Bruce Pearl fired by Tennessee

Bruce Pearl fired; Mike Hamilton cites additional violations

Updated:
Bruce Pearl (file) Bruce Pearl (file)

By JIM WOGAN
6 Sports Director

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Bruce Pearl has been dismissed by the University of Tennessee as men's head basketball coach, the university confirmed late Monday.

Media reports of Pearl's dismissal began surfacing during the afternoon, but university officials did not confirm the reports until after the Lady Vols had defeated Marquette in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament.

Pearl's coaching staff, Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay, have also been dismissed.

Pearl spoke many times of his desire to be a Vol for life, but the pressure of an NCAA investigation and concern over additional punishment against the UT athletics department forced his firing.

"This is a difficult day for many obvious reasons," Athletics Director Mike Hamilton said in a statement released to the media.

Hamilton said in his statement that additional violations occurred in September 2010 and March 2011.

The September 2010 violation involved contact with a junior year high school player. It was outlined in the Notice of Allegations Tennessee received in February.

6 Sports confirmed an ESPN.com report that the March violation involved a procedural issue regarding a player pass for Tennessee's home game against Kentucky.

"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," Hamilton said. "Therefore, it is in the best interests of our institution to move in a different direction."

The non-NCAA incident was a violation of the athletic department's substance abuse policy by senior forward Brian Williams, who missed two games for what the team said was a bad back.

UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek issued a separate statement, saying, "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."

Cheek also said, "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."

Pearl's departure ends one of the most successful eras in UT athletic department history and was Tennessee basketball's most popular coach since Ray Mears.

In his statement released Monday night, Hamilton said Pearl will be paid at his current salary rate through June 30, 2011 and an additional buyout $50,000 per month for 12 months. Pearl will also receive health insurance coverage.

Jones, Forbes and Shay will each be paid at their current rate through July 31.

Houston Fancher was named interim coach during the hiring process, Hamilton said.

Fancher was head coach at Appalachian State from 2000 to 2009 and was until Monday's announcement Tennessee's director of video scouting.

Pearl was hired in 2005 after a four-year stint as head coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

At Tennessee he turned around a basketball program that many experts thought was beyond saving into a perennial NCAA tournament team.

Pearl took over the Tennessee men's basketball program from Buzz Peterson, who was fired after four years with no NCAA tournament appearances and two losing seasons.

In Pearl's six seasons, the Vols went 145-61 and went to the NCAA tournament every year, including three times in the Sweet 16 and last year's appearance in the Elite 8.

But in September, concerns surfaced when it was revealed Pearl admitted lying to the NCAA about recruiting violations.

Later, Tennessee cut $1.5 million from Pearl's pay over what would have been the next four seasons and the Southeastern Conference ordered Pearl to serve an eight-game suspension.

Pearl became teary-eyed during the January news conference when he admitted making mistakes regarding NCAA rules.

According to NCAA accusations, Pearl and assistant head coach Tony Jones made contact with a potential recruit, Jordan Adams, out of Lawrenceville, Georgia, who was not supposed to be contacted.

Pearl was also accused of hosting recruits in his home, which is a recruiting violation as well.

The Vols had a tumultuous 19-15 season since the allegations came to light, ending with a 75-45 meltdown loss to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

During a media briefing following the loss to Michigan, Pearl said he wanted to keep his job.

"We made some mistakes," he said. "We're going to try to be accountable for those mistakes, but my goal and desire is to be the basketball coach at Tennessee next year and for a long time."

The chance of Pearl staying for a seventh season appeared more unlikely just days before the final game when Hamilton told a Knoxville radio station "the jury is still out" on Pearl's return.

In his statement to the media released Monday night, Hamilton said he regretted making that remark.

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


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