Pearl, who was dismissed from UT on March 21, 2011, on account of NCAA charges of recruiting improprieties and later received a three-year show cause for lying to NCAA investigators, said that in no way did he attempt to lure Cooper to the Vols.
“I have had no contact with anyone from that family,’’ Pearl said Wednesday. “All I did was say great things about him after we played him in the NCAA tournament. I may have made comments that he certainly could have played at any level, but at no time did I ever have contact with that family.’’
Spokesman Jimmy Stanton said UT has no comment on the allegations.
Cooper said UT and Baylor tried to get him to leave the Bobcats and play at their schools after his freshman season when he was the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year, according to CBSsports.com.
“It was surprising, being my first experience, that schools were wanting me to come play for their programs,’’ Cooper told CBSsports.com. “I didn’t think about leaving. It’s about loyalty ... I didn’t listen to any of that (transfer talk). I just focused on getting better as a sophomore.’’
Donell Cooper, the player’s father, said Pearl “tried the hardest” to get his son to transfer.
“It’s hard to say how many there were contacting us,’’ Donell Cooper told CBSsports.com. “It was shocking to me that so many coaches would do that behind a school’s back.’’
Cooper’s mother, Dionne, implicated Baylor coach Scott Drew in a story published by the New York Times on Monday. Drew told the New York Times he never talked with the family. Neither Pearl nor UT was mentioned by the New York Times.
Pearl pointed out Wednesday the Vols didn’t have room on their roster for another guard, with three top-50 guards either signed or already playing on the team: Signees Trae Golden and Jordan McRae, and then-sophomore Scotty Hopson.
Tennessee also had Skylar McBee, Josh Bone and Melvin Goins returning in the backcourt.
UT eliminated Cooper and the Bobcats, 83-68, in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament. Cooper scored 16 points on 5-of-15 shooting and committed five turnovers against the Vols.
Former UT associate head coach Tony Jones, who was fired along with Pearl last year and is the boys’ basketball coach at Alcoa High School, said he was disturbed by the Coopers’ allegations.
“That’s just ludicrous,’’ Jones told the News Sentinel. “It’s unfortunate people pile on when they view a person who has been compromised. I can say with all honesty Bruce would not have, and did not ever recruit him.
“I was the recruiting coordinator, and I would know that. I’d swear on everything I have he never mentioned that to me, and I was his right-hand man.’’
UT did a sweep of Pearl and his staff’s phone records during last year’s NCAA investigation, which involved an improper off-campus visit at Pearl’s home and charges of improper phone calls made to recruits.
There was no mention of Cooper or tampering charges in either the NCAA enforcement staff’s report or the Committee on Infractions report.
Pearl is splitting his time between his job as Vice President of Marketing for the H.T. Hackney Company and his appearances on Sirius XM Radio’s “Inside College Basketball” show.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32