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College Sports, Division I, Education

NCAA Issues Infractions Report in the University of Tennessee-Knoxville Enforcement Case

On August 24, 2011, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infraction issued its decision in the University of Tennessee-Knoxville enforcement case. The committee determined: the University of Tennessee failed to monitor its men’s basketball program; former head men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl failed to monitor his program; Pearl engaged in unethical conduct for providing “false and misleading information” and asking others to do the same; and three former assistant men’s basketball coaches failed to cooperate with the investigation. The Committee on Infractions issued a two-year probation against the institution, a show-cause order for Pearl (which prohibits him from engaging in recruiting activity for three years at any NCAA member school) and a one-year show cause order for the three former assistant men’s basketball coaches. The committee also adopted the institution’s 20 self-imposed penalties. Interestingly, the committee concluded the evidence was insufficient to support the findings of major violations in the football program (which was coached by now current USC head football coach Lane Kiffin).

The following includes some of the interesting conclusions and statements from the Committee on Infractions in this case:

“The most serious allegations in this case involved the former men’s basketball coaching staff and their conduct in the commission of violations, the provision of false and misleading information about them, and the inducement of others to do the same. The violations originally stemmed from a September 20, 2008, incident in which the former head men’s basketball coach and former assistant coaches 1, 2 and 3, had impermissible, off-campus, in-person contact with three prospective student-athletes (“prospects 1, 2 and 3,” respectively). The contacts took place in the evening following an institutional football game when the prospects and their families attended a dinner at the home of the former head men’s basketball coach. The prospects were high school juniors making unofficial visits to the institution. After they had arrived and spent some time at the dinner, the three prospects and their family members were ushered to an outdoor veranda by the former head men’s basketball coach. There he informed them that their attendance was a violation of NCAA rules and encouraged them to not disclose to others their attendance at the gathering.”

“The provision of incomplete information by former assistant coaches 1, 2 and 3 during their interviews constituted a failure to cooperate and abide by the NCAA’s principles of honesty and sportsmanship. Further, former assistant coaches 2 and 3 compromised the integrity of the investigation when they shared information among themselves regarding their interviews after being directed not to do so. The former head men’s basketball coach violated the NCAA’s principle of ethical conduct when he knowingly engaged in the violations and provided false information about them to investigators. The violations were compounded when he asked the prospects and their families to conceal them. Moreover, on the same day as his interview with investigators, he phoned the father of prospect 1 (“prospect 1’s father”) and attempted to influence the statements prospect 1’s father would make to investigators. These actions by the former head men’s basketball coach failed to promote an atmosphere for rules compliance in his program.”

“In the sport of football, it was alleged that major violations occurred in the conduct of the program, including recruiting activities undertaken by student interns. The committee concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support findings of major violations. However, the committee was troubled by the number and nature of the secondary infractions by the football coaching staff during its one-year tenure at the institution. From January 2009 through October 2009 the staff committed 12 violations, all connected to recruiting. Some of the violations received nationwide publicity and brought the football program into public controversy. This is not a record of which to be proud. Nevertheless, because the violations individually were secondary and most were isolated, the committee, in the end, determined not to make a finding of a major violation.”



About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.


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