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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Universtiy of Tennesse charged by NCAA for Violations

The University of Tennessee finally was served by the NCAA for various rule violations in their men’s basketball, football and baseball teams. This comes as no surprise as most have known for months the day of reckoning was coming as the school has been investigated the last 22 months. Tennessee was citied for 12 various violations in both programs under the watch of former football coach Lane Kiffin (Insert your own bad word here UT fans) and current head basketball coach Bruce Pearl. The baseball team, although investigated was not charged with any wrongdoing.

The penalties on the football side were about as good as it could it be in this situation for the Vols. Most of the penalties levied against the program are going west to follow Lane Kiffin. Kiffin and his assistants were accused of making improper phone call to recruits after UT officials admonished Kiffin and his staff about making those types of calls. The dates of the allegations are Jan 03-09, 2010 and of course those dates came just before Kiffin resigned at UT and jetted his way to USC. The NCAA stated that Kiffin “Failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance of NCAA rules within their programs.” The happiest man in Tennessee right now should be current head football coach Derek Dooley. He can recruit now knowing with a peace of mind. The program can now begin to move on from this scandal that was brought onto from Kiffin. The light is visible at the end of tunnel for the football team.

However, as for the aforementioned Bruce Pearl and the men’s basketball team, not so much. Pearl faces a gauntlet of allegations that could possibly cause him his job. Pearl and his staff have been charged with unethical conduct after he lied to NCAA investigators in a June interview about hosting high school players at a cookout at his home in September of 2008. He also called John Craft, the father of Aaron Craft, to sway some influence onto the younger Craft’s statement to NCAA agents. Not to be forgotten in this is that UT has already docked Pearl’s salary by $1.5 million dollars as well as banning him from off-campus recruitment for a year. SEC commish Mike Slive also stepped in as he suspended Pearl for the first eight games of the conference season. It wasn’t just Pearl who was charged as his assistants Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay were accused of “violating the NCAA principles of honesty” for making up to 96 impermissible calls to 12 recruits.

This is a bad situation for all involved. Not only could Pearl lose his job but he also makes a huge distraction for his team. After playing their best game of the season against Vandy, they get hit with news like this. AD Mike Hamilton now has three programs including football, basketball and baseball all under investigation under his watch and has to take some heat for hiring Kiffin and Pearl. Hamilton could also possibly lose his job but from what I hear, he is safe. The scandal has marred all of UT’s athletics as it has given the entire department a bad name. Pearl still has his support and seems to be on solid footing with Hamilton. Most fans still support Pearl as he has developed Tennessee men’s basketball team into a top 10 or 15 programs nationally. The rub with me on this issue is if Pearl stays on as the coach, what kind of message does it send about UT athletics? Is it a win at all cost mentality? It must be because I know if Buzz Peterson were the coach during all these accusations, he would have been shown the door a long time ago. In the cut-throat world of the SEC, winning is the only thing that matters at most schools but sometime you can’t just go with the status quo. I am a big Pearl supporter as he is a personable guy and a damn good basketball coach but he made his mistakes and must pay for them like everyone else. The ball is in UT’s court. The decision that they make on Pearl will let us know what UT athletics is all about.

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