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Monday, September 20, 2010
Vols self-reported several violations

By Dana O'Neil
ESPN.com

Documents obtained by ESPN.com via a Freedom of Information Act request show that the University of Tennessee self-reported several NCAA violations involving its men's basketball team, including nearly 100 impermissible phone calls to various recruits.

The violations, which cover a period of two years, were discovered after the university submitted phone records to the NCAA basketball focus group at the group's request and involved 10 different recruits.

One document reveals that associate head coach Tony Jones made 39 impermissible phone calls and Bruce Pearl made five more to one recruit alone. That athlete is currently on the Tennessee roster.

In addition to the phone calls, the university admitted that assistant coach Jason Shay approved lodging expenses for the parents of three recruits, who were en route to Knoxville for official visits, and that those three recruits each were allowed visits that extended beyond the NCAA mandate of 48 hours.

The names of the recruits currently associated with Tennessee were redacted but others were not. The former prospects whose names are listed are Elliot Williams (now in the NBA), Chris Singleton (now at Florida State), Rico Pickett (playing overseas), Josh Selby (now at Kansas), Aaron Craft (now at Ohio State), Justin Martin (now at Xavier) and Griffin McKenzie (also at Xavier).

In a memo to Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, the university attributed the excessive phone calls to "poor record keeping or miscommunication," in regards to the majority of the phone calls, but admitted that some were the result of "carelessness (i.e., forgetting that they had already made a call that week)."

The documents show that initially Tennessee took corrective actions that included cutting the staff's recruiting calendar by 20 percent (from 130 to 104 days), reducing the number of official visits from 12 to eight for the 2010-11 academic year; prohibiting Jones from making recruiting calls for a three-month period and prohibiting Pearl from making calls from Feb. 24 to March 4.

However since these memos were issued between April and July, the university has come down even harder on Pearl and his staff.

Anticipating an unethical conduct charge against Pearl, who admitted he lied to NCAA investigators, Tennessee cut his salary by $1.5 million over four years and prohibited him from off-campus recruiting for a year. Each of his three assistants also have been taken off the road for periods ranging from three months to a year.

The university has received a letter of inquiry from the NCAA but has not yet received a notice of allegation. That could take time, as the NCAA may lump basketball, football and baseball violations into one report.

Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com and can be reached at espnoneil@live.com.