The 'bump' heard around the world: NCAA takes on Bruce Pearl, Tony Jones

Recruit says conversation was 'about 3 minutes'

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.

Just four days after he emotionally confessed to misleading NCAA enforcement officials during an investigation into the Tennessee athletic department, former men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl was talking to someone about how he and the Vols would persevere.

The only problem was that it was a high school junior and the NCAA was still hot on Pearl's trail.

As detailed in the university's 190-page response to its NCAA Notice of Allegations, which was filed May 20 and provided Friday to the News Sentinel, the NCAA pounced quickly on the now-infamous "bump" violation committed by Pearl and associate head coach Tony Jones. The infraction was the last of the 12 major violations levied against UT in February's Notice of Allegations.

Interviews to clarify the violation carried well into March, the same month Pearl and his staff were fired.

UT already has self-imposed two years of probation and various recruiting restrictions in football and men's basketball because of infractions found in a 21-month NCAA investigation. The school and the former coaches involved with the violations continue to await a ruling from the Committee on Infractions.

"The conversation, if you would call it that, probably took 10 to 15 seconds at the most," Pearl said in a Nov. 16, 2010, interview with UT and the NCAA enforcement staff about the "bump" with recruiting target Jordan Adams. "I know the difference between, you know, acknowledging, say hello, and having a brief encounter or a contact, and I did not make a contact with him."

At the time, UT's compliance staff came to the same conclusion. At worst — UT viewed then and in its response to the Notice of Allegations — it was a secondary violation.

Despite testimony from Adams that sometimes contradicted with information provided in other interviews, the NCAA saw it a different way.

Though he had his salary cut by $1.5 million and was facing a one-year recruiting ban from UT self-sanctions after it was learned he and his staff misled NCAA investigators, Pearl was still able to recruit for two more weeks after the news conference. That led him and Jones to Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., where they were hoping to evaluate and visit with senior prospect Ben McLemore and also evaluate Damien Wilson and Adams.

The visit occurred Sept. 14. NCAA associate director of enforcement Joyce Thompson conducted her first interview regarding the bump 15 days later.

"He told me he lied to media, and then he said he confessed to it and that they're just having a violation," Adams told Thompson during his first interview.

Adams said the conversation lasted "about three minutes." He didn't recall much of what Jones said during the interaction, only that he pointed to his Elite Eight ring and "said something to the effect of, 'You can get one of these.' "

Pearl, in his November interview, said he and Jones were sitting in the bleachers when Adams approached them. Adams confirmed the same in a follow-up interview in March.

"I felt like I had a good relationship with Jordan through a couple of conversations over the phone and having watched him play," Pearl said. "So he came over. We shook hands and I said, 'Hey, great to see you. You look good. Listen, we are going to get through this NCAA stuff. We made some mistakes. I can't talk to you about it. I'm here to watch you practice, and have a good practice.' "

Adams, though, mentioned one more interaction between he and Pearl in his initial interview. After the team broke into groups for strength and conditioning drills, Adams, who was doing lunges in the hallway at the time, said Pearl "was telling me I should stay balanced."

Neither teammate A.J. Hammons nor Oak Hill assistant coach Wilbur Allen could confirm that Pearl directly acknowledged Adams during the stretching drills.

In fact, Allen said that he was the one instructing the players to maintain their balance. He said Pearl followed with the retort, "Listen to your coach. It is important to stay on balance," and didn't direct it to anyone in particular.

In his follow-up interview, Adams backed off his original statement that Pearl specifically addressed him. He confirmed that Allen was the one instructing the players to stay balanced and that Pearl followed by saying, "Yeah, balance is the key."

In its response to the NCAA, UT concluded that Pearl and Jones did not take any steps to "immediately terminate the encounter, although their statements seem to indicate that the conversation was intentionally brief."

UT just didn't agree that the "bump" necessitated a major violation, labeling the incident as both "isolated" and "inadvertent." UT will learn how the Committee on Infractions interpreted the encounter when it announces its rulings from June's hearing.

