Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek is not a very popular man among many Vol sports fans. To them, he’s the man who wrongfully ran off Bruce Pearl. (Nevermind the coach’s decision to break a rule he’d broken before or his decision to lie to NCAA investigators or his decision to ask others not to mention the broken rule.)
To date, Cheek has also failed to hire an athletic director to replace Mike Hamilton. LSU AD Joe Alleva used UT as leverage to get a raise in Baton Rouge. And multiple reports have claimed that Tennessee was on the verge of hiring Georgia Tech’s Dan Radakovich… right up until the NCAA dropped a bomb on him and his program, which left egg on the face of the Vol program. (Nevermind the fact that both Radakovich and mutliple UT sources have said that Tech’s AD and Cheek never spoke face-to-face or even over the phone.)
Things have gotten so bad for Cheek, that there’s a growing number of Vol fans on messageboards and radio talkshows who believe he is secretly working to destroy Tennessee from the inside. Cheek, you see, moved to Knoxville after working for years at the University of Florida. Therefore, he’s viewed by some as a sort of UF sleeper cell who has infiltrated the infrastructure of one of the Gators’ biggest rivals in an effort to destroy its athletic department.
No. We’re not kidding.
Well you can be sure this won’t help Cheek’s cause — former Pearl assistant Tony Jones has now taken some shots at the man who fired him, Pearl and two fellow assistants:
“The final straw for our coaching staff, according to UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek, was the alleged bump (violation) heard around the world, and it wasn’t even in the report and the Committee on Infractions deemed it not to be a violation at all…
I’m sure that makes the Vol Nation have a lot of confidence in Chancellor Cheek, who never even bothered to meet with our coaching staff.”
Ouch. For those Vol fans who believe the school could have held onto Pearl (for three years without him being able to recruit or meet with prospects) and his staff (who would not be able to recruit or meet with prospects for one full year) this will serve as further proof of the grand Cheek Conspiracy.
However, as we noted yesterday, the NCAA did UT a favor when it alleged a bump violation that led to the basketball staff’s dismissal. If not for that act, Tennessee would just now be moving into coach-finding mode. And the school likely would have received multiple sanctions for keeping Pearl and — in effect — thumbing its nose at the NCAA, its rulebook and the integrity of its investigations.
Oddly enough, Tennessee got good news yesterday. The NCAA made it clear that school officials had handled the lengthy investigation well. As a result the NCAA even accepted the school’s self-imposed penalties and decided to assign no additional sanctions. And what clearly helped the school was the firing of its basketball coach.
Yet for many in bright orange, yesterday was a bad day, not a good one. Pearl was incredibly successful and popular. In the view of some — better to hurt the program and try to keep the man than to dismiss the man and save the program.
When a fanbase is that dedicated to its (former) coach, it can’t bode well for the guy who fired him. Even if doing so was the only realistic option available to him.