published Thursday, February 24th, 2011

NCAA alleges UT violations Pearl, Kiffin hit for recruiting issues

KNOXVILLE -- The waiting finally ended.

The University of Tennessee received the long-awaited Notice of Allegations from the NCAA concerning a 22-month investigation into the school's football and men's basketball programs on Tuesday and released the contents of the notice on Wednesday morning.

"Receipt of the NCAA's Notice of Allegations by the University of Tennessee is another step in bringing this matter to conclusion," UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said in a statement. "Our institution has operated in complete cooperation with the NCAA since April 2009 as they have pursued their investigation.

  • photo
    Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl reacts to a call in a game against Vanderbilt in Nashville.The Vols face major NCAA violations in basketball and football. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

"We take these allegations seriously and most items noted in this document have already been reported broadly. I would like to thank the NCAA enforcement staff for their professionalism and guidance during this process."

UT's football program avoided a failure to monitor charge for violations committed under former coach Lane Kiffin, but the NCAA slapped men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl with unethical conduct and charged UT with a failure to monitor.

UT's baseball program, initially listed in the NCAA's original Letter of Inquiry, had no allegations in this notice.

Kiffin, who spent the 2009 season at UT before leaving for Southern Cal last January, was the NCAA's target due to "impermissible recruiting activities." The notice said Kiffin "failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance and failed to monitor the activities regarding compliance of several assistant football coaches."

"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," Kiffin said in a USC statement.

Kiffin and his staff made 16 impermissible phone calls early last January to recruits Brandon Willis, Seantrel Henderson and Ahmad Dixon, among others. Those calls were made after UT's compliance staff had notified the coaches such calls weren't allowed.

Kiffin also allowed football recruiting intern Steve Rubio to make in-person, off-campus contact with administrators at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Rubio, who is now UT's director of player personnel, graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas.

David Blackburn, who had been moved from UT's compliance staff to a position as director of football operations to monitor Kiffin after some secondary violations, told Kiffin that Rubio wasn't allowed on high school property while with a coach on a recruiting trip.

"The NCAA enforcement process provides for Tennessee and Lane to address those charges," USC athletic director Pat Haden said. "Until that process is completed, it would be unfair and premature for me or USC to comment on this matter.

"Since his return to USC last year as our head football coach, Lane has been vigilant in making sure he and the football program follow the NCAA's rules and compete the right right way. Lane has my support as our head football coach."

That the failure to monitor charge was levied against Kiffin would indicate any sanctions imposed on the UT football program would be less severe than if the charge was levied against the university, and Kiffin, rather than UT, would likely receive the brunt of any sanctions.

In a similar recent case, current UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel was punished while he was at Washington for violations he committed at Colorado. Neuheisel couldn't recruit away from campus for eight months.

The allegations against Pearl and the basketball program were more severe, though the notice listed just one previously unknown violation.

In addition to failing to promote an atmosphere for compliance and failure to monitor the actions of his staff, Pearl "acted contrary to the principles of ethical conduct" by providing false and misleading information to UT and the NCAA's enforcement staff and "attempting to influence others" with knowledge of the situation to do the same.

"Throughout this process, we have recognized that we made significant mistakes, and we look forward to concluding this matter with the NCAA," said Pearl, whose Volunteers won at Vanderbilt on Tuesday.

Pearl was questioned by the NCAA about a photo of him with recruit Aaron Craft at Pearl's home while Craft, now a freshman at Ohio State, was a junior on his unofficial visit in September 2008.

When shown the photo by NCAA investigators, Pearl denied knowledge of the photograph's location. Pearl then "failed to protect the integrity of the investigation" by placing calls to Craft's father, who believed Pearl was trying to influence his statements to NCAA investigators.

Assistant coaches Steve Forbes, Jason Shay and Tony Jones were also charged with failing to "furnish full and complete information relevant to the investigation."

Pearl and his staff also made 96 impermissible phone calls over a two-year period to recruits Craft, Josh Selby, Griffin McKenzie, Justin Martin, Rico Pickett, Chris Singleton and Elliot Williams, among others.

Jones and Pearl made impermissible in-person, off-campus contact with Jordan Adams in September, just four days after Pearl admitted his transgressions at a news conference on Sept. 10.

The Southeastern Conference suspended Pearl for the first eight league games, and UT docked his salary $1.5 million, terminated his contract and placed off-campus recruiting restrictions on Pearl and his staff for varying lengths of time. As of right now, only Shay is allowed to recruit away from campus.

"The penalties imposed on our programs to date have been severe," Pearl said, "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. I appreciate the opportunity to serve the University of Tennessee, and everyone in our basketball program is focused on finding ways to improve every day."

Pearl and UT won't learn their fate until June 10-11, when they'll go before the NCAA Committee on Infractions. UT has until May 21 to file a response.

"Any allegation is a serious matter for us, and we will address these issues in a timely manner," said UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek. "As an institution we have been proactive in dealing with these allegations, and we will continue to cooperate fully with the NCAA."



Follow our Vols beat writer Patrick Brown on Twitter by following this link.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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