KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee wanted to stick with the coach who led the Volunteers program to its greatest achievements. In the end, the university fired Bruce Pearl for too many transgressions away from the court.
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said in a statement released late Monday that school officials decided to dismiss Pearl, who has been charged by the NCAA with unethical conduct, after learning of additional violations committed on Sept. 14, 2010, and in March 2011.
“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, multiple sources told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz and Chris Low, 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 due to what team officials said was a bad back.
Sources told Low that it was ultimately UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek’s call to fire Pearl. It’s also expected that Cheek will be heavily involved in the search for Tennessee’s next coach and will play a leading role on the search committee.
“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.”
Associate head coach Tony Jones, who filled in while Pearl served a suspension earlier this season, thanked the fans on Twitter on Monday night.