Students voice support for Bruce Pearl

UT student Patrick Stout makes a poster for the rally later Monday, Mar. 21, 2011. News broke Monday afternoon that UT had fired basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

Photo by Michael Patrick

UT student Patrick Stout makes a poster for the rally later Monday, Mar. 21, 2011. News broke Monday afternoon that UT had fired basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

Fans react to Tennessee's firing of coach Bruce Pearl

UT students paint The Rock in support of Bruce Pearl

The real thing may be gone, but a life-sized cardboard Bruce Pearl cruised the University of Tennessee campus Monday with his torso sticking out of the top of a maroon Jeep.

When the two-dimensional Pearl flashed his smile while holding a Coke bottle in front of Neyland Stadium, Pearl supporters rallying there cheered in delight.

About 75 students and fans met at the plaza before trekking through campus behind one man waving a UT flag on a tall stick and another with a "Honk if you love Bruce" sign that solicited beeps from drivers in solidarity with the men's basketball coach, fired Monday for lying to NCAA investigators during a probe into recruiting violations.

The crowd chanted variations of "We love Bruce" and "We want Bruce" and sometimes just "Bruuuce." The group weaved from Neyland Stadium across the pedestrian walkway near Hodges Library and down Lake Loudoun Boulevard to Thompson-Boling Arena, where they chanted some more as fans supporting the Lady Vols basketball team trickled into the arena for Monday's second-round women's NCAA tournament game against Marquette University.

"It stinks that he's been fired," said Lady Vols fan Ann Lane, 67, of Franklin, Tenn. "The timing is terrible. The timing of (UT athletic director Mike) Hamilton's comments last Wednesday was terrible and the timing of this today is terrible because the Lady Vols (are playing)."

Supporters admitted that rallying wouldn't save Pearl's job, but their mission varied from fans who wanted to thank the popular coach to those who expressed frustration about the timing of the decision, to many more who want Hamilton to lose his job as well.

The rally began as a "Support Bruce" rally but turned to a "Fire Mike Hamilton" rally, said organizer Robert Banks, a sophomore from Erie, Pa. He wasn't the only fan frustrated with the athletic director.

"If this whole thing is about accountability, Pearl apologized and nobody seems to be holding Mike Hamilton accountable for the decision he made," said Eric Hering, 25, a staff member at UT who cited the firing of former football coach Phillip Fulmer and the disastrous short term of his successor, Lane Kiffin, as reasons for frustration with Hamilton.

Within hours of hearing the news, students painted "We R Bruce. Fire Mike Hamilton" on "the Rock" - a mega-ton chunk of Knox dolomite on campus that serves as a message board for students.

"(Pearl) served his punishment and apologized to the nation," said sophomore Maegann Koenig, who organized the painting with a handful of friends. "Suspend him for a few more games, but don't take him from the university. I don't feel anybody else is going to take his place."

Not everyone, however, wanted to bash the athletic director.

Chris Sharpe, a senior from Oak Ridge, joined the marching mob but had a less hostile message.

"I'm just out here to thank Bruce for all the things he did for UT," he said. "It's never going to be OK to lie to the NCAA, and I understand what happened, but I'm just disappointed in the way the administration handled this entire week. I'm not here to say 'fire Hamilton' or 'fire (UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy) Cheek'. I just really appreciate how (Pearl) transformed the Tennessee basketball scene."

Megan Boehnke can be reached at 865-42-6432.

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Comments » 26

agohn writes:

Good for you students. Remember this is the administration that made you all start paying for tickets. Go get em'!! Alumni 04'

born2ride writes:

Everybody loved Bruce Pearl. It is a shame he turned out to be a liar and cheater who embarrassed and disgraced the University of Tennessee.

kcpboarder writes:

Maybe the students should start running the show...I know this situation could not have been handled worse!!

agohn writes:

in response to born2ride:

Everybody loved Bruce Pearl. It is a shame he turned out to be a liar and cheater who embarrassed and disgraced the University of Tennessee.

Why all the hate? Personally I wouldn't care if he had 15 kindergarteners over for a tea party and lied about it. Who are you to judge? Just let it go already. He's gone and that's just sad.

