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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Sources: Ex-recruit Craft at center of NCAA's Tennessee probe

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Bruce Pearl's admitted "mistakes" during an investigation into his men's basketball program include the Tennessee coach providing "incorrect and misleading information" to the NCAA about illegally hosting recruits at his home during the Fall of 2008, multiple sources have told CBSSports.com.

Class of 2010 standout Aaron Craft is at the center of the investigation, according to sources. The point guard from Ohio committed to Tennessee in September 2008, i.e., at the beginning of his junior year.

Sources told CBSSports.com that Craft -- along with fellow Class of 2010 prospect Josh Selby, who also was committed to Tennessee at the time, and perhaps another recruit -- visited Pearl's home during an unofficial visit to Tennessee later that same year, which is a violation of NCAA rules because high school juniors aren't allowed to engage college coaches away from campus. Pearl denied that Craft and Selby ever had been to his home when an NCAA investigator initially asked. The problem with that approach was that the NCAA, according to sources, already had in its possession a picture of Pearl and Craft that was snapped inside Pearl's home, which led to the line of questioning in the first place. It's unclear who took the picture or how the NCAA obtained it.

Craft, like Selby, ultimately decommitted from Tennessee.

Craft is now a freshman at Ohio State and Selby is enrolled at Kansas.

"I learned that it's not OK to tell the truth most of the time, but that you have to tell the truth all the time," Pearl said during Friday's news conference shortly after school officials announced it had received a letter of inquiry from the NCAA, just before school officials declined comment when asked for details on the case. "I have no tolerable answer for why I didn't tell the truth the first time, and I take full responsibility for my actions."

An attempt by CBSSports.com to reach Pearl for comment Tuesday was unsuccessful.

Aaron Craft's father, John Craft, acknowledged to CBSSports.com by phone this week that an Ohio State "compliance guy" contacted him "earlier in the summer" and informed him "Aaron might be questioned." A source told CBSSports.com that Aaron Craft later spoke with the NCAA by phone, but John Craft denied that happened. Asked if Aaron Craft and other prospects visited Pearl's home in 2008, John Craft said "I have no comment about that." Asked if the NCAA has a picture of his son with Pearl at Pearl's home from 2008, Craft said he's heard about the existence of such a picture "through the grapevine," but added that he's never actually seen the picture and thus didn't feel comfortable commenting on it in any way.

Tennessee announced Friday that Pearl will lose $1.5 million in salary over the next five years and be banned from off-campus recruiting from Sept. 24, 2010 to Sept. 23, 2011 as part of self-imposed penalties. Still, the NCAA has yet to file a notice of allegations against UT. So it's unclear if Pearl or his staff will receive further punishment at a later date.

"I have confidence that [Pearl] will do the right things in the future," Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek said at Friday's press conference. "He is one of our family members, and we stand with him and his family at this point in time."

Pearl is 126-46 in five seasons at Tennessee and has led the Vols to five straight NCAA tournaments.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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