18 violations, almost $60K in illegal benefits by Tennessee football under former coach Jeremy Pruitt

The NCAA has charged Tennessee’s football program with 18 suspected Level I rule violations, the most serious under its rules, for improper recruiting benefits totaling approximately $60,000 paid to prospects, players and their families under former coach Jeremy Pruitt became.

Among other allegations, Pruitt is accused of providing about $9,000 to the mothers of two prospects. His wife Casey is accused of making 25 cash payments totaling about $12,500 to help a prospect’s mother pay for her car.

Tennessee, which fired Pruitt in January 2021 following its internal investigation into the allegations, will not be charged with a lack of institutional oversight because of its cooperation with NCAA investigators and its integrity in handling the misconduct, the NCAA said in a statement about allegations made was sent to the university on Friday. Avoiding a lack of institutional control fee is a positive sign for Tennessee that it can avoid the NCAA’s most severe penalties.

Sources told ESPN that Tennessee had already self-imposed 12 scholarship cuts as well as other recruitment restrictions in the past year. The school also made the decision last year not to issue a bowl ban because it did not want to penalize current coaches, staff or players in the program who were unrelated to the allegations.

“At every step of this process, we have taken swift and decisive action that exemplifies the NCAA’s longstanding values, which are reaffirmed in the new membership constitution,” Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman said in a statement. “The university engaged an outside attorney to fully investigate the allegations about the football program, acted promptly to terminate the employment of football coaches and staff, and shared our conclusions with NCAA law enforcement officials.”

The university hired former NCAA investigator Michael Glazier and the law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King to assist with the university’s internal investigation and paid $1.1 million to the firm, which conducted interviews from November 2020 to February 2022, per the university fired him for good cause and has said she has no plans to pay for the takeover.

Pruitt later issued a response to ESPN on the allegations Friday, saying, “A lot of this information in the NCAA report is my first time seeing and still reading through it. I’d rather not comment much beyond that, other than to say I look forward to telling my side of the story somewhere in the future.”

The NCAA also accused Tennessee of “a failure to adequately oversee the ordering of unofficial visits to its football program and to ensure compliance with NCAA recruiting laws.”

In its report, the NCAA said that up to 12 Tennessee athletes who received improper benefits competed in more than 60 games, and those athletes were “ineligible,” according to the NCAA.

The NCAA accused Pruitt of failing to foster an atmosphere of compliance and failing to monitor his employees. Pruitt is also charged with violating the NCAA principles of ethical conduct when “he offers improper inducements and additional benefits in the form of improper entertainment to prospective and enrolled student-athletes and their family members or persons associated with prospective student-athletes.” and made available and made cash payments to numerous individuals,” the statement said.

“Pruitt has not demonstrated that he monitored his employees or encouraged an atmosphere of compliance within the football program when at least a dozen of his employees were involved in more than 200 individual violations of NCAA legislation over a two-year period, as in described allegations #1 through 9,” the indictment reads. “As evidenced by the number of staff involved and the nature of the violations, J. Pruitt has not demonstrated that compliance is a shared responsibility or established clear expectations that all coaches and staff will comply with NCAA rules, and fails to provide a.” Establishing such a program includes promptly reporting actual and potential issues to compliance personnel.”

The NCAA charged Pruitt and his staff with taking in six recruits and their families during a year-long deadlock when programs were barred from conducting on-campus recruiting activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCAA said the volunteers invited prospects for unofficial visits over nine weekends between July 2020 and November 2020, during which prospects received free housing, meals, transportation and other benefits totaling $12,000.

Perks reportedly granted to prospects included nail salon treatments and a trip down the Tennessee River on a student athlete’s boat.

The NCAA said Casey Pruitt, the coach’s wife, and/or (former assistant) Brian Niedermeyer also provided $3,200 for someone to post bail and an initial rent payment for the move to Knoxville, Tenn. The person’s name was redacted in the statement of allegations that the university sent to ESPN. Casey Pruitt previously worked in the compliance departments of Troy, Oklahoma and Florida State, where she and Jeremy Pruitt met when Pruitt was the Seminoles’ defense coordinator in 2013.

Sources told ESPN that, consistent with new recommendations from the Division I Council’s Transformation Committee, the NCAA used one of these measures in its investigation of Tennessee’s case, specifically to encourage parties to “seek the cooperation of representatives, family members and others with relevant.” secure information. “In the past, some family members and players have been granted immunity in exchange for their cooperation with the NCAA.

“Receiving our notice of allegations was an anticipated, necessary step in this process — a process that our university has proactively initiated through decisive and transparent actions,” Tennessee athletic director Danny White said in a statement. “This brings us one step closer to a final solution. Up to this point I cannot discuss the case 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.”

White was hired as athletic director on January 21, 2021, just three days after the university announced Phillip Fulmer was stepping down as AD and Pruitt was fired with cause. White hired Josh Heupel, who is entering his second season as the Vols coach.

Despite the large number of Level I violations, NCAA enforcement staff chose not to charge the university with a lack of institutional oversight and even commended the volunteers for their cooperation during the investigation.

“The actions taken by the institution during the investigation should be the standard for all institutional investigations into potential violations,” the allegations statement said. “Throughout the investigation, the institution has shown exemplary collaboration in a number of ways. After allegations of possible violations within the football program were brought to the attention of the institution’s chancellor, the institution took immediate action to investigate the allegations and substantiated various violations.

Tennessee and everyone named in the report, including Pruitt, have 90 days to respond to the allegations’ disclosure. NCAA enforcement personnel then have 60 days to respond. A source told ESPN that the case is not expected to be fully adjudicated until sometime in 2023.

Pruitt was 16-19 overall in Tennessee and 10-16 against SEC opponents. The Vols were 2-11 against AP opponents under Pruitt, who was in his first stint as head coach. Pruitt served as a senior defensive analyst for the New York Giants in 2021.

https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/34281182/ncaa-alleges-18-violations-almost-60k-illegal-benefits-tennessee-football-former-coach-jeremy-pruitt 18 violations, almost $60K in illegal benefits by Tennessee football under former coach Jeremy Pruitt

Emma Bowman

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