On Thursday, Texas A&M was slapped with a minor probation and head coach Jimbo Fisher was handed a six-month show-cause due to recruiting infractions committed between January 2018 through February 2019. Unfortunately for Tennessee, one of Fisher’s assistants was also punished for those violations, and that assistant is now at UT.
Running backs coach Jay Graham was an assistant under Fisher the last two seasons at Texas A&M before signing on to be Jeremy Pruitt’s assistant this offseason. But due to the infraction he committed while with the Aggies, Graham has been penalized with a six-month show-cause for the remainder of 2020, affecting his recruiting capabilities at Tennessee.
According to the NCAA Committee on Infractions, the show-cause for Graham includes “a previously served nine-day ban on phone calls, emails, or texts with prospects in January 2020; a reduction in off-campus recruiting contact days by three for the December 2019 through January 2020 contact period; a ban on all off-campus recruiting activities for the fall 2020 contact period; and additional one-on-one rules education.” Fisher has been served with the same penalties.
Both Graham and Jimbo Fisher are being punished for making impermissible contact with a recruit. Fisher was also punished for “failing to promote and atmosphere of compliance” and was cited for not demonstrating that he “monitored his staff” appropriately.
Tennessee issued a statement on Thursday afternoon, claiming they knew of the circumstances following Graham from Texas A&M and are still “proud” to have him as part of UT’s staff.
“During the process of hiring Coach Jay Graham, we were made aware of the circumstances at his previous institution, and we vetted it thoroughly in accordance with NCAA and SEC bylaws,” Tennessee athletics said in a statement. “We established and maintain extremely high confidence in Coach Graham’s commitment to compliance and are proud to have him on our staff.”
Graham signed a two-year contract with Tennessee this offseason that’s worth $575,000 annually. That’s a slight raise from the $550,000 Graham made this past season with Texas A&M, where he spent two years as an assistant before coming back to UT. Graham also served as an assistant under Fisher at Florida State.
The veteran position coach has been the running backs coach at Chattanooga, San Diego, UT-Martin, Miami (Ohio), South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida State, and Texas A&M in his career. He’s also helped with special teams at Florida State and had a co-offensive coordinator title at Texas A&M.
As a player for the Vols, Graham was an All-SEC performer who has his name scattered throughout UT’s record books. His 11 games of 100-plus rushing yards in 1995 are the most in a single season in school history, and his 14 career games of 100-plus rushing yards are the second-most in a Tennessee career. Graham’s 2,609 career rushing yards are the eighth-most in school history, and his 25 career rushing touchdowns are tied for the 10th-most in program history. He also has the fifth-most carries in a UT career with 540 in his career from 1993-96.
The Vols’ 2021 recruiting class currently ranks No. 4 nationally and No. 1 in the SEC. Tennessee holds commitments from several projected running backs in the 2021 class currently, including four-star Cody Brown, No. 1 JUCO running back Tiyon Evans, three-star Jaylen Wright, and three-star in-state back Elijah Howard.