Lies to NCAA dunked Tennessee basketball staff

Ex-coach wanted probe 'to go away'

Former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl leaves a hearing by the NCAA's infractions committee in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 11, 2011.

Photo by AJ Mast/Associated Press

Former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl leaves a hearing by the NCAA's infractions committee in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 11, 2011.

The initial question came with an apology.

Joyce Thompson, one of the NCAA's head investigators for the probe into Tennessee's athletic department, clutched a photograph as she sat across from Bruce Pearl during a June 2010 interview. Also present was Mike Glazier, the university's lead attorney.

Neither Pearl nor Glazier were caught off guard. Six days earlier, the NCAA's enforcement staff had informed Glazier that the infamous photograph of Pearl and prized prospect Aaron Craft taken inside Pearl's home would be part of the interrogation.

"Have you, and I apologize, this is a grainy photo that we received in our office, and I received this through e-mail just to let you know," Thompson said, looking at Pearl. "But, um, we received this picture and it purports to be you with Aaron Craft.

"Do you have any recollection of that incident or maybe where this picture was maybe taken from and..."

"That's Aaron, that's me," Pearl said. "I don't really know where that's taken."

"OK," Thompson said. "Any place on campus but you don't know?"

Glazier interjected.

"Do you recognize the woman that's in the picture?" he asked, referring to a shot of Jana Shay, the wife of Pearl's assistant coach Jason Shay, positioned with her head down in the background.

"No," Pearl said. "I really don't."

"Coach," Glazier said, "is that in your home any place?"

"No," Pearl said.

"OK," Thompson said.

And with that, the end had officially begun.

On Sept. 20, 2008, after the UT football team lost to Florida in ugly fashion at Neyland Stadium, then-high school juniors Aaron Craft, Josh Selby and Jordan McRae, all of whom were on campus for unofficial visits, rode to Pearl's home for a barbecue.

Because two of the players received transportation from a current player, a violation was committed before they even set foot on Pearl's property. Once that occurred, another rule had been broken because unofficial visitors are not permitted to be with any team representatives off campus. Finally, because free food and drink were provided to the recruits and their families, a third violation was committed within an hour.

The incident went unreported by Pearl or any of his assistants, but a photograph of Pearl posed with Craft at his house changed everything.

As detailed in the university's response to its NCAA Notice of Allegations, which was filed May 20 and provided Friday to the News Sentinel through a public records request, how Pearl and his coaches conducted themselves during and between their initial interviews with NCAA investigators ultimately served as the backbone for why UT awaits sanctions from the Committee on Infractions for 12 major violations, and why the coaches no longer are UT employees.

'Principles of honesty'

Pearl's interview was the last of the day, but it wasn't the first instance of a UT employee violating the NCAA's "principles of honesty."

Pearl and all three of his assistants — associate head coach Tony Jones, Shay and Steve Forbes — each did it in slightly different ways.

Forbes was the first to be interviewed. He questioned the quality of the photograph, which was sent anonymously via U.S. Mail to the NCAA.

"I mean it doesn't look like his house to me, but, that doesn't mean, I don't, I can't tell, no," Forbes said during his initial interview with Thompson.

Glazier followed up with a question to see if he could identify Jana Shay.

Forbes hesitated, then cursed.

"These days a photo shop..."

"OK," Glazier said.

"OK," Thompson said.

"You know," Forbes said, "it could be anything."

On his way out of the interview, Forbes met Shay, who was on his way in to be interviewed, at a water fountain in the hallway.

"You're gonna see that ... they're gonna show you a picture," Forbes, in his follow-up interview in August, recalled telling Shay. "That was it."

Forbes then walked back to the basketball offices and met with Jones and Pearl. He notified them both about the photograph.

Meanwhile, back in the interrogation room, Shay was not directly asked about his wife's presence in the photograph, and he didn't voluntarily offer up the information.

"Does the area look familiar? Maybe a place on campus or someone's home?" Thompson asked.

"Yeah, I don't recognize it," Shay said.

Jones identified Pearl and Craft in the photograph, but didn't explicitly deny that the photo was snapped in Pearl's home. He also could not confirm that the woman in the photo was Jana Shay.

Both Forbes and Shay eventually were charged with failing to protect the integrity of the investigation.

