Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl has a new contract in hand and is expected to be on the Volunteers' sideline until the NCAA tells UT otherwise.
Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton detailed an alleged list of deception by Pearl stemming back to 2007, including phone calls to recruits and a 2008 cook-out hosted by the coach at his home.
One day before a September press conference announcing an NCAA investigation was underway and that Pearl would be taking a pay-cut, Hamilton sent Pearl a letter terminating his contract and detailing those alleged violations and attempted cover-up.
Friday morning, Hamilton spoke with 10News about the letter, the future of the basketball program, and why the press conference took a very different tone than the letter he wrote to Pearl just a day before.
"If you look at the letter you will see very specific details why we went about our business but we were not able to allude to (specific things) at the press conference at the time," Hamilton said.
"We sat down at the very beginning and thought 'what is our ultimate goal?' We want Bruce Pearl to be our basketball coach, short of data showing we have to do differently, we're going to go into this with him being our basketball coach."
Hamilton gave a three different reasons why the cook-out and Pearl's alleged lies, asking of his staff to lie, and asking recruits' parents to lie were not disclosed in that initial press conference.
"We knew the press conference at the time was going to be so shocking to deal with because they knew they were not anticipating that being part of the announcement. Frankly, we were not ready to deal with all that because it came down so quickly," Hamilton said. "We really wanted to wait until the new contract was done so it wouldn't cause undo stress on the fanbase, so we're really close to that at this point."
University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Dr. Jimmy Cheek had similar thoughts.
"What we tried to do was release the information that we thought you needed to know at that point in time. There was a request for the documents that put into place the actions we took. Those were released yesterday and we didn't feel it was important to let everyone know that at that point and time," Cheek said.
Hamilton said Pearl has been delivered a new contract and that the coach's attorneys are looking over the deal. At this point, Hamilton is confident Pearl will be back under contract and continue to coach at Thompson-Boling Arena for a long time.
"I think he's a valuable asset to our state. He's had a huge impact on non-profit organizations. He's done great things for our community, putting aside the basketball success," Hamilton said.
In a letter to Head Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl terminating his contract, University of Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton says Pearl knew he was breaking NCAA rules by hosting recruits at his home, and he asked the recruits and their families to keep quiet about it.
Pearl, UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton, and UT-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek held a news conference September 10th to announce that Pearl's salary was being cut after he admitted lying to the NCAA during an ongoing investigation.
Through Tennessee's Public Records Act, 10 News has a obtained a letter sent from Hamilton to Pearl the day before that announcement. In it, Hamilton tells Pearl his contract will be terminated on October 8th.
As reasons for the termination, the letter cites clauses in the contract involving "gross misconduct including dishonesty and other acts involving intolerable behavior," and requiring Pearl to abide by NCAA, Southeastern Conference, and University of Tennessee rules.
The letter then spells out Pearl's violations in detail.
"On September 20th, you knowingly violated NCAA rules by hosting, at your house during a team cookout, three prospective student-athletes making unofficial visits and their families," writes Hamilton.
"At your house, you 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."
Hamilton goes on to say that when NCAA investigators showed Pearl a photo of a recruit in Pearl's kitchen, the coach denied that it was taken at his home. He later admitted that wasn't true.
According to the letter, Pearl also denied knowing the identity of a woman in the photograph, although he later admitted it was the wife of one of his assistant coaches.
Hamilton also writes that during the investigation, Pearl called the father of one of the recruits involved to "remind" him that the coach had told the family the visit would be against NCAA rules, and that Pearl had given them family a choice whether to attend.
"At the very least," Hamilton writes, "your calls to the father created the appearance that you were trying to influence the father's statements to the NCAA."
The letter goes on to say all three of Pearl's assistant coaches were present at his home the night of the improper contact, and that Pearl met with those coaches before the NCAA conducted interviews with them.
From October 10, 2007, to July 30, 2009, the University said Pearl "failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance."
During that time, 96 impermissable phone calls were made to recruits, 34 of them by Pearl.
UT Athletic Department spokesperson Jimmy Stanton confirms Pearl is now working under a letter of appointment, similar to that of any other University employee. But, Stanton says the Athletic Department and Pearl are "in the process of finalizing a new contract."
Until a new contract is signed, Pearl could be fired or quit at any time.
In addition, his letter of termination of his old contract says the new contract will include specific language regarding NCAA violations.
"Furthermore," the letter reads, "it will provide that if you are found in violation of NCAA regulations, or if the University develops a good faith belief that you have engaged in additional NCAA violations not currently known to the University, you will be subject to disciplinary or corrective action as set forth in the provisions of the NCAA enforcement procedures, including, but not limited to, suspension without pay or termination of employment for significant or repetitive violations."
Pearl came to UT in 2005, and under his coaching, the Vols are the SEC's winningest program since the 2005-06 season. The team had their first Elite Eight appearance in 2010.
A UT spokesperson confirms Pearl has a new contract in hand, but has not yet signed it.