Bruce Pearl told recruits of violation
During the barbecue that got him into hot water with the NCAA, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl told recruits and their families at his home that their visit equated to an NCAA violation, according to the termination of employment agreement between Pearl and the university.
In the termination letter dated Sept. 9 and obtained initially by WBIR-Channel 10 in Knoxville, athletic director Mike Hamilton wrote that on Sept. 28, 2008, Pearl "knowingly violated NCAA rules."
On Sept. 9, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton sent basketball coach Bruce Pearl a letter terminating his contract. Read it. Letter (PDF)
According to Hamilton, during the barbecue at the coach's house Pearl "admitted to the unofficial visitors and their families that their presence at your house was a violation of NCAA rules. You also told the unofficial visitors and their families that you were not going to tell anyone about the NCAA rules violation, and you asked that they not tell anyone either.''
The letter goes on to cite an interview between Pearl and NCAA investigators on June 14, when the university claims that Pearl both failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and also failed to protect the integrity of the NCAA investigation.
"Everything we're dealing with is stuff that we've known about for a long time," Pearl said.
Pearl first met with his assistant coaches that day to learn about their interviews before he had his own, and later called the father of one of the recruits that had visited his house. The letter claims Pearl wanted to "remind" the father that he had been told two years earlier that the visit was an NCAA violation and that he and his family had a choice whether to attend the barbecue or not.
"At the very least, your calls to the father created the appearance that you were trying to influence the father's statements to the NCAA," Hamilton wrote in the termination letter.
One of the other prospects who attended the cookout is current Tennessee freshman guard Jordan McRae. The Midway, Ga., native has not yet been cleared by the NCAA to play for the Volunteers, but he has been allowed to practice with the team.
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The letter also details the most damning of the allegations currently facing Pearl -- that he knowingly lied to NCAA investigators when asked about a photograph of recruit Aaron Craft at his home.
Hamilton wrote that Pearl both denied that the photograph was taken at his home and denied knowing a woman in the photograph. He later admitted that the picture was at his home and the woman in question was Jana Shay, the wife of Pearl's assistant coach Jason Shay. Shay has been an assistant for Pearl for 10 years, the last six at Tennessee.
A day after the termination letter was written, a tearful Pearl admitted that he had lied to NCAA investigators. Neither he nor Hamilton mentioned the termination letter or the fact that Pearl had knowingly committed the violations.
"This is something that we're going to have to get through," Pearl said. "We'll have our time in front of the [NCAA] Committee on Infractions when the time comes, we'll deal with the challenges. I think this will die down. Pretty much everything that I know and that we know is out there."
Tennessee's basketball program is currently under NCAA investigation for excessive phone calls, allowing recruits on official visits to stay longer than allowed and meeting with junior recruits at an off-campus site. The university docked Pearl's pay and recently revealed that he is currently working without a contract.
"Based on the facts described [in the letter], Chancellor Cheek and I have determined that you engaged in gross misconduct, including dishonesty and other acts involving intolerable behavior," Hamilton wrote in the letter. "As a result, the university is terminating your employment agreement for adequate cause."
Hamilton said lawyers are working to finalize a new contract for Pearl which will reflect his lowered salary, but until then Pearl is working as an "at-will" employee and could be fired or resign at any time without penalty.
"I am so committed to being here, and I want to be here this year and I want to be here for a long, long time," Pearl said. "I think the university feels the same way, and I really appreciate our fans continuing to reach out their support."
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.