OwensboroVol writes:

I would urge all Alumni that when they receive their annual giving plan letters from the University, to return them with the answer that "My contributions will resume when Bruce Pearl resumes coaching the University of Tennessee Basketball Team.)

BobKesling_is_overpaid writes:

I'm just wondering why the administration was expecting major sanctions against Pearl and UT from the NCAA. Maybe I'm wrong, but didn't UConn have more major violations than UT and pretty much just get a slap on the wrist? Someone correct with me if I'm wrong.

BobKesling_is_overpaid writes:

in response to BobKesling_is_overpaid:

I'm just wondering why the administration was expecting major sanctions against Pearl and UT from the NCAA. Maybe I'm wrong, but didn't UConn have more major violations than UT and pretty much just get a slap on the wrist? Someone correct with me if I'm wrong.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong. My bad

volhome writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

I would urge all Alumni that when they receive their annual giving plan letters from the University, to return them with the answer that "My contributions will resume when Bruce Pearl resumes coaching the University of Tennessee Basketball Team.)

Unfortunately with the EOM deadline to keep our accrued points, many of us already have sent the donations in already. If I had not done so, you can bet that I could find a lot of other uses for the money. We have discussed it at home, though, and if Hammy is still there after this debacle, we stop next year. We have personally felt the Big Orange Screw (lost our seats to the students, they cancelled the South End Club seats we had paid for, they cancelled the Tennesse Club outside of TBA which we had paid for, and I won't even discuss what we think of the coaching decisions). Hammy was at the helm for everything in recent history that has hit us, so See Ya Later, Clemson-ator.

jdf writes:

Thanks for the memories, coach pearl....upsetting number 1 florida, elite 8, defeating memphis on their floor and claiming number 1, defeating texas on their floor... oh well. thanks ncaa. i guess pearl wasn't generating enough tv revenue for you. sorry.

ncvol17 writes:

Lake Loudon must be crowded with all the posters who walk on water. When they go home it must be to pristine glass houses. Come April, I guess the IRS doesn't have to worry ET's are fudging on their deductions. So many mistake free VOL fans...sweet

eVOLved writes:

in response to TheMemphisSlim:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

OK, that's funny.

Aaanyway, too bad it had to go down like this. Two biggest recent mistakes for UT athletics:

1) Forcing out Coach Fulmer
2) Bruce Pearl's mistakes

Both terminations were carried out in such a horrible way, and both had negative effects on their teams. Coach Fulmer's was unwarrented, and Coach Pearl's was warrented, but the timing, especially with the radio interview was toxic.

1boogieman writes:

UT students rock.. War? No protest. Tuition hike? No protest. Fire lame coach? Protest! Priceless.

UTbasketballfan writes:

I wouldnt be surprised if all the recruits want to be released!

Elroy_Jetson writes:

Yep - Firing Fulmer - Strike 1
Hiring Kiffin - Strike 2
Firing Bruce - Strike 3
Why the F does Mike Hamilton still have a job? Thanks for putting the BB program 5 years out of contention just like you did the Football program. I like Dooley, but success isn't gonna happen anytime soon. Hope you saved those big black curtains for the Arena!
Alum '99

scottgohn#454146 writes:

in response to TheMemphisSlim:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What "we" dill-weed. You're from Memphicus. Is that even IN the State of Tennessee?

OwensboroVol writes:

in response to volhome:

Unfortunately with the EOM deadline to keep our accrued points, many of us already have sent the donations in already. If I had not done so, you can bet that I could find a lot of other uses for the money. We have discussed it at home, though, and if Hammy is still there after this debacle, we stop next year. We have personally felt the Big Orange Screw (lost our seats to the students, they cancelled the South End Club seats we had paid for, they cancelled the Tennesse Club outside of TBA which we had paid for, and I won't even discuss what we think of the coaching decisions). Hammy was at the helm for everything in recent history that has hit us, so See Ya Later, Clemson-ator.

