Reports of a Pearl-recruit photo surface

For a while there, it appeared the defining image of Bruce Pearl's career would be of him bare-chested and covered in body paint, ever the ardent cheerleader who bleeds the orange of the Volunteers.

Unfortunately for Pearl, the picture that the NCAA allegedly possesses of him and a recruit has a smearing effect of a different kind, according to multiple reports

CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish was first to report that the bad info Pearl fed investigators involved him trying to deny he hosted recruits at his home while they were high school juniors, a violation of NCAA rules. According to the report, the recruits in questions were Josh Selby and Aaron Craft. The organization apparently even has proof of it in the form of a picture of Pearl and Craft together.

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 NCAA assistant director of enforcement Kristen Matha 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.

Pearl and his assistant coaches were even shown the photo by the NCAA and claimed not to recognize where the photo was taken, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel, adding that Pearl went back to the NCAA to set the record straight.

Craft's father would not comment when asked by CBSSports.com if his son was among those visiting Pearl's home and didn't say much on the existence of a smoking-gun photo.

But assuming the photo does in fact exist, the question becomes, was a tearful Pearl sorry that he misled the NCAA or merely sorry he got caught in a lie? It's easy to have a guilty conscience when admitting guilt is the only way to go.

And all this for two recruits who ended up de-committing from Tennessee, with Selby off to Kansas and Craft ending up at Ohio State.

Ironically, it was only last summer on the heels of Selby re-opening his recruitment, that UT associate head coach Tony Jones remarked to the Knoxville News Sentinel, "I'll just say something smells right now."