Tennessee’s hand will be forced by the NCAA

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As you most certainly know by now, Tennessee received — and released — their Notice of Allegations from the NCAA regarding the infractions committed by the football and basketball teams. You can read it in its entirety here.

As you also should know by know, the only new information to come out of the NoA was that Bruce Pearl and Tony Jones made an illegal visit to a recruit just days after Pearl’s tearful press conference where he admitted that he had made mistakes on the recruiting trail.

That’s right.

On September 14th, just four days after Pearl sat in front of national television cameras and cried, telling the world how he was remorseful over the mistakes he made, Pearl went to Oak Hill Academy and “bumped” Jordan Adams, a 2012 recruit. Essentially, the “bump rule” allows a coach to greet a recruit at his high school should the two happen to cross paths, but anything more is considered a contact violation. Pearl talked with Adams for 2-3 minutes. This “bump” occurred during the two-week period between Pearl’s press conference and the beginning of the school-sanctioned ban on off-campus recruiting.

Ballsy, ain’t he?

For those expecting this document to bring with it any kind of news regarding Pearl’s standing with the university, well, you got your hopes up for nothing. The school has until May to respond to the NoA, and a hearing has been scheduled for June 10th and 11th of this year. And if Tennessee has told us anything, its that they are going to ride with Pearl until forced to do otherwise.

If they weren’t, Pearl probably would have been let go a long time ago.

The Tennessee coach not only committed violations, he lied about them when confronted by the NCAA. He then tried to convince a recruit’s father — Jon Craft, the father of Ohio State point guard and then-Tennessee commit Aaron — to lie to the NCAA to cover for him.

That’s brazen. And just cause for termination.

So if Tennessee was going to do away with their popular head coach, he would be gone already.

But they don’t. This is an athletic department that clearly values victories over ethics.

Pearl has brought Tennessee basketball to unprecedented heights. He wins basketball games. He’s bringing all-americans to Knoxville. He’s making Elite 8’s. His teams fill Thompson-Boling Arena. And, most importantly, he has the undying support of the Tennessee faithful. The scene last night at Vanderbilt was telling. With news that the NoA was due to arrive, Pearl walked out of an opponent’s arena waving and blowing kisses to throngs of Tennessee fans after an important, come from behind win.

The Vols may just be put into a situation where they are forced to make a change.

You see, the NCAA hit Pearl with an “unethical conduct” charge. As Dana O’Neil dug up this afternoon, cases in which an unethical conduct charge is brought almost always result in a show-cause penalty, which is more or less means getting blacklisted by the NCAA.

What will be interesting to see is whether the NCAA accepts the punishments given out by Tennessee and the SEC as enough. Pearl’s already lost $1.5 million and sat out eight games of this SEC season.

Will that be enough to satiate a Committee on Infractions that just slammed a UConn Director of Basketball Operations with a two-year show cause penalty to lying?

Methinks it won’t.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.