BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- SEC commissioner Mike Slive admitted Monday that it was difficult to watch how the Bruce Pearl era ended at Tennessee.
Slive, speaking in an informal question-and-answer session with reporters at an Associated Press Sports Editors conference at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, said he had “two very different conversations” with the former UT men’s basketball coach before and after his March dismissal. Asked if he still had a good relationship with Pearl, Slive smiled.
“Mine is,” Slive said.
Slive said he nor any member representing the SEC tried to influence UT’s decision to ultimately fire Pearl.
“The employment relationship of a coach and athletic administrator is in the sole purview of the institution,” he said. “It is not something that a conference has any authority over or gets involved in.”
One month after UT received a Letter of Inquiry from the NCAA, Slive initiated largely unprecedented litigation when he suspended Pearl for the first eight games of the 2010-11 SEC season. In his letter to Pearl, Slive wrote that he could have very well suspended Pearl for the entire season, but felt the eight games were appropriate because Pearl admitted to misleading NCAA investigators, who were looking into violations pertaining to impermissible phone calls and a now-infamous barbecue at Pearl’s house.
At last year’s SEC spring meetings, Slive said the conference’s presidents and athletic directors agreed, “with no specific case in mind,” to “reinforce the authority of the commissioner's office to deal with issues with the ability to suspend.”
“When we looked at it, and once we knew what the established facts were and after we gave coach Pearl and his attorney the opportunity to comment and make sure that we had the facts correctly -- in other words, due process -- and once it was established that we all understood the facts, then with the authority that I had I made the determination, because it was a violation of conference policy, that I would suspend him for half a season,” Slive said.
“That's the genesis and that's how it developed. I had to make a decision and that was the decision that I made.”
Slive said he couldn’t comment on the UT athletic department’s case of 12 major violations in men’s basketball and football with the NCAA, which will go before the Committee on Infractions in June.
“The matter is still pending with the NCAA and the NCAA will hear the matter and make its own decision,” Slive said.
Asked if UT athletic director Mike Hamilton or school chancellor Jimmy Cheek were made aware of any new information before Pearl’s firing aside from a March secondary violation, which involved an unnamed player receiving more than his allotted number of free tickets for the regular season finale against Kentucky, Slive said “you’re going to have to ask them.”
“One of the things I try not to do is put myself in anybody else's head,” he said.
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