'A bad decision'

Earlier that day, Pearl committed a major NCAA violation when he attempted to contact Craft's father, John. John didn't answer, so Pearl left a voicemail.

The two spoke later in the day after Pearl's interview with Thompson. John Craft viewed the conversation as an attempt by Pearl to influence his statements to the NCAA. The NCAA viewed it as failing to protect the integrity of the investigation.

The Crafts interviewed with the NCAA twice in July 2010.

"I said, 'Well, coach, you know, if we're asked we will tell what is the best of our ability, you know, the recollection of what happened that afternoon, that day, that visit,'" John Craft said during an interview with Thompson. "He right away said 'Well, John, we,' his tone kinda changed and it was like, uh, 'Well, we — I've had a discussion with my staff and,' uh, 'we remember the visit and we remember telling you that we were going out for an informal cookout at my house and that it was illegal for you to be there.'

"And I said, 'Coach, if that's your story then,' you know, 'we're gonna have two.'"

Pearl said his reasons for contacting Craft were twofold. Along with his curiosity about where the photo came from, Pearl said he wanted to give Craft the "heads up" that NCAA investigators might contact him in the near future.

Pearl stressed that he was not instructing Craft to lie, but understood how others could imply the situation that way.

"Obviously," Pearl said in a follow-up interview with the NCAA, "I made a bad decision in calling John."

Having second thoughts

Second thoughts raced through Pearl's head immediately after his initial interview with the NCAA.

He called a meeting with his assistants later that day, something the NCAA also considered to be a compromise of the investigation's integrity. His questions focused solely on the photograph.

"...he, coach Pearl, came back and said that he recognized that it was his house," Shay said in his follow-up interview with the NCAA.

"OK," Thompson said, "and what was your, what was your reaction to that?"

"I mean I — if he said it was then I agreed with him."

Shay said he, Jones and Forbes each notified Pearl that they didn't recognize the photograph's setting.

It was then, Shay said, that Pearl decided he would contact the NCAA to say that "we've got additional information."

Coming clean

Pearl waited nearly two months before he was able to meet again with the NCAA's enforcement staff. Thompson, accompanied by fellow investigator Kristen Matha, ran through a number of the same questions from the previous interview with Pearl, who was joined by his personal legal counsel, Steve Thompson.

Pearl came clean right from the start. He knew that the photo was snapped at his house and he knew that the woman in the background was Jana Shay.

He later explained why.

"I panicked," Pearl said. "I wanted it to go away.

"It goes against a lotta things that I've worked for that I sorta stand for."

Pearl said he knew what his assistants said — and didn't say — about the photograph.

"So," Pearl said, "I did not tell the truth.

"This is only the second time I've been through an NCAA investigation, so, um, I thought maybe that would be the end of it."

Also, during the barbecue, Pearl said he gathered Craft, Selby and members of their family on the veranda of his house to explain why they would soon need to leave.

"I said 'you guys are now, you're in our home and this, this is wrong, OK. This is against the rules,'" Pearl said. "'One, I'm gonna ask you to leave here shortly and two, I'm gonna ask you not to say anything about this. This is not something that I would broadcast or advertise.'"

None of the assistants, who were questioned extensively about how many times they'd been to Pearl's home in the past, were as blunt or forgiving as Pearl in their follow-up interviews.

Jones was asked if he, at the time of his initial interview, "recognized the surroundings of the photo."

"I couldn't," Jones said. "I couldn't look at this picture and tell you that this was over at coach Pearl's house. There's no way in the world that I could say beyond a reasonable — I'm 100 percent sure this picture was taken over at his house. I couldn't do that."

Shay, after notifying investigators that he initially recognized his wife in the photo, was asked why he didn't provide them with that bit of information.

"It wasn't asked of me," he said.

Like Jones, Forbes said that he felt he was originally honest with the investigators because he couldn't "100 percent" tell the photo was snapped at Pearl's home.

"I'm pretty sure I said in there you know how many pictures I've seen him Photoshopped in in the last three or four years, five years I've been here?" Forbes asked.

"No," Thompson said, "I don't."

"A lot," Forbes said. "I mean, I see him on a boat with his family, and then next time I see it the kids are cropped out and there's three girls with bikinis on."

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Comments » 57

newportvol writes:

Wow... Yes we knew this but didnt know all the details.. Hard to defend Pearl and the former staff now... and I loved Coach Pearl..

