Hamilton says Pearl's job to be reviewed after NCAA tournament

UT coach caught off-guard by interview with radio station

Tennessee head basketball coach Bruce Pearl watches the NCAA selection show during a viewing party at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday, March 13, 2011. The Vols earned a #9 seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament and will play against #8 seed Michigan.

Photo by Saul Young

Tennessee head basketball coach Bruce Pearl watches the NCAA selection show during a viewing party at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday, March 13, 2011. The Vols earned a #9 seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament and will play against #8 seed Michigan.

Bruce Pearl knew he had to answer to the NCAA. Now suddenly his status appears to be in question with the University of Tennessee.

In an abrupt departure from his previous comments, UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said that he doesn't know if Pearl will be the men's basketball coach next season.

"We don't know the answer today,'' Hamilton said in an interview with radio station WNML that was taped on Tuesday and aired on Wednesday.

The basketball program faces 10 violations, including a charge of unethical conduct against Pearl for not telling the truth to NCAA invesitgators.

"I think that we've done a lot of soul-searching about the direction of our program and we'll continue to do that, and we'll decide after we're out of the NCAA tournament what the direction is that we're going to go next,'' Hamilton told the radio station.

Hamilton did not return numerous phone calls on Wednesday. He wouldn't discuss Pearl's job status during the SEC tournament last week and at Sunday's NCAA tournament announcement at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Vols (19-14) left Thompson-Boling Arena on the team bus, 20 minutes before the interview aired, headed to Charlotte, N.C., for their second-round NCAA tournament game against Michigan (20-13) on Friday (TV: truTV, 12:40 p.m.) in Time Warner Cable Arena.

Pearl said he was caught off-guard by Hamilton's interview when contacted by the News Sentinel, but he declined to comment.

Hamilton told WNML that UT won't finish its evaluation of Pearl until after the season, and that "key stakeholders, the (UT) president, the (UT) chancellor, ... board of trustees members'' would be involved.

"It's funny, people think that the athletic director makes these kinds of decisions on their own accord, and it's just not true,'' Hamilton said. "At a place like Tennessee, you don't have that authority, first of all. Certainly you play a great role in those kinds of decisions because it's your job every day of the week, but these are institutional-type decisions ...''

Hamilton refused to reveal his preference on Pearl's future during the interview.

"I don't want to get into specifics. ... any time I say anything specifically about a coach's tenure or contracts, or keeping or not-keeping at a time when you've got critical decisions that are being made, it gets twisted in the wind a million different ways,'' Hamilton said.

"And so, I love Bruce Pearl, I think he's done tremendous things for our basketball program, tremendous things for the Knoxville community, things for our university,'' he said. "But we're also in a very unique situation with what we've gone through ...''

UT is scheduled to go before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on June 10-11.

In the interview, Hamilton indicated a decision on Pearl's future could be made before then; the possibility of needing to find a coach is being taken into account.

"When you look at decisions of that nature, or any nature affecting athletics, or in business, frankly, you've got to look at all the mitigating factors, risk-reward factors, and so we look at those kinds of things as well,'' Hamilton said.

Hamilton told the News Sentinel on Jan. 8 in Fayetteville, Ark., that it was UT's intention to keep Pearl so long as "there aren't any major violations we're unaware of,'' even if the NCAA mandated Pearl be suspended for a year.

UT received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA enforcement staff on Feb. 22.

The only basketball violation the school had not previously made public involved an alleged Sept. 14, 2010, "bump violation,'' most often deemed as secondary in previous cases.

The violation, which two sources close to the investigation have said the school plans to appeal, involved Pearl and associate head coach Tony Jones having an impermissible length of contact with a prospect at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy during a recruiting visit.

The sources asked not to be identified because UT is in its 90-day response window.

"We said we wanted him (Pearl) to be our coach, short of some events that would cause that to not be the case,'' Hamilton said in the radio interview.

"And so, that's the same place and if other events arise that cause a change in opinion or whatever, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.''

The unethical conduct charge against Pearl stems from him not being forthcoming in a June 14, 2010 interview with NCAA investigators about a picture of him taken with a recruit at his home on Sept. 20, 2008.

UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a Nov. 19, 2010 press conference that the school would stand behind Pearl.

