They tried to understand, to forgive…heck, they even tried to forget, but in the end, the university of Tennessee decided that it had to cut ties with coach Bruce Pearl for the good of the school and the good of the program.
Pearl, who is being charged by the NCAA for unethical conduct, appeared to be in the clear with the university. He had the full support of the college and everything appeared to be business as usual. Then the school learned of additional off the court transgressions and that was enough for them to decide to part ways with Pearl Monday night.
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton made the firing official in a statement released to the media Monday night.
"Upon receipt of our NCAA Letter of Inquiry in September, we made the difficult decision to forgo common national opinion and forge ahead with Bruce and his staff pending any further major infractions or issues that would preclude our basketball program from representing the University of Tennessee in the right manner," Hamilton said. "The cumulative effect of the evolution of the investigation combined with a number of more recent non-NCAA-related incidents have led to a belief that this staff cannot be viable at Tennessee in the future."
The non-NCAA related incident, as reported by ESPN, was a violation of the Tennessee athletic department substance abuse policy by UT senior forward Brian Williams. Williams missed the last two regular-season games at South Carolina and at home against Kentucky, apparently due to this, though team officials tried to cover it up by claiming Williams was having back problems.
It is being reported that the final decision on Pearl’s fate came down to UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek. Cheek, who will reportedly be heavily involved in finding Pearls replacement, was firmly behind Pearl at first but began to waver as rumors of the proposed sanctions to the Vols if Pearl remained the coach became known.
"In September, I said that Bruce Pearl was our coach and I expected him to be our coach for a long time," Cheek said in the school’s statement Monday. "I am disappointed with the events that have brought us to this point today, events that I would call ‘the cumulative effect of evolving circumstances.’"
"I care about Coach Pearl and his family. I appreciate the job that he has done at Tennessee," Cheek said in the statement. "From the University’s perspective, this decision is an institutional decision, with counsel and input from many who know and love this university."
Pearl leaves Tennessee with a 145-61 record and leaves as one of the most popular coaches in Tennessee history.