BigVolinCarolina writes:

This reads with the tell-tale signs of an intentional, premeditated cover-up by Pearl and his staff. The problem with a cover-up (aside from lying) is that it usually ends with you getting covered up in the grave that you dug for yourself.

The most ironic line from the transcript is Pearl saying, "I wanted it to go away. It goes against a lotta things that I've worked for that I sorta stand for." That I "sorta stand for"? How true that turned out to be.

Hope the players, old hoops staff, new staff, adminstrators, students and fans learn from this and resolves to make better choices in the future, regardless of the temptation to do otherwise.

thetrollhunter writes:

KNS is terrible. Your really going to put that headline up? Stupid.

The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca writes:

Sooooo.....

Who took the picture?

Who sent it anonymously to the NCAA?

People know.

What are the answers?

Pullingguard writes:

in response to thetrollhunter:

KNS is terrible. Your really going to put that headline up? Stupid.

KNS did good job with this, we all knew he lied, but this gives the gritty details, and under the circumstances Pearl knew from day one that he was dead meat. Now the University and Pearl must wait for the hammer to drop, and it will probably be very serious.

vol_4_fan writes:

in response to The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca:

Sooooo.....

Who took the picture?

Who sent it anonymously to the NCAA?

People know.

What are the answers?

Best guess is the Craft crew! Can not give these young kids everything they and their greedy parents want and even think that you can trust them. Greed by everyone involved. Go Vols!

TommyJack writes:

A well crafted article, Gribble.

TinsleyLA77 writes:

The picture was so grainy the lady had to apologize? It appears the NCAA did not attempt to declare the picture authentic, but rather use it for discovery.

It happened, but that does not mean the photo was authentic. Dammit. Flip Ohio State and whoever ratted.

JohnsonCity_George writes:

Everyone knows the photo came from the Ohio State staff. It was retaliation for beating them in the Sweet Sixteen. I doubt Coach Tony Jones reads this, but, if asked, he could tell us exactly where it came from. He could tell you the exact person who sent it.

thevoice writes:

Yada yada yada. Last I checked Cuonzo Martin was our coach. Who cares about Pearl anymore?

keepitreal4vols writes:

KNS-The horse is dead, stop beating it.

SouthALVol writes:

Seems like I can remember my parents telling me when I was about 3-4 years old one lie always leads to another. I'm pretty sure most parents worldwide tell their kids the same thing. Man, this phooey is depressing. I'm expecting the worst from the NCAA. Who could blame them?

richvol writes:

Pearl has,or had,low integrity...on more than one occasion. We are much better off now that he is gone.

doh writes:

in response to TheKentuckyEffect:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

10 years??? I dont think so. This year will be tough. A good recruiting class or two and everything will be all right.

MidTennVol writes:

Terrific article, Gribble. Very glad you've joined the KNS staff.

Razor784 writes:

Great article, great insight

huckabee writes:

Hmmmmm . . . what was Pearl and his staff really covering up? What were they afraid of the NCAA uncovering that was worse than a cook-out. Why would Pearl lie about Shays wife? There's more here folks. Sooner or later it will come out. JMO.

elmoe writes:

Why would someone hire a guy like Pearl (who had a dirty reputation prior to UT)?

cloudodust writes:

It boils down to the fact that our institution and it's athletic programs will pay the price for the misdeeds of a few that are no longer here but made a good living while employed by the university. Albeit, sticking a knife into the guts of the VolunteerNation in the process.

Vol43 writes:

I guess the story will not die. Move along folks; nothing to see here.

GerryOP writes:

Wow... Pretty dirty stuff... As we have proven more than once in the last few years, unabated hero worship creates false idols... Maybe our future coaches will be capable of handling the idol worship we bestow upon them without thier feeling that they are bigger than our university. Maybe...

VolInIndy writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No, and it won't affect it either.

lafollette37766 writes:

KNS must be bucking for a Pulitzer for investigative reporting. It is about time for the NCAA to release its report. We will all find out how bad it is going to be then. U T made some very bad choices in hiring coaches and now U T is going to have to pay the piper so to speak for its mistakes.

Huttdawg100 writes:

in response to The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca:

Sooooo.....

Who took the picture?

