Email on the Pearl situation

This was a forwarded email I received this morning. Take it with a grain of salt. #teampearl hashtag on Twitter. Here is the email:

Some of this you may know, but I will go through everything I know both from what I have been told and to fill in the gaps, from what a few trusted UTAD people and media people are saying and confirming.

The week after the initial press conf on Sept 10th the UT board of trustees met at the Florida game. Pearl was discussed and at that time the board was split over whether to keep Pearl. Jim Haslam, who we all know has a ton of pull, supported Pearl and therefore he was safe. Hamilton argued that we wouldn’t have a coach since the season was less than 2 months away and that Pearl should be allowed to coach Steven in his last year, etc. Basically Hamilton wanted to make sure the had an opportunity to save Pearl.

The NCAA was NOT happy with the fact Pearl and the coaches were allowed to recruit for 2 weeks after the press conf up until Sept 24th. Because of this they followed Pearl and all the coaches talking with everyone who they met with over those 2 weeks looking for something.

This is where the downfall started. They talked with this kid in Georgia who was a junior and therefore off limits for coaches to talk to. The kid told the NCAA that he had a 3-5 minute conversation with Pearl and Jones. The NCAA noted this and later charged Pearl/UT with a major violation mainly because Pearl did not report this to UT compliance. In fact, UT only found out about it after the lawyer UT hired to help them with the NCAA found out from the NCAA. Had the lawyer not found it would have been a total surprise to UT when we finally received the letter of allegations from the NCAA a few weeks ago.

So this is when it all started to go downhill in mid November when this “bump” violation was made known to UT. When confronted Pearl said he didn’t report it because he had no clue it was a violation at all and that they talked to the kid for less than 30 seconds. Mike Slive was also made aware of the “bump” violation and thus suspended Pearl for 8 SEC games in late November hoping he could mitigate the punishment for Pearl. Clearly, the NCAA didn’t care about that.

The UT admin was NOT happy at all. Around December 1st the staff was told about the latest issue and the administrations unhappiness and the real possibility they were all gone. This also coincides with the start of our bad play after the NIT tournament ended on December 11th when the rest of the basketball operations staff and eventually the players began to hear there were some real issues. The coaches did their best to downplay what was going on and assure the players everything was fine, but clearly something was going on with their heads.

The coaches knew they could be done and in late December when Jana Shay (Jason’s wife) told me, “We don’t think any of us will be here next year”. In anticipation of that she started the process to get her teachers license planning that Jason would be unemployed for a year or two. The Shay’s love Knoxville, so even if Jason gets fired they won’t move until he gets another job.

Mike Hamilton continued his public and private support of Pearl and his compliance team tried vigorously to work with the NCAA to have the “bump” violation removed from the letter of allegations. Mike knew had they been able to do that the public would have never know about it and some of the support Pearl lost with the UT administration may have come back. UT compliance argued that it was basically less than a minor violation, it was only 30 seconds, and cited numerous other instances of coaches who weren’t even reprimanded for their bumps. The NCAA didn’t buy it and thus charged Pearl with a major violation for not reporting. When it did come out in the letter of allegations UT downplayed it with the media saying they already knew about it, it wasn’t a big deal, and they thought they could get it removed. Hamilton asked for a summary disposition (basically a plea) but was denied by the NCAA. He had hoped they could find out the penalties and mitigate them by essentially pleading guilty and saving Pearl. The NCAA wants Pearl to testify in front of the committee on infractions and hear what he has to say. He wouldn’t have had to if we were granted the summary disposition. The belief is the NCAA also knew UT would try to keep Pearl if granted the summary disposition.

Behind the scenes the damage was already done and Pearl’s fate had been decided. I was told on March 1st Mike Hamilton was called into a meeting with the Chancellor and/or President and was told Pearl would be let go by the end of the season. The crazy thing was I ran into Hamilton in the G5/30 parking lot about 3:30 as he was coming out of that meeting in Andy Holt tower where the presidents/chancellors offices are. I was over there going into a meeting with the university development office on a project I am invoved with. I chatted briefly with him and went on my way. Little did I know what had just happened.

