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Bruce Pearl and immediate staff fired from UT

4:28 PM, Mar 22, 2011   |    comments
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10News has learned more about the additional incidents that led to Bruce Pearl's firing from UT.

Brent Hubbs of Volquest.com said the extra NCAA violation was related to a player's family, who was given extra tickets to a basketball game.

The non-NCAA problem that Hamilton referred to was a substance abuse violation by senior Brian Williams, according to Chris Low, an ESPN and WBIR contributor.  Williams sat out the last two games of the regular season.  Pearl said he had back problems.  Williams did practice and play throughout the entire SEC tournament.

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The University of Tennessee finally gave official word late Monday that Coach Bruce Pearl and his immediate staff had been relieved of their duties at UT.  UT said the search for a new head coach will begin immediately.

In his statement, Mike Hamilton said this was a "difficult day."  He complimented Pearl on his success and tremendous work in the community, and calls Pearl a friend.

Hamilton said they had intended to go forward with Pearl, despite the NCAA allegations and popular national opinion, but he hints at further infractions that changed the university's opinion.

"During this time, the dynamics of our case with the NCAA have evolved further, including additional violations committed on September 14 and in March 2011. The cumulative effect of the evolution of the investigation combined with a number of more recent non-NCAA-related incidents have led to a belief that this staff cannot be viable at Tennessee in the future. Therefore, it is in the best interests of our institution to move in a different direction," said Hamilton in the statement.

Chancellor Jimmy Cheek concurs with Hamilton, saying, "Since our September news conference, several instances have occurred that have caused us to change our position."

Cheek backed up the decision, also hinting at things that are not known to the general public.  "Our job in administration is to weigh all the issues and all of the inputs-sometimes including details we cannot share-and then make tough decisions. Our goal is to weigh all of the information and ultimately do what is in the best interest of the University of Tennessee.

Cheek reiterated his support for Mike Hamilton and the job he is doing.

Hamilton named the team's video coordinator Houston Fancher as interim head coach, and said the search process will begin immediately.

"This is a great job and will attract a significant number of interested coaches. Much of that interest is a tribute to what Coach Pearl has helped to build, but more importantly, what our fans have built. We will take an appropriate amount of time, but will move as swiftly as is effective to bring this to conclusion," Hamilton said.

Hamilton also apologized to fans for his comments prior to the Vol's NCAA appearance.  "While my comments were never intended for harm, they became an unneeded distraction to what has already been a year of distractions."

In leaving, Pearl be paid his current salary through June 30, then will receive $50,000 per onth for 12 months.  He will also receive health insurance costs.  All that equals $948,728.

Each member of the coaching staff that was dismissed will be paid at their current salary through July 31.  UT does not name the coaches that were fired in their release, but 10News has confirmed they include Tony Jones, who filled in for Pearl during his SEC suspension, Jason Shay, Steve Forbes, and Mark Pancratz, who was a graduate assistant.  The Coaching Page at UTSPORTS.com now only includes Houston Fancher.

In a press release, UT said there is no planned media availability for Dr. Cheek, Hamilton, or Pearl on this matter. 

Statement from Mike Hamilton

Today, we are announcing that we have reached an agreement with Bruce Pearl that will result in him and his immediate staff being relieved of their duties with the University of Tennessee men's basketball program. This is a difficult day for many obvious reasons.

Six years ago, Bruce Pearl arrived on our campus and renewed hope in Tennessee Basketball. He, his staff, and our student-athletes have allowed us as administrators and fans to enjoy unprecedented success and many victories during that time. He has become a friend to many and has done tremendous work in our community.

Upon receipt of our NCAA Letter of Inquiry in September, we made the difficult decision to forego common national opinion and forge ahead with Bruce and his staff pending any further major infractions or issues that would preclude our basketball program from representing the University of Tennessee in the right manner.

The months that followed have been difficult on everyone - our staff, our coaches, our administration, our fans and, certainly, our young men. During this time, the dynamics of our case with the NCAA have evolved further, including additional violations committed on September 14 and in March 2011. The cumulative effect of the evolution of the investigation combined with a number of more recent non-NCAA-related incidents have led to a belief that this staff cannot be viable at Tennessee in the future. Therefore, it is in the best interests of our institution to move in a different direction.

