With top recruit in town, bad timing for UT

The voice of Bruce Pearl was cracking when it happened.

The Tennessee coach admitted giving the NCAA bad info during the course of an investigation into possible recruiting violations, and immediately after saying it, the sound of a fire alarm cut him off.

Awkward as that was, it wasn't the only bit of inadvertently bad timing for the program on a day when self-imposed sanctions both sullied Pearl's reputation and lightened his wallet.

It gets worse because of another big recruiting event. Blue-chipper Adonis Thomas, a small forward from Memphis that ESPNU ranks as the No. 9 overall recruit in the 2011 class, is making an official visit to Tennessee this weekend. The Knoxville News Sentinel talked to the Thomas camp earlier this week:

"One of the things we like about Tennessee is Coach [Bruce] Pearl relates well to his players,'' said Eric Thomas, Adonis' 6-foot-8 father and a former collegiate basketball player who led Central Missouri in rebounding in 1991-92.

"Each player comes into a program with different situations and abilities, and just by looking at the strategies (Pearl) has used with other players, I think he can get a lot more out of kids than just a straight Xs and Os coach,'' he said. "Bruce has a system, but he lets his players make plays.''

Assuming Thomas follows through on his visit, he'll now be walking into a messy situation. Pearl could and should face uncomfortable questions that should neither be answered with charm nor spin.

Can you be certain you'll be coaching the Volunteers four years from now, even in the face of quite possibly more sanctions to come? Can you maintain your credibility as a leader after today's admissions and when there might be more dirt to be revealed? Can you be trusted?

If the answers aren't what Thomas wants to hear, he has plenty of other suitors, including Florida, Arkansas, UCLA and Memphis, the hometown team and what most consider to be the favorite.