"Coach Pearl is our coach,'' Cheek said. "He's going to be our coach for many, many years. We're going to get through this adversity and we're going to be stronger as a result of it.''

Pearl has been working under a Letter of Appointment after receiving notice on Sept. 9, 2010, that his previous contract was being terminated.

Cheek said on Nov. 19 that UT's general counsel was re-working Pearl's contract after its first contract offer to him on Oct. 8 included provisions that both parties deemed inappropriate and/or unnecessary. Pearl returned the first contract offer on Oct. 22.

The unresolved issues in Pearl's contract did not deal with Pearl's salary or bonus clauses, according to university sources familiar with the contract.

The sources asked not to be identified at the time because of the ongoing negotiations.

"Currently it's (the contract) in our general counsel's office and we hope to have that from her very soon,'' Cheek said on Nov. 19. "We will get the contract finalized. We believe we've made the right decision.''

Calls to Cheek were not returned Wednesday.

Hamilton said in the radio interview that the parties couldn't come to a mutual agreement.

"... We ran into a couple of snags on the deal, and we set it aside to finish out the season at this stage,'' Hamilton said. "It wasn't the intent on the front end, but as we got closer to the Notice of Allegations being received that might have been a little bit part of the process

"He had that chance to have had a contract back in November and December, we just never got to the finish line on it,'' he said, "and now we've gotten to the point where we don't feel like we can do that.''

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Comments » 169

RashaadSalabeb writes:

Keep Pearl! End of story!

Go Vols!

iadvol writes:

This is going to get ugly..possibly first.

VolsToTheWall writes:


gobigorange1 writes:

Why on God's green Earth did Hamilton pull this little stunt 48 hours before the Vols tip off against Michigan?!?! What a pinhead! With his handling of the football program over the last three seasons and now this, of all people who's jobs should be up in the air it should be HIS!!!! I hate this man! I really, really do!

sambad writes:

Fire Hamilton, keep Pearl.

TopTenn writes:

TBA will be empty again, when Pearl leaves.

MusicCityVol writes:

What a mess!!! Although, did Hamilton really say anything that was all that surprising? Of course they are going to evaluate the situation after the season. Timing is terrible on this thing.

Pearl Gets No Support From Hamilton

NoSirRee writes:

I'd fire 10 Mike Hamiltons before I fired 1 Bruce Pearl.

JohnnyU writes:

I have defended Hamilton before,but I cannot believe how poorly he has handled this. This will absolutely blow up in his face. I heard on ESPN Radio that Pearl will face the media tomorrow at 11:20 and they are going live with it. Unbelievable.

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor hate it but believe he is gone. Witch Doctor say both sides keep referring back to the bump violation ...(?)
Bones never lie.

DennisVols writes:

Lane Kiffin, Pearl Gate, all happened under one persons watch. Hamilton.
Now he wants to throw Pearl under the bus just 2 days before the NCAA Tour. begins for UT.
Enough is enough. I don't care how much money he has raised I am sure someone else could have done just as good after all this is Tennessee and their backers are many.
His selection in a HC for the football program cost us at least 2 years in the rebuilding process and failure to monitor what the idoit Kiffin was doing may cost us even more once the penalty phase begins.
If anyone needs to go it was the one being interviewed and not the one the interview was about.
Keeping it Real

BleedN_OrangE writes:

are u kidding me....this is unbelievable...why the h%LL didnt he wait to comment on any questions till after the tournament...what a load of BS......this is tottaly demoralizing...not to meation completely unethical...what a load of phooey

cdamna1 writes:

What rock did Hamilton crawl out from under? I'm with everybody else: Fire Hamilton, keep Pearl.


Great timing ! How about we bump Hamilton. He has made a complete mess of the whole athletic program. No wonder the trolls from other schools enjoy coming on our site and gigging us. Witch doctor always says 'Bones never lie' Well I think Hamilton is a BONEHEAD in the way he has handled this just before tournament. Why did'nt he just stay on his cellphone and text as he is always caught doing during ball games. Disconnected!

OrangePride writes:

Hmmmmm.......I don't want to look too carefully, but is this boat taking on water?

weliketoliealot writes:

So when is Hamilton's review coming? He is trying to save his own job now.


in response to OrangePride:

Hmmmmm.......I don't want to look too carefully, but is this boat taking on water?

