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Thursday, August 25, 2011
Bruce Pearl glad Tennessee spared

Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Bruce Pearl says he knows the NCAA made an example out of him, doling out a severe penalty to serve notice to other coaches as to what to expect if they don't cooperate during an investigation.

The former Tennessee coach will find it nearly impossible to land a college job anytime soon with the three-year show-cause penalty given to him by the NCAA for lying to the enforcement staff during their investigation into recruiting violations.

Pearl said Thursday it was a "very, very heavy price for the mistakes that we've made" but doesn't plan to appeal the sanction.

The show-cause penalty prohibits Pearl from recruiting during the next three years, and any school wanting to hire him would have to talk to the NCAA about removing that penalty.

"These mistakes that were made were made by myself, and I take full responsibility for them," Pearl said. "I'm trying to do the very best I can to lead through this adversity, to be an example of what happens when you're not forthcoming, when you don't tell the truth all of the time and be acceptable of the consequences."

Pearl was cited for unethical conduct for lying to investigators in June 2010 about improperly hosting recruits at his home and urging others to do the same. He was also found to have interfered with the NCAA's investigation after he contacted a recruit's father who had also been interviewed by investigators.

Two months after his initial interview, he met again with NCAA investigators to tell them he had misled them.

Pearl also said Thursday there are a number of things he feels should be changed about the NCAA process. He said the investigation process is too long and the NCAA rulebook too big. He was also disappointed that he did not appear to get enough credit for admitting his mistakes.

"In my case I believe I should have been given more credit for coming forward and telling the truth," he said. "I think I was given little credit for doing that. I would like to see the ability for coaches to be able to come forward in these situations and get the record straight, but obviously the damage that was done was too great."

Pearl was also upset about being charged with a major recruiting violation after a brief encounter with a prospect just days after his tearful public admission that he had lied to the NCAA. The "bump rule" violation charge played a role in Tennessee dismissing him and his staff in March, but the Committee on Infractions determined there was not enough evidence to support the charge.

"If the process is to gain credibility in the future, then I encourage the enforcement staff to really be careful when they charge someone or some university with a major violation," he said. "That was not a violation. That was not a bump. That was just something that took place during the normal course of business. The fact that we were charged at that time obviously cost us our jobs in addition to things that we had already done, obviously these things took a cumulative effect."

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn declined comment about Pearl's reaction. Conference USA commissioner and NCAA Committee on Infractions vice chair Britton Banowsky said Wednesday that punishments for major violations are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Pearl did say he was glad Tennessee wasn't punished further for what he did and stopped short of attributing the severity of his penalty to the fact that the NCAA is currently involved in so many high-profile investigations at Division I schools. He does hope his case teaches others a lesson, though.

"Hopefully through all this mess as (NCAA president) Mark Emmert has discussed, these serious sanctions and the things that are going to be coming down will just be a more serious deterrent to either willfully or knowingly committing any violations of NCAA rules, that there is no risk-reward involved," he said.