After UT received the Notice of Allegations from the NCAA on Wednesday, the question remains, what's next?
Specifically, what's going to happen to coach Bruce Pearl and the men's basketball program?
The allegations against Pearl detailed in the notice are severe and troubling.
Pearl's contract was voided soon after the university was made aware of Pearl and his assistant coaches misconduct. He is currently coaching without a contract. Yet why is Pearl still coaching at UT?
The answer is simple.
Just look up at the rafters in Thompson-Boling Arena. Or take a walk through Pratt Pavilion.
In six seasons, Pearl has made Tennessee men's basketball a national powerhouse. Just last year, the team reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program's history.
But should Pearl's success on the basketball court make up for his transgressions off it?
No, of course it shouldn't.
While it would be naive to believe Pearl's win-loss record doesn't help his job status, hopefully it's not the deciding factor whether he coaches in Knoxville beyond this season.
Pearl's future as coach at Tennessee should be based on if he can keep the basketball program as one that competes for championships on the court and represents the university in a positive light off of it.
If Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, athletic director Mike Hamilton and whoever else is involved in the decision process can't be certain that's the case, the men's basketball program needs to go in a new direction, starting with a new head coach.
Ultimately, a decision to part ways with Pearl shouldn't be based on his lying to the NCAA, getting his assistant coaches to do the same and trying to get a recruit's father to go along with their story.
Tennessee already punished Pearl for those actions. He was docked $1.5 million and banned from off-campus recruiting for a year in September 2010. That was UT's punishment then. Severe enough or not, the university handed down the penalties it felt were warranted by Pearl's actions, knowing the NCAA was going to eventually bring serious allegations against Pearl his staff.
"We anticipate potential unethical-conduct charges to be levied against coach Pearl and several members of our coaching staff," Hamilton said in a press conference on Sep. 10, 2010. "As a result, we've decided that it's necessary to take serious and proactive action to deal with this misstep in judgment."
"... People make mistakes, and we all make them. I've made them. I make plenty. Bruce made one mistake in this incident, and he came forward to correct it. I'm glad he's our basketball coach. This is a tough time, but we're going to get through it together as an institution, as a basketball staff and as an athletics staff."
However, that tough time got even tougher for UT on Wednesday when the notice of allegations revealed Pearl and associate head coach Tony Jones had impermissible contact with a recruit just four days after the Sep. 10 press conference to announce Pearl had lied to the NCAA.
Still, for Pearl, he knows his actions have put a black eye on him, the men's basketball program and the university. The implications won't be known until some time after the school goes before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in June, but Pearl knew in September there would be consequences for his actions.
"I will serve as an example for the NCAA," he said. "There is greater scrutiny that is taking place in intercollegiate athletics right now, and in the long run this is going to be good for intercollegiate athletics."
Tennessee is now left with the question, is the men's basketball program, and more importantly the university, better in the long run with or without Bruce Pearl?
That question alone should decide Pearl's fate at Tennessee.