Ohio University junior guard D.J. Cooper issued a statement on Thursday that cleared former Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl of potential tampering violations.
"No schools have directly contacted me or my family since I signed at Ohio University,'' Cooper said in a statement e-mailed to the News Sentinel from Ohio media relations director for men's basketball Drew Wiseman.
A CBSsports.com story on Sunday night said Pearl — and Baylor coach Scott Drew — tried to lure Cooper to their schools after Cooper was Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year in 2010.
It's an NCAA violation to recruit a player before he is released from his current school.
"I was shocked to see my name got thrown into this, but I know I'm a pretty easy target,'' Pearl told the News Sentinel on Thursday. "Fact is, I never had direct or indirect contact with the player or the family. I've never viewed myself as more than a basketball coach, so I've often been complimentary to opponents. Somehow, my praise of D.J. Cooper was misconstrued.''
Pearl praised Cooper's ability to the media prior to UT eliminating Ohio, 83-68, in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament en route to the program's only Elite Eight appearance.
Cooper was quoted last Sunday by CBSsports.com as saying: "It was surprising, being my first experience, that schools were wanting me to come play for their programs. I didn't think about leaving.''
Cooper's father, Donnell, told CBSsports.com that Pearl "tried the hardest" to get his son to transfer.
A New York Times story implicated Baylor after talking to Cooper's mother, but made no mention of Pearl or Tennessee.
Pearly vehemently denied the allegations to the News Sentinel on Wednesday.
"I'm pleased the record was set straight, and for my friends, family and the people who believe in me, I'm grateful my exoneration validated their faith in me,'' Pearl said. "For those who took this as another opportunity to be critical of me, I hope they'll learn you can't always believe everything you hear.''
Pearl realizes he put himself in a difficult position when he wasn't truthful in his initial interview with the NCAA about an improper recruiting visit at his home in 2008. Pearl was dismissed from UT on March 21, 2011, and later assessed a three-year show-cause penalty from the NCAA Committee on Infractions as a result of the unethical conduction violation.
"I'm sorry for the mistake I made in the past, and for that I'm paying a huge price,'' said Pearl, who splits his time between his role as Vice President of Marketing for the H.T. Hackney Company and his national radio show on Sirius XM. "I'm pleased the Tennessee basketball program is alive and well and excited that Coach (Cuonzo)Martin is adding to the history and tradition.''