It may be a bit premature to start expecting overly harsh sanctions for the football program, but at the very least this NCAA deal is getting serious in Knoxville. First it was football and now it's bad, bad news in basketball. Per a presser this afternoon in Knoxville regarding the Tennessee basketball program:
Tennessee has self-imposed sanctions against men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl for lying to the NCAA during its 17-month investigation of the Vols' program, athletic director Mike Hamilton announced.
Hamilton is reducing Pearl's pay by $1.5 million over five years and prohibiting him from participating in off-campus recruiting for one year.
Pearl was present at the news conference and fought back tears while giving his side of the story. "It's serious what we did," Pearl said. "The worst thing is how we handled it."
Hamilton also said assistants Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay would have their salaries cut by 25 percent and that there would also be off-campus recruiting restrictions placed on them during the next year.
So, let's recap: head basketball coach lying to the NCAA... basketball assistants lying to the NCAA... intentional impermissible contact by the basketball program... intentional activity to hide the impermissible contact by the basketball program... Lane Kiffin admittedly intentionally breaking NCAA rules just to bring attention to Tennessee... "hostesses" showing up in recruits' hometowns... now, is that a colorable argument for lack of institutional control or what?
In any event, this sounds a lot more serious than most expected when this stuff started to pop up a few months ago. And with the news that the NCAA is expanding their investigation of the football program beyond Hostess-gate, and, from what I can tell, interviewing just about any Kiffin recruit they can find, this one could get interesting. I'll guaran-damn-tee you one: Tennessee football has plenty of skeletons in the closet, and if the NCAA looks hard enough I bet they'll find some of them. Thrown in with the basketball deal it hints at a lack of institutional control, and this one could get mighty entertaining for the partisan homers in Tuscaloosa.