With Capt. Hamilton driving the boat.

volsmith writes:

We never had problems with the NCAA until Mike Hamilton became AD.

chrisw2967 writes:

MH is a POS and he needs to be fired period.He should of never spoke out 2 days before the tourney.MH is a major problem for Tn, has been and always will be.Id say Hammy knew about the bump violation.Hes just trying to cover his arse.

ellerbee123 writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

myers2324 writes:

chris lowe just reported on the radio effective at the end of the tournament bruce pearl is fired this cant be happening hamilton better run this riot will be bigger than kiffins

FWBVol writes:

I'm trying to be objective here, but I know it will sound as if I'm defending Mike Hamilton when I'm just giving my take.

From what I've read, Hamilton was asked a question and he answered it. Yes, what he said, and how it came across came at the worst possible time with the first round of the NCAA this week. But really, what was he supposed to do?

If Hamilton tries to do the duck-and-weave around the question, it makes it looks as if there is some sort of hidden agenda that will spell the end to Pearl's tenure at Tennessee. Hamilton comes across as a liar if he had said that Pearl's job is safe and next Wednesday the decision is made to fire Pearl. And now, by answering as he did, Hamilton looks as if he has foot-in-mouth disease.

It seems the smart thing Hamilton could have done was not to have been interviewed. That said, the second best thing he might have done would be to have given the radio station a list of acceptable questions about the basketball program.

For those concerned about the way this will affect the play of the team, judging from the last few weeks they can't play much worse. Maybe this will be a wake up call for a team that hasn't seemed to play up to its potential most of the second half of the season.

CharlotteVol writes:

In addition to the lunacy of doing this TODAY, Hamilton further shows his true colors by going down the path that this is an "institutional decision" i.e. out of his hands. Sounds like he is trying to build support within the power base to fire Pearl in order to suddenly appear tough on compliance issues.

We can only hope he has lost any shred of support he had after this STUPID comment. Poor, poor judgment, Mikey boy...

Hrockytop writes:

Back to cellar dwelling...

jbocap writes:

I've lost confidence in Hamilton since he fumbled the Fulmer dismissal. Then after Kiffin left....is it any wonder why we couldn't land our 1st choice football coach? Would you want to work for Hamilton?

CBP made mistakes and corrected the record and is paying for them. What? has anyone else NEVER lied before? Is it the most unpardonable sin? What coach will want to come here and work for two-faced Hamilton & board under the looming NCAA sanctions? Good luck on the coaching search!

The AD is suppose to also help boost the student-athlete, and I'm wondering how this will inspire OR NOT INSPIRE our team to play & "give their all for Tennessee" after his lame comments!

We need a better A.D. And, if we have to lose CBP, which I hope not, then I wish CBP well, and hope we can find a great coach and get past this mess.


Huttdawg100 writes:

in response to DennisVols:

Lane Kiffin, Pearl Gate, all happened under one persons watch. Hamilton.
Now he wants to throw Pearl under the bus just 2 days before the NCAA Tour. begins for UT.
Enough is enough. I don't care how much money he has raised I am sure someone else could have done just as good after all this is Tennessee and their backers are many.
His selection in a HC for the football program cost us at least 2 years in the rebuilding process and failure to monitor what the idoit Kiffin was doing may cost us even more once the penalty phase begins.
If anyone needs to go it was the one being interviewed and not the one the interview was about.
Keeping it Real

Dennis, you always have well thought out posts. Hamilton's attempt to save his job while throwing Pearl to the wolves is cowardly. Either fire Pearl in September or ride it out.

Slystone writes:

And with that said you can bet Harris & Hopson will indeed go pro at seasons end. Hamilton you should know better. Somethings are best kept to yourself. I don't know who is a worst AD you or Ohio States AD. You big Doofus.

TopTenn writes:

This news is just devastating for the team and the fan base. The players will feel this pain after the tourney. I'm sad that Bruce Pearl will be forced out. Our team needs support more than ever.

vol_till_i_die writes:


JacksonvilleVol writes:

Mike Hamilton should be fired for making an open comment about this before Tennessee's men's team plays in the national tournament. This is nightmare fuel for the team, and shouldn't exist if you have an invested interest in them winning games (cough Hamilton cough).