Who sent it anonymously to the NCAA?

People know.

What are the answers?

Thad Matta.

Slystone writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

KNS-The horse is dead, stop beating it.

Next up a 500 word report on Kiffin (again).

CharlotteVol writes:

I would love to know where Hamilton was during all this... If you were the AD and one of your star coaches was being investigated by the NCAA with some pretty incriminating evidence, wouldn't you be all over this?? I'm not blaming Hammy for Pearl's stupidity, but his hands-off approach most certainly contributed to Pearl believing he could "make it go away"..

Just sayin'

VolInIndy writes:

in response to Huttdawg100:

Thad Matta.

Yeah, kinda ironic that The state university of ohio wouldn't give Craft the time of day so he commits to us, then after OSU wakes up and offers the self-admitted mama's boy, not only does he flop, but his picture takes Pearl down. We got former suckeye commit Golden with the opening but so far, Craft has proven the better player. That's OK, QM will have Golden developed to full potential and he will make the Vols better than ever in just a few years. Book it.

lafollette37766 writes:

in response to CharlotteVol:

I would love to know where Hamilton was during all this... If you were the AD and one of your star coaches was being investigated by the NCAA with some pretty incriminating evidence, wouldn't you be all over this?? I'm not blaming Hammy for Pearl's stupidity, but his hands-off approach most certainly contributed to Pearl believing he could "make it go away"..

Just sayin'

Hammy was probably on another planet when all this was going on. Hammy had no clue what was going on in the athletic dept and had even less of a clue when hiring coaches. Yeah Pearl did really well for U T but he also had a lot of baggage before U T that nobody seemed interested in looking at before he was hired and as for Kiffy. Oh well.

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

Pleeeeeease stop! Ugggghhhh...

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

I'm pretty sure I read last year that Pearl went to Hamilton pretty quickly after his lie. It's too bad he couldn't get in to see the NCAA sooner after that. It's also too bad that this won't just go away so we can all move on. (Hint, hint, kns.)

givehim6 writes:

in response to TheKentuckyEffect:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How do you see it that Pearl set the program back 10 years? Yes it will be difficult for Martin to keep our program at the same leavle that it has been for the past 6 years for a few years. Pearl brougt UT's BB progam out life support back to life, kids will look at UT now and go humm.

tenndave writes:

You can't defend my beloved Pearl and his staff nor the way the University handled it which was a disgrace.

Next story. When coaches and players at any university break rules, usually the school suffers, the coaches are fired or sanctioned and the kids and their sometimes blood sucking parents dance free. Till everyone in the process is held ACCOUNTABLE, we can never stop it. If the players involed knew in advance that willingly participating in a NCAA violation in recruiting would make them inelegible for a year, it might help. We all know that the photo was sent by someone at Ohio State only after we made the final 8 two years later. It was payback time for what couldn't be handled on the court. Andthe Crafts may not have been responsible. It may have been a frat brother or rabid fan that knew where the pic was.

Now all of that being said, it is becoming abundently clear that paying athletes under the table is much more common place than we want to admit, so who is worried about a stupid barbeque. In the end it was the lie not the violation that brought down the program. But throwing the book at this incident makes everyone feel the NCAA is trying to really do its job since they can't find the money at the other places.

Ringleader writes:

in response to The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca:

Sooooo.....

Who took the picture?

Who sent it anonymously to the NCAA?

People know.

What are the answers?

Furnished by a "hostess" whom also said she was sent there by Hamilton

dbc5361 writes:

Very insightful article. To the fans tired of these stories, don't let the name of this site fool you. This is a newspaper and the success of each article, at least online, is the number of reads and comments. The ones you want to go away and/or show UT in a negative light are the "money makers". If you're only looking for sunshine you can always get your Vols news from the athletic departments official site.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

KNS-The horse is dead, stop beating it.

Unfortunately, as the post below yours indicates, this is not a dead issue yet. It won't be over until the NCAA rulings are known and CCM shows that he is the man to lead the Vols back to the heights reached by Pearl before he lost his way. It is a good thing for those of us who loved Pearl and what he brought to UT basketball to understand precisely what led to whatever consequences the NCAA imposes on us. Not all of us knew the exact sequence of events or what was known by whom at each stage.

