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Kiffin & Pearl Join UT Tilt-A-Whirl

By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Former Tennessee coaches Bruce Pearl and
Lane Kiffin finally got to explain themselves in front of the NCAA.

All they can do now is wait to see if it did any good.

Kiffin spent more than four hours answering questions in front
of the infractions committee Saturday, then was followed by Pearl,
who spent nearly five hours in front of the committee. School
officials are hoping the daylong closed-door hearing marks the
beginning of the end of a 22-month investigation that rocked the
Volunteers' football and men's basketball programs and tarnished
Tennessee's reputation.

"The hardest part is just being here," Pearl said. "This was
not something I was looking forward to."

The committee is expected to make a ruling within eight to 12
weeks. That's when the Volunteers' will learn their punishment.

Tennessee faces a dozen major rules violations in the two
high-profile sports including accusations that both coaches
committed recruiting infractions and that both also failed to
promote an atmosphere of compliance within those programs.

Pearl, the former Volunteers men's basketball coach, also was
charged with unethical conduct after misleading NCAA investigators
during an interview last June when he was asked about hosting high
school juniors at a cookout at his house on Sept. 20, 2008 and
phoning John Craft, father of recruit Aaron Craft, in an effort to
influence Craft's statement to investigators about the cookout.

Craft just completed his freshman season at Ohio State, whose
football program is also under NCAA investigation.

On Sept. 10, in a tearful news conference, Pearl acknowledged he
had provided false information to the investigators.

That part was not contested Saturday, but there was plenty of
discussion on other issues -- and lots of people trying to help
Tennessee plead for leniency.

Those attending included, Kiffin, now the Southern California
football coach; Pearl, who was fired after last season by
Tennessee; Mike Hamilton, the outgoing athletic director; SEC
commissioner Mike Slive; Derek Dooley, Tennessee's new football
coach; and Cuonzo Martin, the Vols new men's basketball coach.
Martin and Dooley are not implicated in the charges.

The school's contingent was so large it forced the NCAA to move
its hearing into a bigger conference room, and the hearing was held
about five blocks from the home stadium of one of Tennessee's most
famous alums -- four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning.

"We are glad we had the opportunity to present our case,"
university chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a statement. "We feel it
was a fair hearing and we look forward to the resolution of this
matter."

Kiffin was accompanied at the hearing by USC athletic director
Pat Haden, who made his second appearance in front of an NCAA
committee in Indy this year. He also attended January's appeals
hearing for USC, which this week was stripped of its 2004 national
title by the Bowl Championship Series for NCAA violations.

Tennessee has already taken some steps in hopes of avoiding a
punishment that would be that drastic.

It reduced Pearl's salary by $1.5 million last season and banned
him from off-campus recruiting for one year. The SEC also suspended
Pearl for eight conference games. In March, Pearl was fired.

The school also lowered the salary for each of Pearl's three
assistants, who were accused of not providing "complete"
information about the cookout.

Pearl and two of his assistants, Tony Jones and Steve Forbes
also are accused of making 96 impermissible phone calls to 12
recruits or relatives between Aug. 1, 2007, and July 29, 2009, and
the school has been charged with failure to monitor the coaching
staff's contacts.

Kiffin and his assistants were accused of making improper calls
to recruits, too, after Tennessee officials warned them against it.
He made those calls just days before taking the Southern California
job in January 2010.

In addition, Kiffin and recruiting intern Steve Rubio are
accused of visiting a Florida high school on Oct. 12, 2009, even
though Rubio was not permitted to make on-campus visits.

Kiffin's failure to monitor charge stems from trips taken by
members of the school's athletics hostess program to visit
recruits.

Both coaches attended the first 40 minutes of the closed-door
hearing, which were set aside for opening statements.

Kiffin then remained in the room, while Pearl and his former
assistants left en masse. Pearl wandered down to the hotel lobby,
waiting there until Kiffin finished more than four hours later. It
took so long the lunch break was delayed twice.

Kiffin would not discuss the specifics of what took place inside
the room.

Pearl was the first person back when the hearing resumed after a
one-hour break. He spent most of the next five hours back inside
the room.

When things finally wrapped up, more than 10 1/2 hours after they
started, the emotions were mixed.

"It's a very thorough process and I'm glad it's over," Kiffin
said before leaving the downtown Indianapolis hotel for a football
camp at Southern Cal. "It was a lot shorter than the last one I
sat through, three days of USC's, and I'm happy it's over."

The fallout from the scandal may not be, though.

Hamilton announced this week he would resign at the end of the
month. Tennessee women's athletics director Joan Cronan, also in
Indy, will serve as interim vice chancellor and director of
athletics until Hamilton's replacement is picked.

Sometime in August or September, the Volunteers should learn
their fate.

"It's not over because we've got to wait 45 or 60 days," Pearl
said.

And for Pearl, who wore an orange and white tie and orange
suspenders to the hearing, there was no sense of relief.

"Not really because we paid a very heavy price, all of us here
have -- my staff and the University of Tennessee," he said. "So
there's not much relief."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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