Pearl pays for misinformation

Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl will pay a heavy price for giving false information to NCAA investigators. He'll forfeit $1.5 million in salary over the next five seasons.

Athletics director Mike Hamilton confirmed at a Friday afternoon news conference that Tennessee has received a "letter of inquiry" from the NCAA confirming it is being investigated because members of the Vol basketball program may have made "excessive phone calls" to prospects.

That was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, however.

"In the course of the investigation and questioning over the last several weeks a more serious matter has arisen," Hamilton said. "That's what we're here to address today: It has come to our attention that during the questioning members of our basketball staff, including head coach Bruce Pearl, provided misleading and incorrect information to the NCAA.

"Coach Pearl came forward to admit this and provide the correct information, and I think that should be duly noted. However, we anticipate that unethical conduct charges will be leveled against Coach Pearl and several members of our of coaching staff. As a result, we have decided it is necessary to take serious proactive action to deal with these mis-steps in judgment."

Those proactive measures include:

- Cutting Pearl's compensation by $500,000 (from $2 million to $1.5 million) in Year 1 of his current contract.

- Cutting Pearl's compensation by $600,000 (from $2.1 million to $1.5 million) in Year 2 of his current contract.

- Cutting Pearl's compensation by a combined $400,000 over Years 3, 4 and 5.

- Deferring Pearl's scheduled $500,000 retention bonus of 2012 until 2015.

- Restricting Pearl from off-campus recruiting activities from Sept. 4 of 2010 to Sept. 23 of 2011.

Assistant coaches Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay are being penalized, as well. Each will incur a 25-percent reduction in pay, effective Oct. 1. They also will be restricted from off-campus recruiting - Forbes from Sept. 4 of 2010 to Sept. 23 of 2011, Jones from Sept. 4 of 2010 to June 23 of 2011, Shay from Sept. 24 of 2010 to Dec. 23 of 2010.

"People make mistakes," Hamilton said. "We all make them. I've made plenty. Bruce made one mistake in this instance, then came forward and corrected it."

Hamilton then turned the floor over to Jimmy Cheek.

"As chancellor of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, I hold our faculty and our staff, our students, our athletics directors, our coaches and our administrators to a higher standard of conduct," he said. "When they don't meet those standards, appropriate actions and penalties will follow.

"As soon as Mike Hamilton discovered the mistakes our basketball program had made, he realized the seriousness of these instances, and together we began to work on a proactive plan to address the violations. Compliance is our top priority."

Cheek went on to praise Hamilton, who he said "has faced this issue head-on, has been proactive in administering penalties and has made very, very tough decisions."

The chancellor noted that Pearl is "an important part of the University of Tennessee family but he has made some serious mistakes. You can see he is paying a heavy penalty for those mistakes and has accepted the responsibility for his actions.

"Bruce is our coach. We value the great work he has done, on the court and off the court. I have confidence he will do the right things in the future. He is one of our family members, and we stand with him and his family at this point in time."

Pearl, normally jovial and upbeat, was deadly serious as his turn to speak arrived. At times his voice cracked with emotion.

"I hold the University of Tennessee, the students, faculty, staff and our fans in the highest regard, the highest esteem," he said. "I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to be the basketball coach at the University of Tennessee.

"I made some serious mistakes, and I am truly sorry. I provided incorrect and misleading information to the NCAA."

When a blaring fire alarm interrupted the proceedings at this point, Pearl briefly resorted to form and smugly thanked his players for pulling the alarm. Once the alarm finally fell silent, however, Pearl's somber mood returned.

"I've learned some invaluable lessons in this thing," he said. "After I had provided the false and misleading information, I subsequently went back and corrected the record. I learned it is not OK to tell the truth most of the time but to tell the truth all of the time."

Acknowledging that he has no "tolerable answer" for why he didn't tell the truth the first time, the coach added: "I take full responsibility for my actions and those of my coaching staff. I do apologize from the bottom of my heart. I let everybody down. I let my family down. I let the university down. I let the fans down. And the guys in that room ... I let the players down.

"I have the responsibility to lead by example. I expect more from myself, and so should you."

Pearl expressed deep regret that he has tarnished the reputation of his program and his university.

"There is a very strong culture of compliance at Tennessee," he said. "This is an institution that has control. It's my responsibility to monitor my program, and I did not do it to the level that is required."

Obviously, UT officials hope the self-imposed penalties will be deemed sufficient and the NCAA will impose no further sanctions, although Hamilton conceded there are "no guarantees" that will be the case.

"I will serve as an example for the NCAA," Pearl said. "I should've been forthcoming. I should've been completely honest. Had I done that, the severity of these penalties would've been considerably less."

Pearl then praised Cheek and Hamilton "for judging my conduct, my integrity and what I've tried to stand for over the last six years."

Finally showing the fire he has become known for, Pearl vowed that his program will not suffer for the mistakes he and his staffers made.

"We are not going to allow these sanctions to prevent our program from being competitive," he said. "I love the University of Tennessee. I want to coach here the rest of my life. I put my heart and soul into this program, and I will not let you down like this again."

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