In January of 2021, at the time of the start of the investigation into the University of Tennessee and former head coach Jeremy Pruitt, a story came out about Tennessee supposedly hiding cash in McDonald’s bags that would be given to recruits – illegally.
On Friday morning, the investigation report officially became public, and it looks like the McDonald’s story may have been a tad exaggerated. However, the Golden Arches do still play a role in the overall story.
On Jan. 21, 2021, Fox Sports Radio hosted Dan Patrick first reported the story of the McDonald’s bags filled with cash.
“I was told that, you know, there’s a few things going on here. I asked my source, I said, ‘How do they get these assistant coaches on recruiting violations?’ And he said, ‘Well, [Tennessee’s assistants] put money into McDonald’s bags and gave them to the recruits when they came on campus.’ The campus visits were not organized, or they were not above board, but they were handing out cash – I dont know if it was through the drive-thru. So you literally had bagmen, and they put the cash in McDonald’s bags and handed it to the recruits. My source said they were so in your face with this, they weren’t even trying to hide it.”
For the last year and a half, many have wondered the legitimacy to Patrick’s story. While he was on the right track regarding McDonald’s playing a role, the story about the bags filled with cash were not given in the official report.
The report, released on Friday, July 22, 2022, states the following in relation to McDonald’s:
“On March 30 through April 1, during an unofficial visit to the institution, Gunn and/or Niedermeyer arranged and/or provided approximately $225 in impermissible meals from McDonald‘s for [name redacted] and University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Tennessee)-branded clothing, including two beanie hats and two hooded sweatshirts. [NCAA Bylaws 13.2.1, 22.214.171.124-(b), 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52.2 (2018-19)]”
“On July 26, Gunn and a student recruiting assistant provided to [name redacted] approximately $35 in meals from McDonald‘s and loaned him a Sony PlayStation video console. [NCAA Bylaws 13.2.1, 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11.2 (2018-19)]”
These are the only two instances of “McDonald’s” in the 51-page report.
As far as the two mentions of McDonald’s go in the report, neither section confirms the story that cash was put into McDonald’s bags and then given to recruits illegally. However, the sections do say that McDonald’s food was provided on two separate occasions.
The report notes several violations from Tennessee that include some sort of connection to a local business, many of those being places that serve food. Restaurants that were mentioned in the report include Cafe 4, Fieldhouse Social, Scrambled Jake’s, Moe Beez, Main Event, Aubrey’s, Chesapeake’s, and more.
Providing the recruits with food seems to have been a focal point for the former Tennessee staff. In total, the report states that Tennessee dished out nearly $60,000 in cash or gifts to recruits during his tenure.