From the official site of Tennessee Athletics, both Mike Hamilton and Jimmy Cheek have released statements this evening regarding Bruce Pearl's termination. Hamilton's statement includes the following:
Upon receipt of our NCAA Letter of Inquiry in September, we made the difficult decision to forego common national opinion and forge ahead with Bruce and his staff pending any further major infractions or issues that would preclude our basketball program from representing the University of Tennessee in the right manner.
The months that followed have been difficult on everyone our staff, our coaches, our administration, our fans and, certainly, our young men. During this time, the dynamics of our case with the NCAA have evolved further, including additional violations committed on September 14 and in March 2011. The cumulative effect of the evolution of the investigation combined with a number of more recent non-NCAA-related incidents have led to a belief that this staff cannot be viable at Tennessee in the future. Therefore, it is in the best interests of our institution to move in a different direction.
While I'm still not thrilled that we're giving so much merit to "national opinion", the big issue here is what exactly happened this month. An additional violation in March 2011 would have come after the Letter of Allegations was received, and has been unreported thus far - whatever it is, it certainly did not help Pearl, and fuels speculation that something changed in the last two-three weeks.
Hamilton goes on to apologize for his interview, which is a smart move on his part. The terms of Pearl's settlement - a figure just under one million dollars - are also included in the statement.
Jimmy Cheek continues the mystery in his statement, adding, "I am disappointed with the events that have brought us to this point today, events that I would call "the cumulative effect of evolving circumstances." Since our September news conference, several instances have occured that have caused us to change our position."
So...they point out that something else has happened, but we don't know what. They've created an argument against the vast majority of UT fans who wanted Pearl to stay, but won't tell us what the argument is. Maybe they're holding back to help ourselves with the NCAA - if so, that's fine. But since they're also not giving a press conference and just sent out a release at 10:00 PM, it doesn't seem we're getting any answers directly from them.
So the Bruce Pearl Era officially ends, with mystery and silence, questions with unspoken answers. The only people talking are the fans, and now even we don't know what to believe.
UPDATED 12:14 AM EDT - Brent Hubbs at VolQuest.com is reporting ($) that the March violation was extra tickets given to a player or player's family, which almost certainly would have been for Senior Day against Kentucky, the only home game the Vols played in March.