It's a lack of professionalism. Wait until the tournament is over before answering questions like this!

lvhemphill#250428 writes:

Let me really cloud the waters, as some would love to ride Bruce out of town, what are they going to do if he repeats or betters what he did last year in the tourney? Just think if they win the region or heaven forbid either make the national final or the really the improbable win the whole thing, I believe Cheeks Hamilton, and whatever boosters that side with them dismissing Pearl may be in jeopordy from a fan base that loves the man. Could you see a modern day linching?

Huttdawg100 writes:

This comment from Checkerboard Champion on scout. It made too much sense, so I decided to post it here:

This is a repeat performance my friends. The difference being MH didn't hire Coach Fulmer. There were reasons to fire Fulmer and there are reasons to fire Pearl. Some folks want them out some folks want them to stay. However, this is no way to go about it. Pearl and the team have been under the weight of this all year and now Hamilton makes it worse.

Remember the players at Fulmer's final press conference? It didn't have to be like that, Hamilton's inability to keep the faucet from leaking was a problem then, and it is now. That situation was handled poorly, and this situation has been handled poorly. It smacks of unprofessionalism at the very least.

This is not shocking or it shouldn't be, he bungles things on a regular basis. Whether it's the boosters, academics, the AD, they should all ask themselves one thing...What does the phrase "evaluate at the end of the year" mean. Why not just wait until the end of the year. If not for the coaches, how about the student athletes.

Finally, leadership. If the AD was forced to come out with this now, he should have resigned on the spot. On the field and on the court leadership has been lacking. That starts at the top with your actions and words. An AD is in charge of some pretty big egos and they must have respect for the man in charge. Kiffin walked all over his authority and that of the compliance office. Pearl certainly wasn't terrified either. I know I'm not going to change any minds here, but what's the purpose of letting a lame duck AD hire the next Basketball Coach?

Vol_From_Memphis writes:

Better place that next call to Ernie Grunfeld. He led us to Bruce Pearl (twice). Ernie can get his phone calls returned. So can Peyton. Let's blitz the best coaches out there. Coach K aren't you tired of all that winning at Duke? We're going to have to pony up the $$$, else, back in the closet!

eduardo writes:

in response to VolsToTheWall:


good one...maybe we will get beat by kenlucky by 61 instead of 60 in his last game at Tenn. Get real!

The_Mayor writes:

Listened to the interview on sportsanimal. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to read between the flimsy lines of MH and realize CBP's days are very shortly numbered. It's not what I want, but I'm not here to judge the man. The "bump" violation is seemingly the straw that broke the proverbial back of the boys down at Pilot Oil (if you think this is MH's decision, then you're just not informed. He is a puppet, made to speak whatever Haslam tells him to speak). It's sad for the boys more than anything else. They have done their best under terrible circumstances beyond their control. I feel sorry for the seniors. Selfishly it's disappointing to us...I cannot imagine Tobias or Scotty coming back. Our BB program will suffer a long time for all of this.

VOLliven2it writes:

Reality Check--we had hoped that Pearl might stay. That looks bleak right now. If it was pretty certain he would be kept, this would not have come out this way no matter how ridiculous Mike Hamilton looks. Reality Check Two--I agree it is the worst possible time to hit a fragile team with such news two days before they play. But...it was going to take a lot of heart for them to get up as needed. If we think they beat Duke...well let's get to them first. Final Reality Check--If the rest of us made a corresponding blunder in our jobs, we likely would not keep those jobs unless we were the top salesman. I hope we can keep him but think that is unlikely. If we do, we must brace ourselves there will be baggage for awhile.

PattheFlaVol writes:

I like Libya's leader, Moammar Gadhafi chances at staying in power better than Bruce's...sorry to say it, but it's over for Mr. Pearl. Hope we make the right choice on our next coach!!!

give_him_6 writes:

I support the school and the descesion they will eventully make, either to keep Bruce or to let him go. I personally would like to see Bruce stay, it will a tough road to hoe if he is allowed to stay. The NCAA will probably lower the boom on him and it may even cost him a full season due to suspension. If so and we keep him, so be it.

