Tennessee's season ended on Friday with a 75-45 loss to Michigan in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

But the biggest story coming from Charlotte, N.C., following the Vols' loss was the future of coach Bruce Pearl.

UT men's athletic director Mike Hamilton said in an interview that aired last Wednesday on Knoxville radio station WMNL that a decision hadn't been made concerning whether Pearl would be the Vols' coach after this season.

"We don't know the answer today," Hamilton said. "We've done a lot of soul-searching about the direction of our program, and we'll continue to do that, and we'll decide after we're out of the NCAA Tournament what direction it is that we're going to go next ... That'll be a decision we make in the short term, or we'll wait and make it a little bit farther down the road.

"But the jury is out on what's going to happen with that at this point."

In the post-game press conference following the Michigan loss, Pearl knows the program's success under his watch will be one of his selling points.

"We're going to go and be evaluated, just like Mike Hamilton said," Pearl said. "I'm going to be able to go there and say we went to the NCAA Tournament six times — three Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight."

UT fans have shown overwhelming support for the sixth-year coach. On UT message boards, thread after thread mentions fans e-mailing and calling Hamilton, UTK Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and even UT board of trustees members.

A Facebook-led rally was held at the top of the G-10 parking garage, next to Thompson-Boling Arena. Parker Williams, a Knoxville native, started a page, "Keep Bruce Pearl," Saturday night and had more than 5,000 "likes" as of 6 p.m. Sunday.

"We're just here today to show Bruce that we still love him," Williams said to the 150 or so in attendance. "I don't know if there's more people coming. I don't know if this is everyone, but it's still better than nothing, and we're all here to show how much we love Bruce and how much UT athletics, and UT in general, means to the Knoxville community."

Hamilton echoes the fans' feelings of Pearl, but he knows Pearl lying to the NCAA over hosting high school juniors at his house for a barbecue could lead to severe sanctions for Pearl and the men's basketball program.

"I love Bruce Pearl," Hamilton told WMNL. "I think he's done tremendous things for our basketball program, tremendous things for the Knoxville community, tremendous things for our university. But we're also in a very unique situation right now, with what we've gone through over the last nine months, our notice of allegations, other things we're looking at with the program."

Implications will almost certainly follow, regardless of whether Pearl is kept or let go by UT. One of the implications if Pearl is not retained could be the loss of current players on the team. Freshman All-American forward Tobias Harris, a projected mid-first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft, could decide to leave school after just one season if Pearl isn't his coach.

"It's definitely that I'm going to have to consider and go from there and see how it plays out," Harris said. "I can't really control what's going on right now. I wasn't really thinking about none of that stuff throughout this whole season. But when we end like that — now the season's done with — it's definitely a question for me now."

In the press conference on Friday, Pearl wanted to make note of all the good he has helped establish with the program.

"I feel there are so many positives," Pearl said. "We were fifth in the nation in attendance at Tennessee. The kids have been very well received in the community. I think our program is in very solid footing. We've got to go before the (NCAA) Committee of Infractions in June, and it's going to be difficult. We've made mistakes. We're going to try to be accountable for those mistakes.

"But my goal, my desire, is to be the basketball coach at Tennessee next year and for a long time."