As is to be expected with this sort of thing, there is no shortage of Bruce Pearl rumors coming out of Knoxville at the moment.
The latest rumor details behind the scenes conversations and backroom meetings between Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton, the NCAA, UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, and UT President Joe DiPietro.
The story goes something like this; Mike Hamilton has supported Pearl from the get-go. Following the tearful press conference in September, when Pearl admitted his wrongdoing, it appeared that Hamilton, Cheek, and a majority of Tennessee donors were in favor of keeping Bruce Pearl.
It was not until November, when the University was notified of Pearl's "bump violation"--a supposed three to five minute conversation with a junior just before practice at his Georgia high school--that the tide began to turn swiftly against Pearl.
It is rumored that the NCAA did not appreciate Tennessee allowing Pearl to recruit for two more weeks following the initial press conference. So, allegedly, the NCAA basically followed Pearl and his assistants around for those two weeks looking for something to further nail the Tennessee head coach.
According to the rumor, Pearl did not know that the bump was going to be considered a violation, much less, the major violation that the NCAA charged him with as a result of the "bump" incident. It only turned into a major violation because Pearl did not report it to UT compliance.
As the story goes on, Tennessee officials decided at that point that Bruce Pearl would not coach the Vols beyond this season.
At that point, Mike Hamilton--still an ardent Pearl supporter--supposedly tried his best to get the NCAA to reduce the bump violation. But the organization apparently would not budge.
The rumor continues that Chancellor Cheek met with Hamilton on March 1 and informed him that Pearl would be fired following the season.
Another major reason university officials decided to let Pearl go is a rumored ultimatum from the NCAA.
Supposedly, the NCAA has informed officials at UT that the basketball program would receive a one year postseason ban, lose two scholarships for two years, receive major recruiting restrictions, and lose Bruce Pearl to a two-year suspension, if Tennessee decided to keep Pearl.
If Tennessee fired Pearl, or forced him to resign, the basketball program would receive a loss of one scholarship for one season, avoid the postseason ban, and receive minor recruiting restrictions.
Despite Mike Hamilton's support, university officials supposedly did not want the public relations damage that keeping Pearl would most certainly bring.
According to this rumor, Hamilton was told by UT officials to begin laying the groundwork for Pearl's resignation, which he so ineloquently did less than 48 hours before Tennessee was scheduled to play Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Pearl was supposedly set to resign and receive a buyout as soon as Sunday, March 19, in order to save the university any more embarassment.
If this rumor turns out to be fact, look for Pearl to resign Sunday or Tuesday of this upcoming week. If it's not true, you should still look for Pearl to be fired at some point in the very near future.