into your own glass house.

coxo921 (Inactive) writes:

WHO TOOK THE PHOTO....? Hasn't anyone questioned or wondered about that??? Im sure it wasn't a snoopy neighbor... C'mon guys think or rather look outside the box a little when trying to write an article. These memphis writers fit in well with KNS' junior staff writers no doubt.

Vol86 writes:

The titles of these article are just too cute. Blah Blah.

ellerbee123 writes:

SICK, SICK, SICK of the sanctimonious people posting on here. PLEASE Dear God just stay off. I would say without a doubt 50% of you people are trying to crucify Bruce Pearl but were the first to defend the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, for lying like a dog under oath and otherwise about outrageous things he did with an extremely young girl in the oval office. I support Bruce 100% and have absolutely no patience with two faced people who are crucifying Bruce. The only way you can post a negative in this situation is if during your life you NEVER told a lie. So from henceforth, anyone posting against him is Christ like.

utfan15govols writes:

Here we go, let the choir of Fire Bruce Pearl start going again. That is the easy way of dealing with it, but will it really do anything? We will still be feeling the effects of it. I feel that he and his staff should stay, face the consequences of these actions. I don't want him fired and then 2 years down the road seeing him coaching another team and doing good and we are still feeling the disaster of what he caused. Keep him, police him and when we are doing good, reevaluate his job and then decide if we need to keep him. If anybody needs to be fired, Hamilton is it. Only thing saving his arse is the hiring of Pearl and Dooley(saying that for future reference).

1vavolfan writes:

Totally sick of all of the negative coverage. I know that controversy sells newspapers but Pearl is being portrayed in the worst way possible. Pearl lied in order to cover his rear end, it was wrong but many of us would have done the same thing.

Our basketball program is in trouble and needs our support, I personally dont want days like the Houston or Peterson era again. If Pearl goes then the basketball program goes back to the dark ages.

VOLliven2it writes:

Sad to say but "every picture tells a story." The story this one seems to tell is of a coach who acted unwisely then lied for whatever reason to cover it up. The result of the story this picture tells is yet to be seen. The UT men's basketball program will suffer. Just how much only that inconsistent body we call the NCAA and their rules committee can say. I like Bruce Pearl but think something beyond a pay cut which amounts to a hangnail being plucked is not enough. Sadly, I am sure the NCAA will agree on that and we have no idea where that will lead.
No matter how great of a coach he is, after this many will have cause to second guess and question everything he does. If you lie once who's to say you will not lie again about many things. I hate this and do not see how it does not indicate the AD has allowed a lot of things to get out of control on Good Ole Rocky Top wooooh.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to ellerbee123:

SICK, SICK, SICK of the sanctimonious people posting on here. PLEASE Dear God just stay off. I would say without a doubt 50% of you people are trying to crucify Bruce Pearl but were the first to defend the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, for lying like a dog under oath and otherwise about outrageous things he did with an extremely young girl in the oval office. I support Bruce 100% and have absolutely no patience with two faced people who are crucifying Bruce. The only way you can post a negative in this situation is if during your life you NEVER told a lie. So from henceforth, anyone posting against him is Christ like.

Most of the posts thus far seem pretty supportive of Pearl..I would say that there will be a handful that want him fired, but probably most people feel the same way and will suppport him 100%..But if others choose not to then, that's their right...I have said before that I will support him no matter what.

tnnavyvol writes:

in response to VolnotHAMILTONfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Let me start by saying I am a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. We might not have the best sports programs in the world, but we get by and we kick Army's butt and no one considers us a "laughingstock". At the end of the day, a win is a win and a loss is a loss, but integrity will follow you forever.

I would prefer to have a team that is mediocre and can handle Vandy, than a team coached by lying slugs that bring crediblity down on everyone. Clean up UT!

xx5vegasxx writes:

in response to NadaVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Pearl isn't going anywhere.

This is NOT like South Carolina or North Carolina.

This is NOT like Southern Cal.

This is NOT like Indiana and Kelvin Sampson.

He lied, and he turned RIGHT around and said he did.

This is NOT like Urban Meyer having *30* players arrested during his tenure.