Sorry its too late. I have been sending in an annual contribution for many years now. It started small in 1967 and I have tried to keep pace with inflation over the years. I never have used it to get tickets, etc. I just sent it in because I truly do love the place and school. The best years of my life were spent there going up and down Cumberland Ave. and throughout the University. One of my fondest memories of my deceased wife was years after I graduated We would go to Uncle Andy's Deli on 17th Street to eat before each home game and then walk on down to Neyland. Some of our best times were visiting friends who stayed in the old Stadium Hall when we were all still in school. I doubt if it is even open anymore. That place really was haunted. The guy's who lived there swore you could hear Johnny Butler making his 1939 touchdown run against Alabama. Grantland Rice, who was covering the game in person, called it the greatest open field run in College Football History. Things like that have kept me giving what I could so other kids could have that experience. The deal with Bruce Pearl has completely saddened an old man and leaves me wondering what has gone so terribly wrong with a place and school that I truly love.

agohn writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

Sorry its too late. I have been sending in an annual contribution for many years now. It started small in 1967 and I have tried to keep pace with inflation over the years. I never have used it to get tickets, etc. I just sent it in because I truly do love the place and school. The best years of my life were spent there going up and down Cumberland Ave. and throughout the University. One of my fondest memories of my deceased wife was years after I graduated We would go to Uncle Andy's Deli on 17th Street to eat before each home game and then walk on down to Neyland. Some of our best times were visiting friends who stayed in the old Stadium Hall when we were all still in school. I doubt if it is even open anymore. That place really was haunted. The guy's who lived there swore you could hear Johnny Butler making his 1939 touchdown run against Alabama. Grantland Rice, who was covering the game in person, called it the greatest open field run in College Football History. Things like that have kept me giving what I could so other kids could have that experience. The deal with Bruce Pearl has completely saddened an old man and leaves me wondering what has gone so terribly wrong with a place and school that I truly love.

First off...my condolences for your wife's passing.

Second...You are all VOL!

Third...I loved Sam and Andys along with the Roman Room. Memories.

SAILRAY2U writes:

Remember the firing of COACH PEARL was brought to you by the same person that brought you LAME KIFFIN. Just another case of C.Y.A. Way to go A D. You going to go up on tickets again. My first UT ticket cost me $4 and i have been a Vols fan ever since. This is the second time i have felt ashamed for UT. FIRE HAMILTON......

DancingOutlaw writes:

It is unfortunate it ended this way, but there is no one but Pearl to blame. Hamilton didn't have those kids over to his house knowing full well it was against the NCAA rules. Hamilton didn't lie to the NCAA when they asked about it. Hamilton didn't ask his staff and recruit's parents to lie about it. I don't care if it was a cookout or a cockfight, he should not have lied about it. And really he shouldn't have invited those kids in the first place. He knew it was 100% wrong, but he took a gamble that no one would talk. They did, and he got caught. He is a good coach and good motivator but he made some very bad decisions and there's no way the school can continue to stand behind him. The NCAA has made it clear it's not going to tolerate being lied to. They would crucify us if we kept Pearl.

I understand these kids are mad, but it doesn't change anything. And for you that want to stop your donations, go ahead. There will be others to take your place. Bruce isn't coming back whether you donate or not.

volhome writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

Sorry its too late. I have been sending in an annual contribution for many years now. It started small in 1967 and I have tried to keep pace with inflation over the years. I never have used it to get tickets, etc. I just sent it in because I truly do love the place and school. The best years of my life were spent there going up and down Cumberland Ave. and throughout the University. One of my fondest memories of my deceased wife was years after I graduated We would go to Uncle Andy's Deli on 17th Street to eat before each home game and then walk on down to Neyland. Some of our best times were visiting friends who stayed in the old Stadium Hall when we were all still in school. I doubt if it is even open anymore. That place really was haunted. The guy's who lived there swore you could hear Johnny Butler making his 1939 touchdown run against Alabama. Grantland Rice, who was covering the game in person, called it the greatest open field run in College Football History. Things like that have kept me giving what I could so other kids could have that experience. The deal with Bruce Pearl has completely saddened an old man and leaves me wondering what has gone so terribly wrong with a place and school that I truly love.