We have included separation terms that will detail more clearly our role in the transition for Coach Pearl and his assistant coaches. In the meantime, we have named native Tennessean and a former head coach, Houston Fancher, as interim coach during our hiring process.

Our search process will begin immediately. This is a great job and will attract a significant number of interested coaches. Much of that interest is a tribute to what Coach Pearl has helped to build, but more importantly, what our fans have built. We will take an appropriate amount of time, but will move as swiftly as is effective to bring this to conclusion.

Lastly, I want to apologize to our fans for my untimely comments prior to last week's NCAA appearance. While my comments were never intended for harm, they became an unneeded distraction to what has already been a year of distractions.

Terms of Agreement
• Head men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl will be paid at his current salary rate through June 30, 2011. He will also receive $50,000 per month for 12 months, from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012, and will also receive health insurance costs. This cumulative figure is $948,728.
• Additionally, the men's basketball coaching staff will each be paid at their current salary rate through July 31, 2011.

Statement from University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek

In September, I said that Bruce Pearl was our coach and I expected him to be our coach for a long time.

I am disappointed with the events that have brought us to this point today, events that I would call "the cumulative effect of evolving circumstances."

Since our September news conference, several instances have occurred that have caused us to change our position, as indicated in Mike's comments.

I care about Coach Pearl and his family. I appreciate the job that he has done at Tennessee.

From the University's perspective, this decision is an institutional decision, with counsel and input from many who know and love this university.

Mike Hamilton has kept me informed throughout the past weeks and I have been involved and engaged in the entire process.
I have kept the University of Tennessee system President informed, and he fully supports the steps that Mike and I have taken. The President, in turn, has communicated with the Board of Trustees.

I have personally stayed in contact with the Board of Trustees Vice-Chair, Jim Murphy.

Our job in administration is to weigh all the issues and all of the inputs-sometimes including details we cannot share-and then make tough decisions. Our goal is to weigh all of the information and ultimately do what is in the best interest of the University of Tennessee.

Going forward, I am confident that Mike Hamilton will find the right coach who can build on the foundation created over the past several years.

Mike Hamilton has my support. I join him in looking forward to continued success.

 

Bruce Pearl is out as the head basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, although the terms of his departure are still unclear.

WBIR sports contributors Brent Hubbs of Volquest.com and Chris Low with ESPN have confirmed that Bruce Pearl's tenure at UT is over.  A source in University leadership also told WBIR the decision has been made to change coaches.   No formal announcement has been made because the university was still trying to reach a financial agreement with Pearl.

In the wake of Pearl's departure, one of Pearl's top recruits, Kevin Ware, a shooting guard from Conyers, Georgia, has formally asked to be released from his letter of intent to play at UT.

Senior point guard Melvin Goins told 10News that the team has not had a meeting or been informed of anything officially.  He said he hasn't talked to Pearl since Charlotte.  He said he's trying to graduate in May and is focusing on the books.

Tennessee fans expressed frustration after Athletic Director Mike Hamilton indicated during a radio interview Wednesday that Pearl might not remain as coach.

Many fans called for Hamilton to be fired along with or instead of Pearl, but WBIR's source says there are currently no plans to remove Hamilton. 

In just six seasons, Pearl took a down-trodden program and came within one basket of a Final Four appearance.  His teams made the NCAA tournament each season, losing to Michigan State in the final minute in the Regional Finals in 2010 in St. Louis, the school's first elite eight appearance.

Just months later, Pearl admittedly lied to the NCAA about an improper contact with recruits invited to a cookout at his home in 2008.  According to documents, Pearl also called the father of a recruit about changing his story and had a meeting with staff members to coordinate their response to the NCAA.

He subsequently admitted misleading the NCAA and the investigation began.

Pearl has worked without a contract since a September news conference to announce the violations.  The University said it would stand by Pearl, but it was revealed Pearl and a staff member had improper contact with a recruit just days after that news conference.  Since it was not reported to the NCAA, it was deemed as a major violation.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive stepped in and suspended Pearl for eight conference games, but it is thought the NCAA penalties for all the allegations became too much to keep Pearl. 

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