"The University understands that a 'bump' that begins inadvertently can easily fall out of that category when the coach realizes that a violation is occurring and he continues the encounter with the prospective student-athlete," the response reads. "However, based upon the brevity of the encounter and nature of Pearl's and Jones' statements, the weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that the violation was inadvertent."

Among the sweeping academic and enforcement-related changes proposed by SEC commissioner Mike Slive at last week's football Media Days was the elimination of impermissible "bumps."

"Let's simply establish days in which it's permissible for coaches to engage in off-campus recruiting," Slive said. "If a coach is permitted to travel off campus to recruit, he or she should be allowed to evaluate and have a conversation with the prospect on the same day.

"Maybe we can make the so-called 'bump' history."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 29

Huttdawg100 writes:

Unfortunately, I just don't see the NCAA accepting the 2 year self imposed probation. They wanted Pearl fired in September 2010, and because Hamilton refused, Slive chimed in with an 8 game suspension, and the NCAA infractions committee made the "bump" a major violation. The basketball team is will probably get hit a little harder.

allvol32 writes:

This sounds like a scene from a Monty Python movie. The NCAA reminds me of the knights who say "Neeh!", "You must bring us a shrubbery!"

VolzsFan writes:

Meanwhile....UCONN is paying players thru and agent, Duke and Carolina have cars and clothes lined up for kids when they get on campus and virtually everyone else runs payments through an attorney so the NCAA cannot trace it. Heaven knows what all Calipari is doing. But hey, we nailed that guy who told a kid to have a good practice...and the spineless wimps at UT rolled over and did not fight.

Gart5 writes:

Sounds like this kid was almost trying to get us in trouble and then he backed off his statements later because everyone knew he was lying. If this is a major violation, I will have had it with the NCAA.

Classof72 writes:

How does one spell hypocricy: NCAA

"Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you … for ye make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess." (Matthew 23:24-25)

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

if ole miss made it to the sweet sixteen you'd be the first to run out and buy one.

PennVol writes:

We should fire Pearl. Oh yeah, we did 4 months ago. At this point, these articles are only hurting Pearl's reputation even more. Enough!

CoverOrange writes:

As effervescent as BP is I can see how 10 seconds to him would seem like 2 minutes to anyone else.

Adams was barely paying attention to current events or what BP was saying. NCAA should have just dropped it as a non-event.

VOLliven2it writes:

We should have had enough about all this phooey but the NCAA holds out and holds on. Any of us who think they are not hammering bb at UT are probably in the ionsphere or on another planet. As for football, it should not be hit so hard. But with the clowns which are the NCAA, one never ever knows.

CrankE writes:

Had Lord Hamilton, The Indecisive actually terminated Pearl in September of last year, it's possible that we'd be done with all of this.

Instead, Hamilton came to the fork in the road and took it. He delayed any decision, any leadership, any action hoping that Pearl could survive. I said it for months, if Pearl was gone, so was Hamilton.

Sacrificing the head coach sure seems to be working for OSU. (Oh, did anyone else notice how Tressel's "resignation" turned into a "retirement"? These aren't the droids you're looking for...)

Ayres_Hall writes:

This is good information to know. And it confirms what many of us already suspected about Bruce Pearl... he is a bit slick and slimey.

But here's the worst part. Even using illegal recruiting tactics, he got none of these kids to sign.

An Elite 8 ring? You got to be kidding.... right?

JohnnyD writes:

Are you kidding...with all the phooey that coaches are doing these days with paying players and covering up crimes...Pearl gets nailed because a conversation with a recruit that was 4 minutes instead 1 minute? That just goes to show these coaches that hot dog cookouts and going over the 1 minute time limit by 3 minutes will not be tolerated! Im done with this university!

Orange_Juiced writes:

in response to allvol32:

This sounds like a scene from a Monty Python movie. The NCAA reminds me of the knights who say "Neeh!", "You must bring us a shrubbery!"

"now you must bring us another shrubbery. One that looks nice and is not too tall...then you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with....a herring!"