Thank you for sharing your great memories. I, too, have many, including my first game sitting in the top row of Section XX when it was only the west side upper deck, watching the Tartan Turf being installed from up next to Alumni Hall, sitting on bleachers on the sideline for watching Larry Sievers make catch after catch, the first night game, the Bobby Majors game (he ruled like none since),Peyton leading the band, rushing the field after FL missed FG, Wilhoite's cannon against the same Gators, and on, and on, and on.

That said, we currently are in a situation where Mike maybe thinks he is helping keep the university's honor in tact. Maybe he truly believes that. Unfortunately the list of wrong things he has done far outweigh any facilities improvements and donor contributions. If Mike is honorable, then he, too, needs to resign. If not, we know he is just a tool in front of a list of bad decisions.

Goingape writes:

Funny, although I attended sporting events all through my tenure at UT, I was always focused on academics. And if I were to give money, it would be to academics. It's almost as if the point of college is to be educated, and not to become a bellicose drunk about athletics.

Withholding funding from the college because of some unimportant change in basektball team leadership is ridiculous. Do you really think the college cares about your $50 or even your $50,000? If so, you were operating under a (mistaken) illusion of control anyway.

The problem with UT and other Division 1 schools is that the beast of athletics has grown out of control into a greedy, corporate whoremongering of athletes. No wonder our coaches often are narcissistic and assume they are above the rules.

I look forward to when the students actually protest something of import, like the current wars or fiscal policies or anything that actually matters.

GreerVol22 writes:

Of course they support him...he acts just like one of them!

Footvol2010 writes:

If you are not a student or alumni then you should really just shut up about anything negative to do with the rock and/or the students' support.

Seriously, we don't care what someone who has no idea what The University of Tennessee is past its sports program thinks.

rdrgtr writes:

in response to Goingape:

Funny, although I attended sporting events all through my tenure at UT, I was always focused on academics. And if I were to give money, it would be to academics. It's almost as if the point of college is to be educated, and not to become a bellicose drunk about athletics.

Withholding funding from the college because of some unimportant change in basektball team leadership is ridiculous. Do you really think the college cares about your $50 or even your $50,000? If so, you were operating under a (mistaken) illusion of control anyway.

The problem with UT and other Division 1 schools is that the beast of athletics has grown out of control into a greedy, corporate whoremongering of athletes. No wonder our coaches often are narcissistic and assume they are above the rules.

I look forward to when the students actually protest something of import, like the current wars or fiscal policies or anything that actually matters.

wow! I am really surprised to see someone of your stature visiting our forrum of worthless babel an discontent. Maybe your time would be better served writing tidbits of left-wing commentary on Michael Moore's forrum. Your "save the trees-kill the babies" mentality will not receive alot satisfaction on this site.

Footvol2010 writes:

in response to rdrgtr:

wow! I am really surprised to see someone of your stature visiting our forrum of worthless babel an discontent. Maybe your time would be better served writing tidbits of left-wing commentary on Michael Moore's forrum. Your "save the trees-kill the babies" mentality will not receive alot satisfaction on this site.

So in your scenario, academics and education are trees, which are pretty and provide some environmental good, while sports are babies--our future and and arguably the most important thing on the planet.

Makes total sense.

To reply to Goingape, student groups protest current wars and fiscal policies all the time, it just won't make the news...or the rock.

Goingape writes:

in response to rdrgtr:

wow! I am really surprised to see someone of your stature visiting our forrum of worthless babel an discontent. Maybe your time would be better served writing tidbits of left-wing commentary on Michael Moore's forrum. Your "save the trees-kill the babies" mentality will not receive alot satisfaction on this site.

How do you have any idea about my politics? Save the trees? Kill the babies? Where did that come from?

I simply said that students and alumni getting up in arms about the basketball coach is silly when there are far more important issues going on at the college and in higher education. I'm disappointed that my fellow alumni get vocal about something like this but remain silent as tuition increases and quality of education decreases.

I'm of no greater stature than anyone else, nor did I imply such. I simply stated sarcastically that we should remember the focus of UT or any school is to be education, not athletics.

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