The NCAA charged the Tennessee football program with 18 alleged Tier I rule violations, the most serious under its rules, for unacceptable recruiting benefits totaling about $60,000 that were paid to prospective 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.”
Pruitt was accused by the NCAA of not maintaining a climate of compliance and not controlling his employees. Former defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley, now defensive coach with the Los Angeles Chargers; former outside midfield coach Brian Niedermeyer, now defensive coordinator at IMG Academy; and former inside linebackers coach Shelton Felton, now the head coach of Valdosta High School in Georgia, were also named in alleged rule violations, along with the director of personnel, the director of recruiting, and two other employees.
“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 volunteers hosted informal visits to potential clients over nine weekends between July 2020 and November 2020, during which free housing, food, transportation and other benefits totaling $12,000 were provided to potential clients.
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 receipt of our notification 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 agency during the course of 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. Once 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 term as head coach. Pruitt worked as a senior defense analyst for the New York Giants in 2021.
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