Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl Tuesday said he's "embarrassed'' about the admitted recruiting violations he committed in 2008 when he entertained a group of high school juniors he was recruiting at his home in Knoxville. Pearl was suspended last week by the SEC for the first eight conference games, and he agreed to take a $1.5-million pay cut spread over five years and not leave campus to recruit until next September.
Pearl described the penalty as "unprecedentedly severe,'' but he added, "When you make mistakes, you pay the price.''
When first confronted with questions about the violations from the SEC, Pearl denied it. But he quickly reversed himself and admitted to SEC commissioner Mike Slive that he knew he was breaking the rules. "You panic,'' Pearl said of his initial reaction to the probe. "I have no excuse for it.''
Pearl said he expects to appear before the NCAA's committee on infractions in April, at which time he will offer a defense for his actions. At the same time, he's hoping the proactive measures taken by Tennessee and the SEC will help him and the school avoid further sanctions.
Asked how he could knowingly allow himself to get into this position, Pearl shook his head and said: "I'm embarrassed, and I'm disappointed in myself for making some bad decisions. And we're dealing with the ramifications.''
To a certain extent, Pearl's gregarious personality and ability to connect with his players might have gotten him in trouble in the sense that he went too far and crossed a line. "My ability to connect with my players has served me well,'' Pearl said. Repeating his mantra, he added, "My players don't care how much I know; they know how much I care.''
In this case, Pearl cared a little too much.