NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers Bruce Pearl helps Steven Pearl #22 from the court against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during their preseason NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden on November 24 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Yesterday, Mike Griffith divulged the details surrounding the March free tickets violation that Mike Hamilton cited as partial justification for revoking his earlier-stated support of Bruce Pearl. Here's what happened, essentially.
UT players are supposed to get four free tickets to home games. The player at issue, whose name was apparently redacted from the report received by GVX as part of an open records request, had already used his four tickets. But his mother called the school looking for more and ended up on the phone with former director of basketball operations Ken Johnson. Johnson, who's probably a can-do kind of guy, figured that because the Lady Vols were out of town, they might have some extra, so he requested those. He got permission from the director of Lady Vols operations, but didn't tell that person who the tickets were for. So Johnson got the tickets and presumably gave them to the mother. When asked about it by the compliance office, he told them exactly what had happened.This was the only time Johnson had ever taken on this particular task. Basically, it was an honest mistake by someone operating out of their normal area of expertise.
More importantly, it sounds like neither the player nor any coach had any idea any of this had happened. John Pennington at Mr. SEC thinks that Griffith's purpose in writing this story was to further enrage the fan base, to blow on the coals by pointing out that Pearl was fired for a trivial violation of which he had no knowledge. He goes on to say that Pearl wasn't fired for that violation at all but for lying and yammer yammer yammer.
It's not altogether unfair to conclude from the report that the ticket violation was mere pretense for the termination, but I also think that it's quite possible that it served as a sudden realization that their plan to keep Pearl and ride out the consequences wasn't going to work.
I don't think the ticket violation was just an opportunity for Mike Hamilton and/or Jimmy Cheek to change their minds. I don't even think it was so much a "last straw" as it was an epiphany that their plan to retain Pearl required perfection in an environment in which perfection is unattainable. Call me naive or overly gracious if you want, but I think these guys should get the benefit of the doubt unless and until the evidence clearly shows otherwise, and to me, the possibility of ill-intent doesn't rise to the level of actual evidence.