published Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Tennessee’s case before COI is unique

INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA serves the roles of judge, jury and prosecutor in its enforcement.

But unlike the typical court of law, college athletics’ governing body doesn’t necessarily follow precedents in its ruling, a factor that tosses a wrench into a unique situation for Tennessee in its hearing today before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.

“The committee decides penalties case-by-case,” the NCAA’s enforcement website states. “Each case is unique, and applying case precedent is difficult [if not impossible] because all cases are different. Each case has its own aggravating and mitigating factors, and the committee considers both sides in assessing penalties.”

Of all the infractions cases it has encountered, though, the COI will see one of the weirdest ones with UT, which assembles in Indianapolis with former football coach Lane Kiffin, former men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl and lame-duck athletic director Mike Hamilton.

With 11 of the 12 major violations the NCAA alleged as a result of its 22-month investigation being against Kiffin and Pearl, the university figures to dodge most of the stiffest sanctions. That won’t be known, however, until the COI releases its findings and announces its penalties after likely six to eight weeks of deliberation.

“Penalties should be sufficient to deter an institution from breaking the rules again,” the NCAA’s enforcement website states, “and should remove any competitive advantage that may have been gained by cheating.”

The lone violation UT will have to defend directly is a charge of failure to monitor the basketball program for excessive phone calls. The relatively low number (96) of calls the staff made figure to help UT avoid any severe penalties, such as a postseason ban.

Former Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson and his staff made more than 500 impermissible calls at Oklahoma, and in 2006 the NCAA banned him from calling recruits or making off-campus contact with prospects while he was at Indiana. California’s basketball program, which wasn’t charged with failure to monitor, received two years probation and other recruiting restrictions in February as punishment for its staff making more than 200 impermissible calls.

Last year the NCAA took one scholarship away from UT-Chattanooga’s basketball program, levied recruiting restrictions on the coaching staff and placed the Mocs on two years probation for illegal calls and text messages. UT could face similar penalties.

UT will state its case to the COI with interim athletic director Joan Cronan, Hamilton and the school’s compliance personnel and legal representatives present, along with football coach Derek Dooley and basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.

Former basketball assistants Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay will be present along with Pearl. Pearl almost certainly will receive a show-cause penalty of some duration, but he and his attorneys likely will contend that he’s already been sufficiently punished. UT docked his pay and banned him from off-campus recruiting for a year, and Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive suspended him for eight league games last season. Then, of course, he lost his job.

Kiffin, who left UT after a year for Southern Cal, will be joined by his legal representation and USC athletic director Pat Haden. David Reaves, Kiffin’s brother-in-law and a former UT staffer, also will be there. Reaves’ involvement with the impermissible off-campus recruiting of two UT hostesses in 2009 could be one of the most contested parts of today’s hearing. Much of that alleged infraction was redacted in the Notice of Allegations the NCAA sent to UT in February.

NCAA punishment has followed coaches to their new jobs in the cases of Sampson and current UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel, who was banned from recruiting off-campus for eight months while at Washington for violations he committed at Colorado.

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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