CoverOrange writes:

in response to Ayres_Hall:

This is good information to know. And it confirms what many of us already suspected about Bruce Pearl... he is a bit slick and slimey.

But here's the worst part. Even using illegal recruiting tactics, he got none of these kids to sign.

An Elite 8 ring? You got to be kidding.... right?

Jordan McRae attended and signed.

smokey_vols writes:

in response to allvol32:

This sounds like a scene from a Monty Python movie. The NCAA reminds me of the knights who say "Neeh!", "You must bring us a shrubbery!"

ROFL. That movie is the bomb. Good analogy too :)

givehim6 writes:

I think KNS needs to give it a rest and quit rubbing salt in old wounds, the Vol fans know all about the wrong that was done lies that were told. Let the fans heal from this ok, punishment has been given by the school now its up to the NCAA, let us enjoy football.I do not think kiffin was cut on as bad as Pearl is wright not and in my eyes what he did was more bad, and shoot some out there still worship him, du.

volscantball writes:

That's why volscantball. They hang their hat on an Elite 8 ring. So when did they start giving out Elite 8 rings?

VolNExile writes:

"In his follow-up interview, Adams backed off his original statement that Pearl specifically addressed him. He confirmed that Allen was the one instructing the players to stay balanced and that Pearl followed by saying, 'Yeah, balance is the key.'"

*************

--Read that last part again, NCAA. Balance is the key. Try injecting a little balance into your investigations and sanctions.

KptDBVol writes:

This is a non incident if not taken in light of the fact that it happened within two weeks of the public admission of lying to the investigators. None of the transgressions are majors, but lying about them is.

I am still sick about the whole mess. We were on our way in hoops. no need to fudge.

zman44 writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

Meanwhile....UCONN is paying players thru and agent, Duke and Carolina have cars and clothes lined up for kids when they get on campus and virtually everyone else runs payments through an attorney so the NCAA cannot trace it. Heaven knows what all Calipari is doing. But hey, we nailed that guy who told a kid to have a good practice...and the spineless wimps at UT rolled over and did not fight.

Ok...UConn...I'll buy. Calipari, I agree. But Duke and Carolina?! Are you kidding me? Don't lump Coach K and Roy Williams in with these guys. Is it simply that you are jealous of their programs? I am not a fan of either school but I do respect both coaches immensely. Neither has even had a sniff of NCAA wrong-doing. UT fans should quickly move away from the "everyone cheats" argument...because not everyone cheats. UConn, yes. Calipari, probably. UT, yes. But it would be stupid to assume every school cheats.

samvol writes:

in response to JohnnyD:

Are you kidding...with all the phooey that coaches are doing these days with paying players and covering up crimes...Pearl gets nailed because a conversation with a recruit that was 4 minutes instead 1 minute? That just goes to show these coaches that hot dog cookouts and going over the 1 minute time limit by 3 minutes will not be tolerated! Im done with this university!

This university dont make NCAA rules, this university didnt make Pearl lie so if youre done with this university why comment, just shut up!

traderjoe writes:

Why don't some of the rich benefactors of major college programs which are in troube with the NCAA sue the organization in an attempt to make these travesties transparent. This is bull phooey!

chattbud writes:

Ayres_Hall writes:
This is good information to know. And it confirms what many of us already suspected about Bruce Pearl... he is a bit slick and slimey.
But here's the worst part. Even using illegal recruiting tactics, he got none of these kids to sign.
An Elite 8 ring? You got to be kidding.... right?