TennVol01 writes:

in response to 02champs#209256:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I was thinking the same thing. Two sports articles repeating Pearl news. Must be slow on the sports desk.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to Huttdawg100:

Thad Matta.

J.S.(Witch Doctor originally thought the Crafts.)
Bones never lie.

MikeInTN writes:

Pearl and his assistants...Dumb & Dumber!!!!! IMO the basketball program will suffer for several years because of his lying a@*!!!!!! Sure the heck hope I'm wrong.

Chris4Vols22 writes:

You people acting this is old news are silly. These details had never before been released. I know it's tough to see the coach that most of us loved crash and burn, but we're smarter about it now.

I had lost a great deal of respect for Pearl, but now, I think I was still giving him too much credit. Dude is slimy, especially seeing him act self-righteously and being pretentious. Reading this article has made me believe that Cuonzo is an even better hire for us. I already liked him with his proven success, excellent reputation, and NBA connections. I'm starting to think coach Martin can start a new and better golden era of UT basketball. GO VOLS!!

GO SCOTTY!! (<-- seems like that's always needed)

NoIncomeTax writes:

in response to TheKentuckyEffect:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Pearl single-handedly brought the UT program out of the dark ages. The program was dead when he arrived. He set a precedent that UT can be successful in basketball.

He made a terrible decision when he lied about having 3 high school juniors at his home for a cookout. But he is the reason basketball means something again in Big Orange Country.

LJS1984 writes:

in response to Lane_Kiffins_Daddy_Wears_Diapers:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That seems about right. I HATE OHIO STATE and everything about OHIO. You can't go anywhere in the SOUTH without running into a jort, tank top wearing idiot from Ohio that has an opinion about everyting. Why can't they just stay in Ohio? If they love it so much, one would think that they would want to vacation up there on the Great Lakes or something?

newtonrail writes:

OK, Pearl was guilty, but it looked to me like UT's lawyer(Glazier) lead him right into the trap. Had the lawyer not been present, who knows how Pearl would have responded.

murrayvol writes:

in response to VolInIndy:

No, and it won't affect it either.

Touche!

murrayvol writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

J.S.(Witch Doctor originally thought the Crafts.)
Bones never lie.

I still think Papa Craft sent it with Matta looking over his shoulder.

vol98champ writes:

in response to newtonrail:

OK, Pearl was guilty, but it looked to me like UT's lawyer(Glazier) lead him right into the trap. Had the lawyer not been present, who knows how Pearl would have responded.

I can't believe it took this many comments to ask the question about the lawyer. If he knew the facts and allowed this to happen; he is responsible. If he did not know the facts; he should not have been in the room. I will say it again; as crooked as college BB is, to get a great coach fired for this is a travesty.

jamgod writes:

This is really a crappy world we live in and some of the stupidist rules when a prospect or player can't have free food...."well, we don't want them to be able to eat or anything, that is a big unfair advantage"....pathetically stupid. Ridiculous rules from a ridiculous institution. Can't take a kid out to eat, can't buy the kid cloths etc... But we can make millions of dollars off of them....bunch o' phooey if you ask me!! Just the most idiotic garbage I have ever had the displeasure of coming across. There is a point when the rules just seem to state, "you want do this or can't do this just because I have the power to say you can't!" How and when did all this become so insanely idiotic. I know they get a free education but not allowing a kid cloths or food?????

budd#207344 writes:

in response to osu2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

kinda like that lyin tressell,huh

dbc5361 writes:

This article says Jordan McRae was at the BBQ. That's one player that was at least partly obtained thru violating recruiting rules, I'm guessing he's not the only one.

Chris4Vols22 writes:

The people complaining about UT basketball going back to the dark ages are the ones who would be causing it. Stop complaining, go to some games, and cheer. Simple as that. I will be at every home game and will try to make some aways if possible. GO VOLS!

VOLliven2it writes:

Well after all the articles and comments, the fact still remains, Pearl is no longer the head coach. He did great things for UT BB only to nullify a lot of it by his violations. So when do we go on with life, await the medicine we and the current players/coaches have to take from the NCAA, and let the Pearl thing be part of our painful past? When, I do really want to know.
The setback is real. It intensifies when the NCAA rules. So, we have no power. Let's move on and be Vol supporters in the hard times as we have been in the good times. GO BIG ORANGE!

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