It isn't like the Georgia having their AD get arrested for DUI, along with half their football team.

Grow up people, and get over it.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

Totally sick of all of the negative coverage. I know that controversy sells newspapers but Pearl is being portrayed in the worst way possible. Pearl lied in order to cover his rear end, it was wrong but many of us would have done the same thing.

Our basketball program is in trouble and needs our support, I personally dont want days like the Houston or Peterson era again. If Pearl goes then the basketball program goes back to the dark ages.

Agreed!!

BufordTJustice writes:

What we have here is a complete lack of respect for the law.

Raynoch writes:

At least we will still beat Memphis.

Raynoch writes:

...errr... Tiger High

Classof72 writes:

Nowhere in the video or transcript of the press conference is Coach Pearl's apology restricted to any particular infraction. Since Wolken is deemed to be a professional journalist, it is absurd to believe he can neither hear nor read.

"The source confirmed that Pearl and his assistant coaches, when asked in initial NCAA interviews on June 14 if they recognized where the photo was taken, said they did not."

"Pearl initiated a second interview with the NCAA that was conducted on Aug. 5, during which he revealed information about the photo, according to the source."

Wolken is maliciously trying to build a false case against Coach Pearl, baldly stating that Pearl lied about lying when he did not. Lies from coaches are bad enough, but lies from so-called journalists should be intolerable. Wolken is good enough at mud slinging that he should go into politics. Pearl lied to the NCAA and Wolken lied to us. Which is worse?

Orangeblood13 writes:

calling the kettle black there Wolken

have you ever had the chance to write anything significant?

Orangeblood13 writes:

and atleast our coach stands by and take his punishment when it comes, not run

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to BufordTJustice:

What we have here is a complete lack of respect for the law.

There's no way, *no* way that you came from *my* loins. Soon as I get home, first thing I'm gonna do is punch yo mamma in da mouth!

thevoice writes:

Hate to say, but probably agree with everything in the article. I give him and Hamilton 6 months, then wish them luck with their next employer. I'm still in Hammy's corner, it just appears that these things were done behind his back, with no ability for him to control things. I hate it for the guy. As for Pearl, at 50, it's too bad you're just understanding that it's important to tell the whole truth and just part of it. I'm a UT alumnus, just being honest though.

77VolFS writes:

in response to back2z1:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Pearl is also UF's problem - FL won NC w/o winning SEC East & dominance has continued. I do respect Billy D though - both as a coach and person. Taking time prior to game in K'ville last year to help CBP out on cancer fundraising was classy.

BigOrangeFreak writes:

Is this guy on retainer from Memphis State?

I guess since Cal left Memphis these guys have had a "Scumbag Vacuum" and its left them with nothing to write about.

Bruce'll be fine. GBO

ellerbee123 writes:

in response to thevoice:

Hate to say, but probably agree with everything in the article. I give him and Hamilton 6 months, then wish them luck with their next employer. I'm still in Hammy's corner, it just appears that these things were done behind his back, with no ability for him to control things. I hate it for the guy. As for Pearl, at 50, it's too bad you're just understanding that it's important to tell the whole truth and just part of it. I'm a UT alumnus, just being honest though.

Just go s yourself. How many basketball games did you even attend? I love the self-righteous. Are you Church of God or Baptist?

lail#204076 (staff) writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor stands close to fire, smoke in eyes, vague smell of rump roast?

knox7320 writes:

Memphis taking care of Memphis! Do not worry Memphis you will get yours in the long run.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

Totally sick of all of the negative coverage. I know that controversy sells newspapers but Pearl is being portrayed in the worst way possible. Pearl lied in order to cover his rear end, it was wrong but many of us would have done the same thing.

Our basketball program is in trouble and needs our support, I personally dont want days like the Houston or Peterson era again. If Pearl goes then the basketball program goes back to the dark ages.

You ain't seen nothin yet.

Imagine all the loud choruses of "Cheaters!" and "Liars!" cascading down from the rooting sections of our rivals in our away games this year on TV. Do you remember how the columnists and broadcasters endlessly reminded fans of the Jan 1 arrests of our players? Well, multiply that x 10 this coming season. And imagine if we win the SEC or make a deep run in the NCAA tournament come March - which might just be about the time the NCAA hammer comes down - all of our rivals and commentators will be screaming that we are cheaters and liars and shouldn't be allowed to keep titles and our accomplishments are stained, etc. All of this is what is in store for us this season. It's coming, so get ready.

