Word spread far and wide throughout Monday afternoon that Bruce Pearl was fired as men’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee.
Reports from numerous media outlets delivered the news that most had expected for days, if not weeks, given the scrutiny Pearl has been under by the NCAA for recruiting violations and his admitted lies when first questioned about those violations.
Only one thing was missing. There was no official word from the university.
That finally came late Monday. Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton both released statements attached to a release, which said the university “reached an agreement with head men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl that will relieve Pearl and his immediate staff of their duties.”
That agreement calls for Pearl to be paid at his current salary rate through June 30. From there, he will receive $50,000 per month for he next 12 months (a total of $600,000). He also will continue to receive health insurance costs through June 30, 2012. Also, the remaining members of the staff will be paid at their current salary rates through this July.
The total value of Pearl’s severance package is listed at $948,728.
Additionally, Houston Fancher, the program’s coordinator of video and scouting last season, was named interim coach.
“I am disappointed with the events that have brought us to this point … events that I would call ‘the cumulative effect of evolving circumstances,’” Cheek’s statement said, in part. “… From the University’s perspective, this decision is an institutional decision, with counsel and input from many who know and love this university.”
Cheek added that Hamilton has been charged with finding UT’s next coach.
“Our search process will begin immediately,” Hamilton said in his statement. “This is a great job and will attract a significant number of interested coaches. Much of that interest is a tribute to what Coach Pearl has helped build. But more importantly, what our fans have built.”
Pearl, 51, had a 145-61 record and six straight NCAA Tournament appearances in six years at UT. In 2010, he guided the Volunteers to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
A message posted on his Facebook page said it was “perhaps the saddest day in my life. I loved everything about Tennessee, Knoxville, and the Volunteers. These were the best years of my life!”
Fancher, a Tennessee native, was head coach at Appalachian State and spent one season (1995-96) with Vanderbilt.
“I care about Coach Pearl and his family,” Cheek’s statement said. “I appreciate the job he has done at Tennessee … [but] our job in administration is to weigh all the issues and all of the inputs — sometimes including details we cannot share — and then make tough decisions. Our goal is to weigh all of the information and ultimately do what is in the best interest of the University of Tennessee.”