The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations for Tennessee football’s recruiting violations during the Jeremy Pruitt era did not include a lack of institutional control, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported Friday.
Tennessee committed 19 Level I violations during the Jeremy Pruitt era according to the NCAA’s findings. The vast majority of the violations included payments or purchases to/for Tennessee players or recruiting targets.
Jeremy Pruitt, his wife Casey, assistant coaches Brian Niedermeyer, Shelton Felton and Derrick Ansley and support staff members Bethany Gunn, Drew Hughes, Chantryce Boone and an unnamed student assistant are the guilty parties in providing impermissible benefits to players and recruits.
Tennessee terminated the majority of the guilty parties with cause along with Pruitt in January 2021 and Josh Heupel did not retain the rest. Casey Pruitt was not a part of Tennessee’s football staff but previously worked in compliance at Florida State where she met Jeremy while he was the Seminoles’ defensive coordinator.
“Receipt of our Notice of Allegations was an expected, requisite step in this process—a process our university initiated proactively through decisive and transparent actions,” Tennessee director of athletics Danny White said in a statement. “This moves us one step closer to a final resolution. Until we get to that point, I am unable to discuss the case in any detail. As a university, we understand the need to take responsibility for what occurred, but we remain committed to protecting our current and future student-athletes.”
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The most severe violation included Tennessee paying for and hosting recruits to campus for visits during the COVID-19 pandemic in which the NCAA banned on campus visits.
Other violations included paying for the travel, lodging and food of unofficial visitors.
Tennessee avoiding the dreaded lack of institutional control violation bodes well for the forthcoming punishment face. The NCAA specifically complimented Tennessee for its handling and compliance in the investigation.
“In every step of this process, we took quick and decisive actions that exemplified the longstanding values of the NCAA reiterated in the membership’s new constitution,” Chancellor Donde Plowman said in a statement. “The university hired outside counsel to fully investigate allegations about the football program, acted promptly to terminate the employment of football coaches and staff members, and shared our conclusions with the NCAA enforcement staff.”
The NCAA adjusted its punishment rules earlier this year to target specific individuals and not programs and players that weren’t involved in the violations.
Tennessee did not self impose a bowl ban for the 2021 season while they did self impose a number of small recruiting violations. According to Plowman’s statement, Tennessee is hoping the NCAA will view things the same way and not administer a bowl ban.
The absence of a lack of institutional control violation makes that goal much more tenable.
“While we will take appropriate responsibility, last fall, the university announced that we will not self-impose penalties that harm innocent student-athletes like postseason bans based upon the actions of coaches and staff who are no longer part of the institution,” Plowman said. “Under the NCAA’s new constitution, rules “must ensure to the greatest extent possible that penalties imposed for infractions do not punish programs or student-athletes not involved or implicated in the infraction(s).”
“While NCAA bylaws prohibit the university from publicly commenting about the specific allegations, we have and will continue to seek a timely resolution of this case that is consistent with the NCAA’s new constitution and in the best interests of the University of Tennessee.”
Tennessee has 90 days to appeal the NCAA’s allegations and the NCAA has 60 days to respond to any appeals. After that stage is completed, the NCAA will hand down its punishment to the Tennessee football program.
The Vols open their 2022 football season inside the newly renovated Neyland Stadium against Ball State on Sept. 1.