The simple fact is that already both Bruce Pearl and the UT basketball program are radioactive. We wouldn't be able to hire another coach now, and Pearl wouldn't be able to get another D1 job paying anywhere near what he makes now. We're stuck with each other, and we're stuck with a program that will be in decline. All thanks to Bruce Pearl being a cheater and a liar, and Mike Hamilton for failing to excercise insitutional control over him. The pay of both of these men should be reduced by 95% immediately.

77VolFS writes:

in response to back2z1:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yes, you did. Bet you enjoyed it - it's been awhile since you felt that, hasn't it? Now, if you want to look at one game and not the whole body of work since CBP arrived, you can call it whatever you want. I'll still say he's your daddy.

xx5vegasxx writes:

in response to DC_BackByPopularDemand:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You're right DC. Those 30 arrests under Urban are certainly nothing to be concerned about. Right?

ATH writes:

It's really amazing that over the last few days, people commenting on KNS articles have voiced the exact same attitudes that Wolken and other writers have expressed. Yet, when someone outside the Tennessee fanbase says these types of things, it's a problem? Spare me. Regardless of how you guys want to spin this situation, the facts remain: Pearl cheated, lied to the NCAA about it, and then lied to ALL OF YOU about the reason he lied to the NCAA about it. What he claimed to be an attack of conscience was really just another lie. I really don't see how you guys can still support a guy like Pearl. But, then again, I'm rational.

And all of this talk about what other programs do needs to stop. Just because other programs have illegal contact with recruits doesn't for one second make this any less wrong. Plus, those of you concentrating on the violations are focused on the wrong thing. The reason that the NCAA is going to slap your program with sanctions, and ultimately the reason that Pearl will probably be fired, is because he lied to the NCAA's investigators.

77VolFS writes:

in response to back2z1:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So I guess that's your NEW grandaddy then. Look z, we all have our things to get straightened out. Why don't you stop trolling with your bogus numbers and accusations that you have no proof about and put your energy into making a difference with the program you're hot on. It won't waste your time - or ours.

smokyredbone writes:

"You should have seen it in color!!!!" I hate that he lied (i'd probably still be!)I want him to survive this and get us a NC or two! In the words of those cats that drive fast "If you ain't cheatin you ain't tryin, but please,please no lyin!!! GO VOLS!

IBleedOrange444 writes:

What a clown this Wolken guy is! He probably still sleeps in Memphis Tiger bedsheets, and he probably had a wet dream about the thought of UT's demise and the end of the Pearl era in Knoxville. Here's a newsflash for Wolken though, there was no competitive advantage gained by Pearl's actions (niether of the kids involved are going to UT) and there was no lack of institutional control so there will likely be no further punishment by the NCAA. Sorry Wolken but as badly as you'd like to see UT dealt the death blow it just doesn't seem likely. Tiger High is and will always be UT's beeeotch! Have a nice day.

CleveVol writes:

Oh come on folks. They made too many phone calls. That's called marketing a brand and he's good at it and the NCAA's rules on this are stupid and egregious. I've followed UT sports since I was a kid in Morristown some 30-40 years ago. This is the best bb coach this school has ever had. Had he been there during the Ernie and Bernie Show, they would have won a national championship instead of putting poor (and totally class act) Ray Mears into therapy.
Put things in perspective: if you want a winner you've got one in Pearl. If you want more decades of mediocrity, then fire him.

