KNOXVILLE - Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl has worked without a formal contract for more than a month, but his boss said both sides are "in the process of finalizing" a new contract.
According to athletic director Mike Hamilton, the coach has been working under a "letter of appointment" since Sept. 9. Hamilton said he sent the proposed new contract to Pearl and his lawyers on Oct. 8, and the sides have since been working to complete the deal.
"We've made the decision - and Bruce knows it - that he's our coach, and this is just a part of the formal process to get him back under the new contract with the new terms," Hamilton said Thursday night. "Technically, he violated the terms of the previous contract, so that contract had to be terminated. There was a new contract [needed] as a result of that."
Thursday night attempts to contact Pearl and his spokesperson weren't immediately successful. Attempts to obtain the coach's letter of appointment weren't immediately successful, either, considering the after-business-hours timing of the request.
Pearl and his assistants were disciplined in several ways following a Sept. 10 news conference that unveiled an NCAA letter of inquiry into the recruiting practices and subsequent "misleading" information from their program. Pearl's base salary was slashed by $1.5 million over the five-year period of his current contract as part of a punishment that also featured strict recruiting restrictions for the head coach and his staff.
Hamilton said Pearl's proposed new deal is "a five-year contract that details the [reduced] compensation, as we alluded to in the news conference. It's got the same bonus clauses it had before. I can't get a lot more specific than that, because we don't know what the final product will ultimately look like.
"It's got some changes in terminology related to different parts of the contract, I'll say that. I don't anticipate that it's going to be a long process, but legally it's such in today's world that lawyers have to talk back and forth to finalize contracts. We're in the process of finalizing that and hope to have that done very soon, and we'll move ahead. It's more of a procedural element to all of this that we're going through right now."
Hamilton again declined to discuss specifics into the NCAA's ongoing investigation, or his potential responses to potential rulings.
Multiple sources in the UT athletic department told the Times Free Press as recently as Thursday that they were unaware of any "new, major" problems uncovered by the probe, but most added that the NCAA wouldn't necessarily keep UT informed every step of the way.
Another potential hurdle in Pearl's future could surface this morning when UT's new president is selected. The two finalists are West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission chancellor Brian Noland and UT Institute of Agriculture chancellor Joe DiPietro.