Bruce Pearl responds to 8-game suspension

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WVLT) -- The Southeastern Conference has suspended Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl from all team activities for the first eight conference games, beginning Jan. 8 and extending through Feb. 5.

The suspension prevents Pearl from being involved in any team activities, including practice, on the day of a game, according to a press release sent Friday from the office of SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

Pearl will be able to prepare his team for the games, but will not be able to participate in gameday activities.

The punishment is a result of Pearl's September admission that he misled NCAA investigators this past summer.

Slive said he felt Pearl's infractions could have warranted a season-long suspension, but "the fact that he owned up to what he did I felt half a season was appropriate."

Associate head coach Tony Jones will coach the team in Pearl's absence. Slive said that currently he is not planning on imposing penalties against any assistant coaches, adding that "he considered action against assitant coaches but Pearl is in part responsible for their behavior."

"I have great respect for Commissioner Slive," Pearl said in a press conference Friday. "He's got experience in these matters.

"These penalties are directed at me based on the things I've done. I've made these mistakes, and these are the results. I'm appreciative of the support I've received from the University. It is our intention to overcome this adversity, and it is my anticipation that we will."

Pearl said he was not blindsided by the punishment, citing a conversation with Slive during SEC Basketball Media Day.

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said in the press conference that he hopes the SEC's suspension of Pearl will have a mitigating effect on the NCAA's ultimate decision whether to impose additional punishment.

"While disappointed in the severity of commissioner Slive's additional punishment, we respect that he is acting on the authority that the league's athletic directors, presidents, and chancellors granted him earlier this year to address matters of his nature,'' UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a prepared statement.

"As we move forward, we are hopeful the Tennessee family will now rally behind Coach Pearl, his staff and particularly our student-athletes as they focus on the 2010-11 season, and we advance toward bringing this matter to conclusion over the next several months.'

Slive formally informed the University of his intention to consider imposing additional punishment in a Nov. 3 letter. He invited UT officials to respond by Nov. 11 with evidence of their self-imposed punishment.

Hamilton responded to Slive on Nov. 9 with a four-page letter contending that UT's self-imposed punishment of Pearl was adequate and did not need to be compounded by the conference.

Hamilton argued that the salary reduction imposed on Pearl of $1.5 million over five years, along with severe recruiting limitations, was appropriate punishment.

"The University...believes that it has taken appropriate disciplinary action against Coach Pearl and respectfully requests that you concur in its judgment in this case," Hamilton wrote in the letter.

Chancellor Jimmy Cheek echoed his previous message of support for Pearl, indicating that the SEC's punishment in no way affects the coach's job security.

"Bruce is our coach, and he's going to be our coach for many years," Cheek said in the press conference. "We're going to get through this adversity."

Pearl will be suspended for the following games:

Jan. 8 - at Arkansas
Jan. 11 - vs. Florida
Jan. 15 - at Vanderbilt
Jan. 18 - at Georgia
Jan. 26 - vs. LSU
Jan. 29 - at Ole Miss
Feb. 3 - at Auburn
Feb. 5 - vs. Alabama

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