What I have a problem with is Hamilton and his timing. He was asked a question? What happened to NO COMMENT? Huh? This is just not right to be talking about this 2 days before the tourney game with Michigan. Is this a concerted effort by Hamilton to make sure the team loses the game Friday? If Bruce and the team were to win against Michigan and then upset Duke, it would most assuredly put Hamilton and the power brokers at UT in a bad position. If Hamilton would have kept his PIE HOLE SHUT then if this did happen they would look like a genious. As it stands, all they have done is worked to undermine the team, in public. He should be, at the very least, reprimanded, at the most suspended pending an investigation into his conduct unbecoming his position. Pearl clearly did wrond and did a very bad thing lying to NCAA. But I believe that Hamilton acted as bad or worse by deliberately working to undermine a UT athletic team. Hamilton comes across as smug, know it all, and he needs to be taken down off his high horse!!!

1vavolfan writes:

I hope that his bonehead comment 2 days before the biggest game of the season is the final nail in Hamilton's coffin. It is obvious that he is incompetent and not capable of handling his job. If Peal goes UT will resemble Indiana and will struggle for several years.

VolNationPride writes:

Oh great, time for Pearl lover to chime in. Atleast if Bruce is fired he will have to get another agenda, or fall off the face of the earth.

chrisw2967 writes:

I say since BP is getting fired they should just go ahead and clean house and get rid of MH and Cheeks.We can do like they are doing in Wi. show up and protest until MH leaves.

CharlotteVol writes:

Regardless of one's opinion of whether Pearl should stay or go, I don't see any logical argument for keeping Hamilton as AD. He is clearly in over his head when it comes to leadership. Its great that he can generate a profit in the athletic program, but I personally don't wear my orange proudly because our athletic department is in the black.


Got news for you. They can hire anyone the want to be AD figurehead. Jimmy Haslam has been running that Dept. for many, many years. We might as well be the University of Pilot.

atnvol#283282 writes:

My vote is to fire Mike Hamilton and KEEP Bruce Pearl(even if he is not tooo bright, good ball coach, very poor thinker i.e. runs out buys a 10,000 sq. ft. house for him and his new bride that he brought with him from Wisconsin, tries to get multiple recruits parents to lie to cover his tail, lies to NCAA in what amounted to a secondary violation. I like Bruce, just not real bright.

smokeyvol1 writes:

Governor Bill Haslam, Office of1st Floor, State Capitol
Nashville, TN, 37243
Primary (615) 741-2001

tree_em_smokey writes:

Im with most on here in that I think MH should be the one getting the boot.

1)Hamilton told the News Sentinel on Jan. 8 that it was UT's intention to keep Pearl so long as "there aren't any major violations reported". There weren't. A "bump" violation was reported which is a secondary violation.

2)Why why why would you accidentally or unintentionally let the cat out of the bag two days before we play in the tourny??????

3)This is not the first case of POOR judgement on behalf of MH.

I have never had an opinion one way or another regarding MH's position on this matter because I know there are a lot of things we don't know and also what has been the consensus vote by all decision makers at UT, president, chancellor, board members etc.

4)Ohio state has kept their coach after being dishonest (to the NCAA withholding info is just as bad) to the NCAA. Is their AD calling for his head? NO. I agree with one poster that why not do this in Sept. instead of now? DOOFUS!

VolunteerLifer writes:

There has to be a reason why Hamilton would say this now rather than wait til after the tourney is over. Is he signaling his target coach that the job will be open after UT is out of the tourney, so that coach won't take another job in the meantime?

JoeB writes:

Jake Taylor: Well then I guess there's only one thing left to do.
Roger Dorn: What's that?
Jake Taylor: Win the whole f'ing thing.

spoolingup writes:

Hammy is now in survival mode. He's trying desperately to save his own job. Both are likely to be gone. Both have terribly mismanaged their positions. Let's bring back some TN blood to the AD's office. I like Condredge.

charlyand#601962 writes:

I can't believe how unprofessional MH is. He could've kept his mouth shut until after the tournament. The jackals in the media are having a field day with this. BP has done a lot for the community and for this program and deserves better than this. MH doesn't seem to know what he is doing. He mishandled the Fulmer situation and the Kiffen one and now Bruce Pearl. Either you let the guy go at once or you stand by him, you don't sit on the fence and let the pressure from the media make your decisions for you. Mike Hamilton is a terrible boss and a terrible Athletic Director.

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