FearlessFreep writes:

Despite the fact this came from a Memphis writer whose agenda is clear, the point about lying to the NCAA is still valid. It's just about the most egregious thing a coach can do. The sad thing is that Pearl knew better. The original violations are minor in comparison. Lying is a big, big deal, and if Pearl hadn't built up as much political goodwill, he'd be gone. And make no mistake, without Bruce Pearl Mike Hamilton would be out of job. I'm not a Hamilton basher at all, but there does seem to be an issue with the athletic department not monitoring the actions of its coaches (see Kiffin, Lane).

arkyvol writes:

if the bobby knights and the john caliparis of this world are allowed to continue coaching, so should pearl. i haven't seen anything that remotely approaches the seriousness of their offenses. i'm saddened by what has happened and i think he should be punished, but firing? i'm sure that would make a lot of opposing coaches happy-coaches who don't give a damn about his ethics. its his ability that worries them. if pearl goes, you can kiss the vol b-ball program goodbye.

Southland writes:

IF and that is a big if Pearl gets fired then also means UT will be on probation and will be low in talent. We have a history of bad coaches so which good coach do you think we could get to come to a program with a weak history and on probation. It would be better to keep Pearl and let him work thru the mess he has made. We know he can coach. We know he can motivate the fans. We know he did wrong and if we are in trouble then he knows he has to do right or he would bring about the death penalty. UT fans like myself are embarrassed and should be but it would be better to stick with what we have and work thru this. Man I am having to live in Ky and it is really hard listening to the UK folks crowing about our penal farm. I know Calipari will eventually land UK in trouble but in the mean time I have to listen to junk every single day

798orange writes:

in response to thevoice:

Hate to say, but probably agree with everything in the article. I give him and Hamilton 6 months, then wish them luck with their next employer. I'm still in Hammy's corner, it just appears that these things were done behind his back, with no ability for him to control things. I hate it for the guy. As for Pearl, at 50, it's too bad you're just understanding that it's important to tell the whole truth and just part of it. I'm a UT alumnus, just being honest though.

Good points, the whole thing seems so unnecessary. Thinking back, in 2008 when the picture incident took place we were just coming off the excitement of winning the SEC regular season championship in only his third year, were filling the arena, had guys like Lofton, JaJuan Smith, and Bradshaw, full-court pressure, hustling after loose balls. He had already gotten us to the point where his accomplishments by themselves were enough to sell most recruits to play here. I do not understand the need to go around the rules and then deny it.

Orangeblood13 writes:

still stand beside Pearl

he's our guy

if we where 15-15 and 3-10 sec, then this never comes about

Sampson, Calimari's of the world get away with much worse

bryanvolsfan writes:

Wasnt it Tiger High who wanted Bruce really bad just a few years ago when the slim left? Now they are changing their tune! Wonder what they would say if Bruce would have left UT for Memphis?

Ralph_Crampton writes:

Careful what you read...Vols have enemies galore, and many jump on, or pile on when your enemy has a choke hold....GoVolExtra has lots of folks on this internet who would like to destroy the Volunteer program.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to ATH:

It's really amazing that over the last few days, people commenting on KNS articles have voiced the exact same attitudes that Wolken and other writers have expressed. Yet, when someone outside the Tennessee fanbase says these types of things, it's a problem? Spare me. Regardless of how you guys want to spin this situation, the facts remain: Pearl cheated, lied to the NCAA about it, and then lied to ALL OF YOU about the reason he lied to the NCAA about it. What he claimed to be an attack of conscience was really just another lie. I really don't see how you guys can still support a guy like Pearl. But, then again, I'm rational.

And all of this talk about what other programs do needs to stop. Just because other programs have illegal contact with recruits doesn't for one second make this any less wrong. Plus, those of you concentrating on the violations are focused on the wrong thing. The reason that the NCAA is going to slap your program with sanctions, and ultimately the reason that Pearl will probably be fired, is because he lied to the NCAA's investigators.

Though you are not a Tennessee fan, but I am one, I must sadly agree with you in everything that you've said. We at Tennessee must face these truths, and we may as well get started doing it now. The call has to go out to replace Mike Hamilton as soon as we can. We will need an AD who knows how to guide both the football and basketball programs through a period of sanctions. And as long as Pearl chooses to work here, his salary should be reduced to reflect his grossly devalued market value.

orangeblood8456 writes:

wolken, you've been eating to many ribs. its choking you one and only brain cell!

martinvol34 writes:

in response to brownsvillevol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Here in lies the problem - this homer is in Memphis' corner and the sad part is that without all the mess Kiffin left this probably would have never come up.

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