A new distraction for Vols

Monday morning brought the last thing Tennessee's struggling basketball team needed ... another distraction.

School officials are looking into a possible violation of the NCAA's "extra benefits" rule involving Vol junior Renaldo Woolridge. On Saturday evening the 6-foot-9 Los Angeles native reportedly filmed a rap video in the upstairs portion of Knoxville's New Amsterdam Bar and Grill. Because he was not charged for using the space, Woolridge may have received a benefit that goes beyond the books, meals, lodging and tuition allowed by NCAA rules.

When asked about the situation during his weekly news conference earlier today, head coach Bruce Pearl said the details were still a little sketchy.

"We just heard about it ourselves," he said. "We're looking into it right now. We'll visit with Renaldo and visit with compliance and find out if there was anything that was done that was in any way a violation of NCAA rules (regarding) extra benefits."

Woolridge, who performs as "Swiperboy," has filmed several previous videos, including one saluting former Vol football player Eric Berry that was sanctioned by the University. Pearl says he has no problem whatsoever with Woolridge's budding rap career.

"This situation aside - because we don't know the details of it - we're very supportive of Renaldo as a student and very supportive of his major in film and communications ... particularly with a very unique talent," the head man said. "We support him with that. When I say that, I mean we're encouraging him to be the best he can be in both pursuits - academically, as well as through his basketball."

Still, the middle of basketball season might not be the ideal time to produce a rap video. That's especially true given the negativity surrounding UT's program at present. Pearl already is in the midst of an eight-game suspension related to an ongoing NCAA investigation of recruiting violations within his program.

Pearl conceded that "There are certain times of the year when it's appropriate, focusing the vast majority of his energy to that in the offseason. We'll probably visit with him a little bit on that. There's a balance. There's got to be a balance there."

In addition to the suspension levied by SEC commissioner Mike Slive, Pearl faces the possibility of more penalties when the NCAA completes its investigation. Moreover, his team has lost seven of its last 12 games. On top of that, Pearl last weekend suspended freshman Jordan McRae related to a reported verbal altercation with a fellow Vol.

Asked for comment on the McRae matter, Pearl replied: "What's been reported is accurate. Jordan has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team conduct.... He will not practice with the team this week."

When asked if he has a timetable for restoring McRae to active status, Pearl answered: "I haven't really set a timetable in stone. I've got an idea about how long would be appropriate."

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