August is coming, And Tennessee's NCAA sentence is likely coming with it.
Excuse UT fans for not grinding their teeth. The program already has suffered so much, there's little anguish left for the formal sentence.
UT has even put itself on two-years probation, though the self-imposed penalties might seem trivial to everyone except the coaches, who view the loss of one recruiting call as catastrophic.
What else can the
NCAA do that wouldn't qualify as overkill? It could take away a scholarship or two in basketball. If it really wanted to send a harsh message, it also could ban the Vols from postseason play in 2011-12. But that loses its clout once you realize the team looks incapable of playing its way into the NCAA tournament.
In fact, given all the damage that has been done, UT fans probably look toward the impending sentence with a sense of relief, rather than dread. Not only have they lost an outstanding basketball coach and good group of assistants, they have been subjected to almost a year's worth of bad publicity. None of the long-awaited penalties could be nearly that significant.
Most of those fans probably feel as though they have lost something other than coaches. They likely have lost confidence in UT's leadership.
Pearl and his assistants weren't the only ones guilty of atrocious decision-making, and they have paid dearly for lying to the NCAA. UT's extended run-in with the NCAA has been distinguished by one bad decision after another.
According to UT's official response to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations, Mike Glazier — the outside counsel hired by the school — knew six days before the UT basketball coaches interviewed with investigators that the NCAA had an incriminating photo of Pearl and recruit Aaron Craft. Yet the coaches weren't informed of that until the day they interviewed with the NCAA.
What was Glazier getting paid for? Surprises?
Tennessee needed a plan, not a surprise. And it needed leadership.
The more you read about the details of the investigation, the more perplexing it is that Hamilton and chancellor Jimmy Cheek ever imagined they could keep Pearl as their coach. At the very least, they could have suspended him for the entire season. Their well publicized initial support just made them look more foolish when they fired Pearl at the end of the season.
It's also puzzling that UT never announced its self-imposed probation. That would at least have made it appear more conscientious. Yet the information wasn't made public until the News Sentinel requested and reported on records pertaining to the school's official response to the NCAA allegations.
The football program's mistakes were less serious. That hardly qualifies it as savvy.
Sending UT hostesses out of town to recruit players? It might as well have sent the marching band, too.
Not only did the Vols cheat. They cheated very poorly.
But they have been punished enough for it.