The University of Tennessee now knows exactly what it’s facing in an NCAA investigation into football hiring violations under fired coach Jeremy Pruitt.
In a notice of charges filed Friday with the university, the NCAA lists 18 violations and nearly $60,000 in cash or gifts given to players and their families by Pruitt, his wife and numerous coaches, recruiting staff and at least one booster.
On Friday, Knox News received the 51-page document.
In the allegations notice, the NCAA noted that Tennessee had reported violations and his “exemplary cooperation” in the investigation. He also did not find that the university lacked institutional controls, which is an important decision that likely removes the program from program-crippling levels of punishment.
The NCAA alleges that Pruitt and his staff gave money and gifts to players throughout his tenure with the Vols from 2018-21. And it says that his wife, Casey Pruitt, paid over $15,000 in rent and car payments for the Tennessee player and his mother for 2.5 years.
All 18 violations are Level I, the most serious in the NCAA’s four-level structure of violations.
These include violations allegedly committed by Jeremy and Casey Pruitt; assistant coaches Derrick Ansley, Shelton Felton and Brian Niedermeyer; and recruitment by Drew Hughes, Bethany Gunn and Chantrice Boone.
Key players in the allegations:Meet the Perpetrators of the Jeremy Pruitt Tennessee Football Recruitment Scandal
None of the people named in the allegations are no longer working for Tennessee: they were either fired or left on their own after the university launched its own investigation in November 2020. athletics, and a decision that could be a major factor in limiting punishment for the football program.
The NCAA goes out of its way to praise the way university leaders handled the scandal, stating that “the actions taken by the institution during the investigation should be the standard for any institutional investigation into potential wrongdoing.”
The report lists 32 instances where recruits or players took money or gifts, but because the names have been redacted, it is impossible to say how many individual players were identified by the NCAA as some of them may have been involved in multiple infractions.
Now comes the stage of punishment in the case.
Tennessee and named individuals have 90 days to respond to notice of the allegations. NCAA law enforcement then has 60 days to respond to those responses.
Could Tennessee’s cooperation mean lighter punishments?
The document reflects the serious tone introduced by UT Chancellor Donde Plowman in January 2021. It was then that she fired Pruitt, along with two assistant coaches and seven employees, and announced that a university investigation had uncovered evidence of massive and serious NCAA violations. under the supervision of Pruitt.
“At every step of this process, the university’s swift and decisive action has exemplified the long-standing values of the NCAA, which are affirmed in the new membership constitution,” Plowman said.
More:Why Tennessee football could avoid being hit by NCAA in Jeremy Pruitt recruitment scandal
“Despite the fact that the NCAA statute prohibits the university from publicly commenting on specific allegations, the university has tried and will continue to seek a resolution to this case that is consistent with the new NCAA constitution and is in the interests of the University of Tennessee.
In January, the NCAA ratified a new constitution that calls for punishment of individuals rather than “innocent student-athletes,” and post-season suspensions are rarely enforced as a punishment.
Tennessee has not issued a self-imposed bowl ban because it does not want to penalize players for the actions of coaches and staff who are no longer in the program, although sources close to the situation told Knox News that Tennessee self-imposed enrollment restrictions last year and scholarships without public announcement.
Here are the 18 violations listed in the notice of charges:
From late July to mid-November 2020, six recruits visited campus informally and accepted money or gifts during dead periods of recruitment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. None of these recruits entered Tennessee.
Coaches Jeremy Pruitt, Ansley, Felton, and Niedermeyer, and recruiters Gunn, Boon, and an unnamed student assistant arranged or provided $12,173 for hotel accommodation, meals, entertainment, transportation, and team clothing.
In addition, Casey Pruitt arranged for the real estate agent to meet with the recruit’s family.
Jeremy Pruitt, Gunn, Boone, and an unnamed booster arranged or provided the player with $12,707 in hotel, food, airfare and other transportation, game day parking, furniture and household items from October 2018 to December 2020.
This included Jeremy Pruitt paying $3,000 in cash to the player’s mother to help pay off a medical bill. The giveaways began when Tennessee picked up a prospect and continued after he signed up and played for the Vols.
Casey Pruitt provided $12,500 in cash for the car – 25 payments of $500 each – and $3,000 in rent for the player and his mother from September 2018 to March 2021. tt.
This accounted for most of the $23,260 in ineligible promotions given to the player by Jeremy and Casey Pruitt, Felton, Niedermeyer and Gunn. The rest included hotel accommodation, meals, entertainment, team clothing, and parking on game day.
Notably, Casey Pruitt was working in the Florida State NCAA Compliance Division in 2013 when she met Jeremy Pruitt, then the Seminole defensive coordinator. She was tasked with checking the eligibility of players and making sure the athletics department followed NCAA rules. She also worked in the Compliance Department at Troy University.
Gunn and Hughes provided or arranged for the recruit and his family $1,983 from November 2018 to December 2019, including hotel accommodation, game day parking, and team clothing. The recruit subsequently enrolled in Tennessee and played for the Vols.
Niedermeier and Gunn arranged or provided $2,463 for the recruit and his family from January to December 2019, including cash, hotel accommodation, entertainment, transportation, and team clothing.
Niedermeyer also paid the recruit $750 in cash at his high school, gave additional gifts during an informal visit, and accompanied the recruit and his family on a flight to Knoxville on an official visit. The recruit did not enter Tennessee.
Violations 6 and 7
Gunn arranged or provided a total of $1,755 for the two recruits and their families, including hotel accommodation, meals, and game-day parking. Both recruits went to Tennessee and played for the Vols.
From January 2019 to November 2020, coaches and staff provided $3,919 to 13 recruits and their families in cash, hotel accommodation, meals, entertainment, transportation, and team clothing. Nine recruits entered Tennessee, including six who played games for the Vols.
Jeremy Pruitt, Felton, Ansley, Gunn, Boone, and Hughes organized or provided benefits. Coaches also made inappropriate contact with one of the recruits during the COVID-19 recruiting dead period.
At least seven Tennessee football players received $1,338 in cash from April to November 2020 for living expenses and other expenses related to hosting leads for ineligible recruitment visits during the COVID-19 dead period.
Jeremy Pruitt, Niedermeyer, Gunn, Boon, and an unnamed student recruitment assistant arranged or provided the payments. Four players have played games for the Vols.
Jeremy Pruitt, Felton, Niedermeyer, Gunn, Boone, Hughes, and an unnamed student recruitment assistant received a Level I violation for unethical behavior.
The investigation found that they deliberately provided unacceptable incentives to recruits, provided investigators with false information and encouraged others to do so.
The investigation found that Jeremy Pruitt committed a head coach liability violation by failing to create an atmosphere of conformity in the football program and supervise the staff from September 2018 to January 2021.
This period covered all but the first eight months of his tenure.
The investigation found that the university failed to oversee the football program’s recruitment plans to ensure staff adhered to NCAA rules during Jeremy Pruitt’s tenure. However, the university has not been found to have committed a more serious breach of lack of institutional control.
Current value of the case
Tennessee paid $1.12 million in legal fees to the firm Bond, Schoeneck & King from November 2020 to February 2022 to work on the NCAA case, according to invoices provided by the University of Knox News after requesting public documents. The most recent payments, which are charged quarterly, are not yet available.
This still pales in comparison to the $12.6 million ransom that the university refused to pay Pruitt when he was fired due to the allegations.
Contact Adam Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @AdamSparks.
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