Tennessee announced that men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl would be suspended for the first eight games of the SEC conference season in a press conference on Friday.

Pearl, athletic director Mike Hamilton and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek addressed the action taken by the SEC.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive made the decision and informed the university in a letter on Thursday, Nov. 18 and was available via teleconference after the press conference was concluded.

According to Slive, the consequences could’ve been much worse if Pearl hadn’t admitted to misleading the NCAA earlier this year.

“In the final analysis I determined that there may well have been enough to suspend coach Pearl for the entire conference season,” Slive said. “But the fact that he owned up to what he had done, owned up to the underlying violations, I felt that half of the conference season was an appropriate penalty in this matter.”

Slive said he considered taking action against UT’s assistant coaches but ultimately decided to direct all penalties at Pearl, citing Pearl as being liable for all the misconduct of his assistants.

“I thought that the suspension of coach Pearl from eight conference games is in part premised on the fact that he is responsible for the conduct of his coaching staff, and he is accountable for their behavior, and he was in this matter,” Slive said. “This penalty is heavy and impacts the entire program, and so at the moment anyway, I am not planning any additional penalties against the assistant coaches.”

Pearl said he wasn’t caught off-guard by the suspension, because he had talked with Slive before the season began, and Slive informed him he was considering taking action.

“(I) wasn’t blindsided, because we knew, as Mike knew, that I had talked to the commissioner during the basketball Media Day (in October),” Pearl said. “I knew that he was considering doing something more, and I knew he had respect for the proactive nature of what the university did.”

Despite the suspension, Pearl is humbled that he has the support of Hamilton and Cheek.    

“I’m still very appreciative of the support that we’ve received, from the university in particular — Mike Hamilton and Jimmy Cheek — they have stood by me, and I know I’ve disappointed them, but they have stood by me through this, and I appreciate that,” Pearl said. “It’s our intention to overcome this adversity, and it’s my anticipation that we will.”

During the eight games Pearl is suspended, assistant coaches will have to increase their roles.

“Tony Jones, our associate head coach, will coach in those eight games,” Pearl said. “He will be assisted by Jason Shay and Steve Forbes and, in particular, whoever has that scout will be the closest to Tony, in his ear.

“The suspension is, as I understand it, really involves not only eight games, but just eight days. I’ll be able to coach the team, prepare the team, but not be able to coach in those particular games, so I’ll still be involved in the preparation and the game plan, and my assistant coaches and the players will execute it.”

The Vols do play a nonconference game at Connecticut on Jan. 22, in which Pearl will be allowed to coach.

“Coach Pearl’s going to coach against UConn,” Hamilton said. “This is an SEC penalty, SEC games, and we have a full expectation that coach will coach us against UConn.”

The suspension was strictly from the SEC, and specifically Commissioner Slive. The NCAA is expected to conclude its investigation sometime next month and inform UT of its findings.

“This is a period of adversity for all of us,” Cheek said. “We believe we’ve made the right decision, coach Pearl is our coach, and he’s going to be our coach for many, many years. We’re going to get through this adversity, and we are going to be stronger as a consequence of it.”

The announcement of the suspension comes just days before the team will travel to New York City to play in the semifinals of the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-off.

The Vols will play VCU on Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.