Tennessee's secondary violations:
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."