Six days after the University of Tennessee announced that its football and basketball programs were part of an ongoing NCAA investigation, Athletic Director Mike Hamilton confirmed the baseball program is also part of the probe.
A source familiar with the NCAA investigation says the baseball part of the probe involves two issues, neither of which are believed to be major violations. The source requested anonymity because the investigation has not been completed.
UT officials held a press conference last Friday to reveal the school had received a letter of inquiry from the NCAA following a 17-month investigation.
Hamilton released a list of self-imposed sanctions UT had placed on men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl and the basketball program. Hamilton did not self-impose any penalties against the football program. However, he didn't indicate the baseball program was under investigation during the press conference or in follow-up interviews.
The letter of inquiry served notice that the NCAA enforcement staff is investigating the "possible violations of recruiting and extra-benefit legislation (that) occurred primarily during the 2008-09 through 2009-10 academic years.''
UT baseball coach Todd Raleigh was hired on June 21, 2007.
At least two of the possible violations for which the football team is under investigation are related to an off-campus visit made on Sept. 25, 2009, by two UT hostesses from Orange Pride.
Free drinks provided to UT athletes at Bar Knoxville, the site of a brawl involving athletes on July 9, could also constitute an extra benefits violation, according to UT's associate athletics director for compliance, Brad Bertani.
Hamilton, who replaced Doug Dickey in 2003, said last Friday that he anticipated Pearl would be charged with unethical conduct as a result of misleading testimony that he and his assistant coaches provided in a June 14 interview with the NCAA.
The portion of the interview where Pearl and his assistants were not forthcoming involved a picture of a recruit that was taken at Pearl's home during a Sept. 20, 2008, visit.
Pearl requested a second interview with the NCAA, which was held on Aug. 5, during which he confirmed the improper off-campus contact with the recruit - Ohio State freshman Aaron Craft, who was a junior in high school.
The News Sentinel has since learned that UT freshman Jordan McRae and Kansas freshman Josh Selby were also present at Pearl's home during the same weekend while making unofficial visits their junior year. Also, food and drinks were provided to the players.
Both the off-campus contacts and the food and drinks would constitute NCAA violations.
The sanctions against Pearl and the basketball program were both severe and unprecedented. They include a $1.5 million reduction in Pearl's salary over the next five years and lengthy suspensions of off-campus recruiting privileges for Pearl and his staff beginning Sept. 24.
Hamilton said the NCAA has notified UT that a substantial portion of its investigation has been completed.
Mike Griffith can be reached at 865-342-6289 or firstname.lastname@example.org.