KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee's past took a hit this afternoon, but the Volunteers' football and men's basketball programs are breathing sighs of relief.
Former men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl was slapped with a three-year show-cause penalty in the ruling passed down by the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Wednesday afternoon, but the school avoided further sanctions when the COI accepted the school's self-imposed probation and penalties. The only thing the NCAA added was two years probation for the men's basketball program.
Former basketball assistant coaches Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay received one-year show-cause penalties, which ban the coaches from recruiting for any NCAA school for the length of the sanction. Any school that would hire Pearl, Jones, Forbes and Shay would also have to file a report to appear before the COI to contest the restrictions.
Pearl and his assistants lied to NCAA investigators about the location of a photo of Pearl and Aaron Craft, who was then a junior in high school and now plays for Ohio State. The staff also discussed the case with each other when instructed not to, and Pearl spoke with Craft's father in what the COI determined was an attempt to get him to also mislead investigators.
UT's football program was charged with two major infractions by the NCAA for recruiting activity that occurred under former coach Lane Kiffin's staff, but the COI "concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support findings of major violations."
UT self-imposed two years of probation and a handful of other recruiting restrictions in its response to the NCAA in May. Kiffin left for Southern Cal after one season, Pearl and his staff were fired in March and former athletic director Mike Hamilton resigned in June.
Most of the information in the 21-page report wasn't new, save for some details concerning a handful of secondary violations. Three basketball recruits took official visits for longer than the permitted 48 hours.
Kiffin and his staff made 16 impermissible calls to five recruits in January 2009 after the players had reported to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which is a violation.
Former assistant coach David Reaves gave "approximately $40" to a football-office intern who was a member of the hostess group Orange Pride for a trip to a high school game in Duncan, S.C., that featured a pair of players the Vols were recruiting. The COI ruled that Reaves did so "with full knowledge" that the hostesses were attending the game.
Britton Banowsky, the Conference USA commissioner and the vice chairman of the COI, commended UT for its handling of the case.
"The institution did a really commendable job of self-imposing penalties and trying to get to the bottom of it themselves," he said on a teleconference after the release of the findings.
UT will not appeal the COI's decision, according to a release from the school.
"We appreciate the opportunity to close this chapter with the Committee's announcement today, moving forward with no major violations in our football program and no additional penalties from the NCAA," interim athletic director Joan Cronan said in the release. "The institution cooperated fully with the NCAA and we have a strong culture of compliance. A bright future is on the horizon for Tennessee athletics."
More coverage online and in Thursday's Times Free Press. Follow Vols beat writer Patrick Brown on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.