NCAA accuses Tennessee of men's basketball, football violations

NCAA accuses Tennessee of men's basketball, football violations

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The University of Tennessee has received a notice of allegations from the NCAA regarding the school's men's basketball program under head coach Bruce Pearl and the football program under former head coach Lane Kiffin.

The notice is like an indictment in the American judicial system. It is dated Monday and UT officials received it on Tuesday. No potential sanctions are included.

The notice is the result of a 22-month investigation by the NCAA and UT in response to reports of alleged violations. These were reported by the university and external sources.

UT and its athletics department says it has cooperated fully with the NCAA.

The receipt of the notice ends the initial review and fact-finding period.

The NCAA alleges these violations of its rules by the men's basketball program:

  • Impermissible contact with prospective student-athletes resulting from a cumulative total of 96 impermissible phone calls over a 24-month period from Aug. 1, 2007 through July 29, 2009.
  • By coach Pearl: impermissible contact with prospective student-athletes during an unofficial visit, acting contrary to the principles of ethical conduct, failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, and failure to monitor the activities regarding compliance of all assistant coaches within the men's basketball program.
  • By coach Pearl and associate head coach Tony Jones: impermissible contact with a prospective student-athlete at his high school.
  • By coach Pearl, coach Jones and assistant coach Steve Forbes: failure to furnish full and complete information relevant to the investigation.

UT is also accused of failing to monitor the men's basketball coaching staff's phone calls with prospective student-athletes and their relatives in order to ensure compliance with NCAA phone legislation from Aug. 1, 2007 to July 29, 2009.

The student-athletes who were allegedly contacted in violation by basketball coaches include: Aaron Craft, of Findlay Ohio; Griffin McKenzie, of Cincinnati, Ohio; Justin Martin, of Indianapolis, Indiana; Rico Pickett, a junior at Miami-Dade Community College; Chris Singleton, of Dunwoody, Georgia; Elliot Williams, of Memphis.

The NCAA says in its notice that coach Pearl initially mislead UT and the NCAA on June 14, 2010 when he was shown a photo taken of him and Aaron Craft at Pearl's home during a cookout. Coach Pearl is accused of denying that he knew the location or that he recognized another person in the photo, the wife of assistant coach Jason Shay.

Pearl is also accused of calling Craft's father before he spoke to investigators that day to remind him that it was an NCAA violation for his family to attend the cookout and that coach Pearl gave him a choice of attending.

Craft's father believed that Pearl was trying to influence his statements to the NCAA, according to the notice.

The NCAA alleges these violations of its rules by the UT football program:

  • By former members of the football coaching staff: impermissible phone contact (16 total calls) with prospective student-athletes from Jan. 3-9, 2010.
  • By former assistant football coach David Reaves: allegations relating to impermissible contacts with prospective student-athletes.
  • By former coach Kiffin: failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program and failure to monitor the activities regarding compliance of several assistant coaches have also been made against a former head football coach, and permitting a football recruiting intern named Steve Rubio to make impermissible contact with high school staff during a recruiting visit.

The student-athletes who were allegedly contacted in violation by football coaches include: Brandon Willis, of Duncan, South Carolina; Seantrel Henderson, of Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Ahmed Dixon, of Waco, Texas. Other names are redacted from the NCAA report.

Kiffin left UT after one season. He's now the head football coach at USC, where he coached previously as an assistant under Pete Carroll.

USC Athletic Director Pat Haden released this response saying in part: "The NCAA enforcement process provides for Tennessee and Lane to address those charges. Until that process is completed, it would be unfair and premature for me or USC to comment on this matter."

Kiffin also released a statement saying, "On the advice of my legal counsel, we cannot comment other than to say we look forward to working through the process with the NCAA."

UT has a deadline of May 21 to submit a response to the NCAA. University officials are expected to appear before the Committee on Infractions during its meeting on June 10-11 in Indianapolis.

Chancellor Cheek released a written statement that says, "Any allegation from the NCAA is a serious matter for us, and we will address these issues in a timely manner. As an institution, we will continue to cooperate fully with the NCAA."

Athletics Director Mike Hamilton also released a statement that says in part, "Receipt of the NCAA's Notice of Violations by the University of Tennessee is another step in bringing this matter to conclusion. Our institution has operated in complete cooperation with the NCAA since April 2009 as they have pursued their investigation."

A response from coach Pearl says in part, "Throughout this process, we have recognized that we made significant mistakes, and we look forward to concluding this matter with the NCAA. The penalties imposed on our program to date have been severe, but I want to commend our student-athletes and staff for staying focused and working through these potential distractions. The support of our fans and administration has been amazing and appreciated by me and my entire family, and reminds me every day why I have the best job in the nation."

The NCAA says since the university and the athletic department are in their response phase, no UT official will make any further public comments about this matter until this process is complete.

Tennessee has already punished Pearl by reducing his salary by $1.5 million over four seasons and banning him from off-campus recruiting for a year.

The Southeastern Conference also weighed in with an eight-game suspension, which he served earlier this season.

However, four days after a January press conference that brought tears to Pearl's eyes as he admitted mistakes, the NCAA accuses him and assistant coach Jones of a recruiting violation. He's accused of making contact with a potential recruit who was not supposed to be contacted.

An examination into potential rules violations by the UT baseball program was referenced in the initial NCAA Letter of Inquiry, but there are no such allegations listed in the notice.

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