Mr. Hall, The fact are UT has only one elite eight ring in our HISTORY of Basketball,. And for good measure six straight NCAA bids all worked for by Bruce Pearl & given to UT fans to share in! Shelby & Craft were at Bruce’s house for a BBQ. They were both verbal commitments! to Bruce at the time! Ohio State & Kansas turned UT in for recruiting out of our league! Getting their TOP 40 talent! Pearl was working to upgrade our talent to TOP 10 Talent, never before done by ANY coach @ UT. And slick, slimy & confused fans like you condemn our coach Pearl. Conn., Ky, Duke Ohio State & Kansas Pays their Players in money & cars. & UT fans like u dump of our coach for feeding them BBQ. The NCAA rules are pathetic if Pearl deserves to be fired for lying to the NCAA? Then All of Congress & our President should resign too! The later is a fact! .

wbpyle writes:

in response to CroatianVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

hey get your FACTS right R WILLLIAMS left KANSAS ON PROBATION FOR NORTH CAROLINA..... CORY MEG... WAS PAYED BY AN AGENT AT DUKE ......CHRIS DUHON WAS PAYED $$$ to go to DUKE over UK...#BBN

DroopyDrawers writes:

in response to allvol32:

This sounds like a scene from a Monty Python movie. The NCAA reminds me of the knights who say "Neeh!", "You must bring us a shrubbery!"

Unless you are from Bama. Isn't that correct, Slive?

Vol43 writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bob, when I saw this article, I thought the same thing. I guess KNS can't let a day go by without trashing Bruce. For them, he's an easy target and they make their quota of writings. I don't know if it will ever end. Come on KNS, what do you have in store for us tomorrow regarding Bruce?

1boogieman writes:

Still lyin'. Pearl will not learn even when he is done.

Orangeball writes:

in response to zman44:

Ok...UConn...I'll buy. Calipari, I agree. But Duke and Carolina?! Are you kidding me? Don't lump Coach K and Roy Williams in with these guys. Is it simply that you are jealous of their programs? I am not a fan of either school but I do respect both coaches immensely. Neither has even had a sniff of NCAA wrong-doing. UT fans should quickly move away from the "everyone cheats" argument...because not everyone cheats. UConn, yes. Calipari, probably. UT, yes. But it would be stupid to assume every school cheats.

ZMAN44 You obviously know nothing about the history of Coach K or Boy Toy Roy. Coach K had Myron Piggee paying players and had Chris Duhon and Corey Magettee's exams taken by fill-ins. It was proven in court and Myron went to jail. It's all in the court documents. Roy had Kansas in trouble multiple times and even had them put on probation after he left for UNC. Cal, whether you like him or hate him, is the one who turned in Marcus Camby for taking money. The NCAA would have never found it out. HE told the NCAA. Your not doing your homework. Before making comments about how clean someone is do a little research and you'll see that your "heroes" are as dirty or more dirty than anyone else. Now prove me wrong.

Orangeball writes:

I've read the blogs and listened for months about this mess. Read how Bruce Pearl was the greatest thing for our basketball program since Ray Mears and what a great spokesman he was for the University, and on and on. I told many of my friends that this guy was trouble from the moment he stepped on campus. Oh he would win some, but would the cost be worth it? Was it?

Folks, Bruce Pearl was about Bruce Pearl. He was an employee who was to manage his company (team and coaches). In my opinion he did it poorly. He won some games and achieved some milestones, but how many of those were done using dishonest methods? The only ones we know about are the ones that have come out. The fact that he did not tell the Administration about a previous run-in with the NCAA is even more damning. The fact that we had guns, drugs, lying, cheating, falsifying reports, etc. during his tenure is sickening. If he was my employee, he'd been fired a long time ago.

Please, no more of the "he only told a lie about a cookout or he only talked to the guy for 1 minute" I know Bruce and trust me, he has never said "hi" and it last one minute. Cheating is cheating. He knew not to be in that gym and confront any underclassman and he did after he was already on the hot seat.

He is a likeable guy who inherited a lot of talent from Buzz that he used in a much better, faster, more exciting strategy than Buzz. He brought in a few players, but who really improved under his coaching? Scotty was a one and done when he stepped on campus. He left after 3 years and still couldn't get drafted. Tobias went first round, but his dad is a pro scout and got him a ton of special coaching.

Personally, I'm glad he's gone. Coach Martin is a class guy. Will he win and win big? I don't know, but I bet he'll do it with class and you won't have to worry about investigations and embarrassment to our fine University.

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