INDIANAPOLIS - Tennessee administrators, a soon-to-be-former administrator, current coaches, former coaches, new bosses, old friends and even brothers-in-law will all check in to a prominent downtown hotel this morning and pile into a large conference room.
When they're allowed to check out all depends on how satisfied the NCAA Committee on Infractions is with the answers they respectively provide to an endless barrage of probing questions.
The facts laid out in 12 major violations presented in the Notice of Allegations UT received in February are thorough and clear. How the defending parties explain their roles and perceived culpability for those violations, though, promises to elicit at least a few disagreements at today's closed-door hearing, which, according to former COI members, will go as late as it has to.
Among the topics that might bring forth the most conflict are:
Where does UT stand with the 'bump'?
Four days after he tearfully admitted to misleading NCAA investigators during a June 2010 interview, former men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl, accompanied by top assistant Tony Jones, committed what the NCAA determined to be a major violation. Pearl and Jones had a two-to-three minute conversation with then-junior Jordan Adams (Lawrenceville, Ga.) while on a trip to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. That length of contact is deemed impermissible by NCAA rules, but it's rarely - if ever - been considered anything more than a secondary violation.
The timing, of course, was awful, but Pearl and Jones, who are represented by different attorneys, probably have a decent case to get the charge reduced. The intriguing part of this discussion will center on where UT stands with the "bump."
Before he and his staff were fired, Pearl was assured that UT would try to have the charge reduced or completely eliminated. But now that UT has separated itself from the popular coach, it very well could pin the violation on Pearl and focus on the violations that will most directly affect its program moving forward.
Reaves' role in the Orange Pride fiasco
Though it is redacted beyond comprehension in the Notice of Allegations presented to the media, it's clear that former UT quarterbacks coach David Reaves' role in the Orange Pride-related violation will be a hot-button issue during today's hearing.
Reaves' violation falls under the blanket phrase of "allegations relating to impermissible contacts with prospective student-athletes." The News Sentinel learned in September that Reaves was aware that two members of the UT hostess group known as Orange Pride traveled to Byrnes (S.C.) High and posed for pictures with two prospects - Corey Miller, who is currently a Vols sophomore, and Brandon Willis, who is now at North Carolina.
UT apparently made it clear to the NCAA during the investigation portion of this infractions case that it had no knowledge of Reaves' role in what was considered a clear-cut violation. Reaves, though, could tell a different story today. He's remained one of the bigger unknowns throughout this process, as he's remained as quiet as anyone involved.
Perhaps Reaves, who now serves as the offensive coordinator at New Mexico, will fall on the sword and move on with his career. Or maybe he'll fight it. Only those behind the closed doors will know.
Loyalty among former assistant coaches
Jones and Jason Shay remain out of work since they were fired as men's basketball assistants in March. Steve Forbes, who moved on to a head coaching job at a Florida junior college, now earns less than half of his old salary.
All three had a hand in the 10 violations levied against the basketball program, but Pearl is clearly the face of why everyone is here in the first place.
How the three assistants present their case will go a long way in determining not just their respective futures, but Pearl's as well.
The Kiffin factor; what can UT prove?
Lane Kiffin was an unpredictable figure from the day he landed in Knoxville as Phillip Fulmer's replacement to the day he surprisingly bolted to Southern Cal for his "dream job."
Already facing heavy-handed sanctions brought upon by his predecessor's regime, Kiffin has even more to lose at today's hearing. He faces a charge of failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program and failure to monitor the activities regarding compliance of several assistant coaches. If UT can prove Kiffin was running a rogue program and is completely to blame, he could be yanked from recruiting off campus for more than a year.
To think Kiffin, or anyone whose vested interest is on the line today, will go down without a fight is short-sighted.