The AP and Fox Sports (and others) are reporting that Tennessee has fired Bruce Pearl as its head coach of men's basketball. It's unclear when a formal announcement will be made.
Fox's sources are saying that the trigger for the decision to fire Pearl was related to the NCAA investigation of his violations. They say that Mike Hamilton recently learned that the NCAA will be particularly harsh in its penalties to him, and that helped him come to this decision.
Pearl has been great for the UT hoops program in most ways, leading the team to its first ever Elite Eight appearance and boosting attendance at home games. Perhaps as important as anything, he gave the team a personality for once. Tennessee men's basketball was actually interesting.
That's where his good deeds end, of course. He got busted for numerous violations ranging from impermissible phone calls to hosting recruits at his house before their senior years. The violations themselves aren't major, but he lied about them to the NCAA. As always, the coverup was leading to worse penalties than the crimes themselves would have.
Pearl's ouster will not go over well with the Tennessee faithful. About 150 people showed up for a rally to support the coach yesterday, and informal online polls conducted by several media members showed overwhelming support for him. The Rocky Top Talk community is clearly not happy. Even I am a little upset, as I enjoyed having Pearl around the SEC even if he had Billy Donovan's number up until this season.
I can't help but feel this was the inevitable end to the story. It's not that Pearl is some kind of big cheater, because he's not. He committed secondary violations, which puts him in a league with every other head coach of any major team. It's the lying that was always going to do him in, as it's hard for a university to keep around a high profile employee who lied about breaking rules when it expels students for doing the same on the academic side.
Where the program goes from here is unclear. I don't think anyone knows for sure if Hamilton is even going to be the guy who makes the next hire. What is certain is that Tennessee is going to be hard pressed to find as good a coach as Pearl is.