UT receives Notice of Allegations from NCAA

UT receives Notice of Allegations from NCAA

February 23rd, 2011 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

KNOXVILLE - The waiting is over.

The University of Tennessee publicly disclosed the Notice of Allegations it received from the NCAA on Tuesday concerning the 22-month investigation into the school's football and men's basketball programs.

"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.

In this file photo from 2009, UT coach Lane Kiffin talks to quarterback Jonathan Crompton during a game against Vanderbilt in Knoxville.

"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."

The notice said former UT football coach Lane Kiffin "failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance and failed to monitor the activities regarding compliance of several assistant football coaches." That the failure to monitor charge was levied against Kiffin, who left for Southern Cal last January after one season at UT in 2009, would indicate any sanctions imposed on the UT football program would be less severe than if the charge was levied against the university.

Kiffin, rather than UT, would likely receive any sanctions for the failure to monitor to charge. Current UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel wasn't allowed to recruit off-campus for more than half a year while he was at Washington for violations he committed at Colorado.

"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 statement.

Among the allegations against Kiffin and his staff were 16 impermissible phone calls made to recruits Brandon Willis, Seantrel Henderson and Ahmad Dixon, among others. The calls were made after the compliance staff had notified Kiffin and his assistant coaches that 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., though Rubio had not yet been allowed to recruit off campus. This was after UT director of football operations David Blackburn had told Kiffin and Rubio was not allowed on high school property 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.

"However, I will say this: 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 way. Lane has my support as our head football coach."

The allegations directed at UT's men's basketball program were much more severe, including coach Bruce Pearl failing to promote an atmosphere for compliance and failure to monitor the actions of his staff. Pearl also "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.

Pearl was questioned by the NCAA about a photo of him and recruit Aaron Craft at Pearl's home during an unofficial visit in 2008 and denied knowledge of the location of the photo. Pearl then placed 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 provide full and complete information to NCAA investigators.

Pearl and his staff made 96 impermissible phone calls over a two-year period to recruits Craft, Josh Selby, Griffin McKenzie, Justin Martin, Rico Pickett, Chris Singleton and Elliott Williams, among others. Pearl and Jones also made impermissible in-contact, off-campus contact with Jordan Adams in September, just four days after Pearl and UT announced its self-imposed sanctions at a news conference. The staff's recruiting off-campus recruiting restriction period began 10 days later.

"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 night. "The penalties imposed on our programs to date have been severe, 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 was suspended for the first eight Southeastern Conference games by the league, and UT docked his salary $1.5 million, terminated his contract and placed significant recruiting restrictions on his entire staff. As of right now, only Shay is allowed to recruit away from campus.

"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."

UT has until May 21 to file a response to the NCAA. UT also anticipates it will go before the NCAA Committee on Infractions for a hearing on June 10-11.

More details online and in tomorrow's Times Free Press.