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Vols' Pearl says he lied, school braces for NCAA

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said in January that the troubles within the Volunteers program must end.

They haven't as violations, arrests and a bar brawl have been among an embarrassing list of incidents.

Now the NCAA is getting involved.

The latest black eye for Tennessee came Friday when men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl acknowledged publicly that he gave misleading and incorrect information to the NCAA about possible violations during a 17-month investigation of his program.

"People make mistakes, and we all make them," Hamilton said. "Bruce made one mistake in this incident, and he came forward to correct it."

Hamilton anticipates the NCAA to levy unethical conduct charges against Pearl and his staff, and as a pre-emptive punishment he is reducing Pearl's pay by $1.5 million over five years and prohibiting him from participating in off-campus recruiting for a year beginning Sept. 24. Pearl's three assistants also had their pay reduced and cannot participate in off-campus recruiting for periods varying from three months to a year.

Pearl made his announcement less than 24 hours after Tennessee received a letter from the NCAA notifying the university of an official investigation into the entire athletic department. The probe includes possible recruiting violations by the men's basketball program and the football team during former coach Lane Kiffin's one-year tenure.

An emotional Pearl apologized at a news conference for his part in "letting everybody down."

He provided false information to the NCAA while being interviewed in June about allegations of excessive phone calls made to recruits. He notified officials three weeks later that he had provided the NCAA incorrect information.

"I've made some serious mistakes, and for that I'm truly sorry," Pearl said tearfully. "I provided incorrect and misleading information to the NCAA."

Pearl's revelations also add one more blemish on Hamilton's seven-year run as the leader of the Volunteers men's athletic program. Most of the problems have come since his hire of Kiffin, who lasted one season before leaving for Southern California.

The NCAA has interviewed several current and former football assistants and recruits about possible violations during the 2009 season. Tennessee self-reported six minor recruiting violations by Kiffin and his staff and in December acknowledged cooperating with an NCAA investigation into actions by the school's Orange Pride athletics hostess program.

The Vols have also seen a string of arrests in both programs.

Three football players were arrested in November on attempted armed robbery charges. In January, four basketball players were arrested on gun and drug charges. Two more football players were arrested in July after a bar brawl that left an off-duty police officer with a serious head injury.

Vols' Pearl says he lied, school braces for NCAA 09/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 10:29pm]
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