NCAA Rules: The NCAA Hands Down Penalties For Tennessee

The hammer has finally fallen on Tennessee, albeit rather gently and without much damage to their sports programs.  Not so for coach Bruce Pearl and his assistants.

Today the NCAA released its public report on the penalties for the Tennessee Volunteer basketball and football program for NCAA violations resulting mostly from the actions of former head basketball coach Bruce Pearl and former head football coach Lane Kiffin.

The paragraphs describing Bruce Pearl's actions were somewhat more revolting than what I already knew. Even as he admitted lying about the barbecue, Pearl apparently lied about how it all went down:

According to the former head men's basketball coach, he told the parents of prospect 1 at the tailgate that he was hosting a dinner that evening but it would be an NCAA rules violation for the junior prospects to attend. He claimed that his conversation left the impression that it would be the decision of the prospects whether or not to attend.

...

However, the former head men's basketball coach was the only person who offered this version of how the junior prospects came to attend the dinner. The parents of prospect 1 recalled being invited to the dinner by former assistant coach 1. The only time they were told it was impermissible for them to attend was after they arrived at the house, when the former head men's basketball coach told them that their presence was a violation and asked them not to tell anyone about being in attendance. The mother of prospect 2 reported that, at the tailgate gathering, she heard a coach and some student-athletes talking about the dinner. The mother of prospect 3 recalled being given an address where everyone was to meet. She did not realize it was the former head men's basketball coach's home until she arrived. None of the junior prospects or their families realized their presence at the dinner was a violation until informed by the former head men's basketball coach after they arrived at the home. [My emphasis]

Pearl also apparently lied more than once:

  • Like Jim Tressel at Ohio State, Pearl also signed the NCAA annual certification form that he neither knew or had any involvement in NCAA violations;

  • Pearl denied recognizing the picture of himself and one of the recruits shown to him by NCAA investigators on June 14, 2010;

The really offensive thing for the NCAA was that Pearl, after being interviewed, tried to influence one of the prospects' family to join him in the deception. It is clear from the text that this really angered the NCAA, and I can only imagine what they would say in an off-the-record conversation. Pearl is lucky they didn't try to ban him from coaching for life, which doubtless crossed their minds.

The NCAA threw a failure to monitor charge at UT for the phone calls, and that is clearly right, and requires no exposition. Read the report if you want detail about that.

All the football violations were found as secondary. I thought that because of the sheer volume of violations and the proximity to the basketball problems that they might get hit with a lack of institutional control, but the committee didn't even go near that. Lane Kiffin, in my view, got off light.

The committee also found that UT cooperated well with them. I can't comment on that at all. If they say they did, I believe the committee.

Tennessee was hit with two years of probation. The NCAA also accepted all institution-imposed and conference-imposed penalties and corrections, but added nothing new themselves other than as already mentioned. If you want to know all the self- and SEC-imposed penalties, read the report.

Bruce Pearl gets a 3-year show-cause order, and explicitly banned Pearl from recruiting during this period, even if a school was willing to accept the possible show-cause penalties. His former assistants were hit with a 1-year recruiting ban and show-cause order.

Overall, Tennessee and their fans are undoubtedly giddy with this news, as it does not hamstring their new basketball coach, produced no post-season bans, and really did most of the damage to the coaching staff responsible for the most egregious violations. All in all, I think that was pretty fair, and I would suggest that UT saved themselves by their high level of cooperation with an assist from Mike Slive, who hit Pearl with sanctions last year. UT fans may laugh at this, but they owe Slive a debt of gratitude.

So those are my observations. Feel free to add yours, or question mine in the comments.

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