November 19, 2010
Since Tennessee administrators wouldn't suspend embattled basketball coach Bruce Pearl for violating NCAA recruiting rules and misleading investigators, the SEC decided to do it for them.
The conference announced Friday that Pearl has been suspended for the Volunteers' first eight conference games this season. Pearl made excessive phone calls to recruits and lied to NCAA investigators about photos taken of him and recruits, whom he improperly hosted at his home in 2008.
"The suspension from coaching duties has been imposed after a careful review of the facts established during the NCAA's investigation and reported to the SEC office," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement. "I am extremely disappointed in the nature of the violations involving Coach Pearl and the Tennessee men's basketball program.
"The penalty applied to this circumstance is significant, which is consistent with the directive approved by the SEC membership in 2010 granting the Commissioner authority to act in such cases."
The SEC's suspension comes two months after Tennessee docked his pay $1.5 million over the next five years and banned him from off-campus recruiting for a year in hopes of softening the blow of looming NCAA sanctions. Further punishment from the NCAA likely won't come until after the season since the organization has yet to send Tennessee its notice of allegations yet.
As a result of the SEC's suspension, Pearl cannot participate in any gameday preparation, meetings and activities between Jan. 8 and Feb. 5. Curiously, Pearl will be able to coach Tennessee's Jan. 22 game against UConn because it is not a conference game.
"These penalties are directed at me based on the things I've done. I've made these mistakes, and these are the results," Pearl said during a news conference in Knoxville on Friday. "I'm appreciative of the support I've received from the University. It is our intention to overcome this adversity, and it is my anticipation that we will."
Pearl was wise not to complain too much about the SEC's suspension even though it's highly unusual for a conference to issue a penalty like this. Considering that he knowingly cheated and then lied about it, he's lucky to still have a job at all.