The NCAA charged the Tennessee football program with 18 alleged Tier I rule violations, the most serious under its rules, for unacceptable recruitment benefits totaling approximately $60,000 that were paid to prospects and players under former coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Among other things, Pruitt is accused of providing about $9,000 to the mothers of two potential clients. His wife Casey is accused of making 25 cash payments totaling about $12,500 to help a potential client’s mother pay for her car.
Tennessee, who fired Pruitt in January 2021 after an internal investigation into the allegations, is not charged with a lack of institutional oversight due to his cooperation with NCAA investigators and his good faith in investigating the misconduct, the allegations sent notice said. to university on Friday.
“At every step of this process, we have taken swift and decisive action that exemplifies the long-standing values of the NCAA, affirmed in the new membership constitution,” Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman said. “The university has hired an outside consultant to fully investigate allegations about the football program, promptly fired football coaches and staff, and shared its findings with NCAA law enforcement.”
Later Friday, Pruitt responded to ESPN’s allegations by saying, “A lot of this information in the NCAA report is a first I’ve seen and I’m still reading. I’d rather not comment much after that. other than to say that I’m looking forward to telling my side of the story sometime in the future.”
The NCAA also accused the volunteers of not “properly tracking the organization of unofficial visits in their football program and not enforcing NCAA recruitment legislation.”
Pruitt was accused by the NCAA of not maintaining a compliance climate and not monitoring his employees. Pruitt is also accused of violating the NCAA ethical conduct guidelines when “he knowingly organized, offered, and provided prospective and enrolled student athletes and their family members or persons associated with prospective student athletes with improper inducements and additional benefits in the form of inappropriate entertainment. and cash payments to numerous individuals,” the notice says.
“Pruitt did not demonstrate that he monitored his staff or contributed to a climate of compliance within the football program when at least a dozen of his staff were involved in more than 200 separate NCAA violations over a two-year period, as detailed in Allegations #1 -9,” the notice of allegations reads. “Based on the number of employees involved and the nature of the violations, J. Pruitt has failed to demonstrate that compliance is a shared responsibility, or to establish clear expectations that all coaches and employees comply with NCAA rules, and failed to create a program that includes immediate reporting of actual and potential issues to compliance personnel.”
The NCAA accused Pruitt and his staff of hosting six recruits and their families during a year-long dead period when programs were not allowed to conduct recruiting activities on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCAA said the volunteers hosted informal visits to potential clients over nine weekends between July 2020 and November 2020, during which potential clients received free housing, meals, transportation and other benefits totaling $12,000.
Benefits allegedly offered to potential clients included treatments at a nail salon and a ride down the Tennessee River on a student-athlete boat.
The NCAA said Casey Pruitt, the coach’s wife, and/or Niedermeyer also provided $3,200 to someone for bail and initial rent to move to Knoxville, Tennessee. The person’s name was redacted in a notice of allegations sent by the university to ESPN.
“The receipt of our notice of the allegations was an expected and necessary step in this process — a process that our university has actively initiated through strong and transparent action,” Tennessee athletics director Danny White said in a statement. “This brings us one step closer to a final decision. Until we get to this point, I can’t discuss this matter in detail. As a university, we understand the need to take responsibility for what happened, but we remain committed to protecting our current and future student-athletes.”
Despite the high number of Level I violations, NCAA law enforcement chose not to blame the university for its lack of institutional oversight and even thanked the volunteers for their cooperation during the investigation.
“The actions taken by the institution during the investigation should be the standard for any departmental investigation of potential violations,” the notice of allegations states. “During the investigation, the institution demonstrated exemplary cooperation in many ways. As soon as the rector of the institution was alerted to the alleged irregularities in the football program, the institution took immediate action to investigate the allegations and confirmed the various irregularities.
Pruitt was 16-19 overall in Tennessee and 10-16 against SEC opponents. The Vols were 2-11 against AP-rated opponents under Pruitt, who was in his first tenure as head coach. Pruitt was a senior defense analyst at the New York Giants in 2021.
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