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Hamilton hoped to lessen the eventual punishment from the NCAA by proactively punishing Pearl and his staff in September after the university was formally notified of the NCAA’s investigation. He docked the basketball staff’s salaries and limited the amount of time they could spend on the road recruiting.

Buckner said Tennessee might benefit from no longer employing Kiffin, Pearl and Hamilton.

“If you have an AD under that hot seat then having a clean slate is very helpful because the institution can say, ‘We made the necessary moves,’” he said. “The issue about Tennessee’s situation is when they did it. If a school is going to make that move then normally they make it weeks before the hearing or weeks after the hearing, not the week before the hearing.”

No matter what happens, all eyes in Division I athletics will be on Tennessee and the NCAA when the final ruling is issued. Like Pearl, former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is facing an unethical conduct charge after covering up his knowledge of his players taking improper benefits from a tattoo-parlor owner.

And Tennessee’s punishment can help educated other universities determine where to focus their compliance efforts.

“The entire Division I membership _ especially the schools in the power six conferences _ make sure they stay abreast of what the enforcement staff is alleging and what the infractions committee rules,” Buckner said. “The Tennessees, Ohio States, USCs and Michigans of the world impact what they do with compliance.”