One of the reasons the UT administration is firing Pearl is because the NCAA let it be known that if UT stuck with Pearl we would get hammered. Pearl would get 2 year show-cause (essentially firing him any way), UT would lose up to 2 scholarships for 2-3 years, major recruiting restrictions, and at least 1 year of a post season ban. If Pearl was not the coach, he would still get his show-cause but UT would only suffer a loss of 1 scholarship for a year or two with some minor recruiting restrictions (loss of a few on campus visits). The NCAA essentially said Pearl lied again to save himself by not self reporting the” bump”.

Basically the NCAA told us to fire Pearl or else.

For about two weeks after the March 1st meeting Hamilton worked feverishly to try and keep Pearl. He has gone back to the NCAA asking again for the summary disposition, he has met with the Chancellor and President discussing the financial fallout both from donations, ticket sales, concession sales, etc as well as the hit to the program’s ability to compete if Pearl is gone. I was told he basically told them we would still be better off keeping Pearl, taking the NCAA hit (as he believes they can get it down to 1 year show-cause/suspension, 2 scholarship loss for 2 years, and minor recruiting restrictions) vs. starting all over with a new coach. Either way we take a few steps back, but with Pearl we take 3 steps back, without him we take 8 steps back.

At some point late last week Hamilton was told to drop it and that their decision was not going to change (apparently he and Cheek had a brief heated exchange where Mike was reminded who the boss was). He was also told that he needed to lay the ground work for Pearl’s departure though I would guess if I could ask him he wouldn’t have been so direct in the Hyams interview and would have just leaked the info today.

Also last week Pearl met with Jim Haslam as Pearl was made aware of his fate. They discussed a financial settlement and Pearl was planning to resign at the end of the season and made this known to some people last weekend.

I have been told that Pearl is pissed that this came out ahead of time and had hoped his resignation would be looked at favorably by UT fans as him doing they right thing and not wanting to cause UT anymore harm.

Once again Hamilton was told by his bosses to get the word out that Pearl would not be back. This was done because apparently there was a lack of communication as the UT admin didn’t think or know Pearl would go quietly and resign.

This is also why you saw Pearl and his coaches say they wanted to be back, their 6 year record speaks for itself, etc. It is now a PR battle and all about the buyout money.

Ultimately, I have been lead to believe that Pearl will still resign in the next couple of days and he and his assistants will get buyouts. Shay and Ken Johnson may be retained briefly until the new coach his hired.

The resignation vs. firing could change, but the fact that he will not be our coach has been decided barring a last minute flip by the president/chancellor which no one thinks will happen.

I have also been lead to believe that Mike Hamilton will remain as AD and his fate rests in Dooley’s hands. He gained a lot of points with the administration by moving David Blackburn to monitor Kiffin which saved our butts with the NCAA in football. (Hamilton also had a lot more dirt on Kiffin and could have fired him for cause had he not left). The administration is also very happy with the financial side of the athletic department was well as the facility improvements. Now if Hamilton was going to get fired it may not be out yet since Chancellor Cheek , the UT president and Jim Haslam would probably be the only ones to know but as of now all news is he stays.

For as bad a PR guy as Hamilton has been he has done a lot for UT and truly wanted Pearl to stay and did everything he could to make that happen. In the end the administration said Pearl was not bigger than the university and a few years of bad basketball was worth the universities integrity and reputation.

I completely understand those who want Hamilton gone for specific reasons (Kiffin, Pearl, NCAA, Pr, etc), but there appears to just be a lot of “I hate that guy” stuff out there.

I will let you know if I hear anything else, but that is what I have been told and know to date.

2 comments on “Email on the Pearl situation

  1. That’s too bad. As a UK fan I enjoyed having a competitive UT team. Pearl is a good if not great coach. It’s sad that he seems headed the way of Kelvin Sampson. Now that guy was a real cheater. So Now with Florida team graduating, UT issues, Arkansas firing, Vandy sucking…now the only other good teams will be Georgia and Alabama… Uk will have a few years of domination and then Cal will get caught.

  2. This is what we get for hiring a Gator to be our Chancellor, I knew it would come back to bite us in the butt.

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