Bruce Pearl's No-Contract Tightrope

The University of Tennessee and its fans rallied around Bruce Pearl when it was revealed that he had lied to NCAA investigators, and even when the SEC suspended him for eight games. But now that the Vol basketball program is reeling from a series of losses to mediocre teams (and two wins, over Belmont and UT-Martin, that felt like losses), the fans appear to be having second thoughts. Enthusiasm is noticeably down, and message boards are lighting up.

What's worrisome to Pearl is that he does not have a contract with UT. He is serving "at will" after the NCAA investigation led to the cancellation of his contract and a huge reduction in his salary.

The Vols are entering the SEC season with assistant coach Tony Jones leading the team, since Pearl must now sit out those eight games. UT has had some experience with a coach being absent while his assistant took over; Pearl might want to visit Johnny Majors for advice.

The situation is also worrisome for Mike Hamilton—hiring Pearl is his signature success as athletics director.