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Heupel explains approach with potential NCAA sanctions looming

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Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr. via Imagn Content Services, LLC

One of the biggest questions surrounding Tennessee following the firing of Jeremy Pruitt was about the impending NCAA sanctions that could come over the next few years. Likely nobody from the Tennessee side will admit it hurt, but it couldn’t have helped in the midst of a quick coaching search for new athletics director Danny White.

Pruitt was fired for cause following the 2020 season after a fairly quiet investigation took place into his recruiting efforts. Disturbing, stunning and shocking was how Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman described the findings, forcing (or perhaps opening the door for) the University to take quick action.

Tennessee ended up raiding UCF, hiring Danny White to run the athletics department, who then ended up bringing his football coach with him to Knoxville. To this point, we still don’t have an answer on what type of sanctions Tennessee might be facing, but Josh Heupel was upbeat and honest on Tuesday while speaking on the situation.

“The looming sanctions, it’s just a true conversation that you have to have with your recruits,” Heupel said before his media session. “It was a question that I asked before I took this job. Our administration was completely transparent with me. I trusted them in that, in some respects because of who they are, but also my experience with our athletic director. It’s a conversation that we’ve had with our recruits that have come on campus.”

Tennessee has struggled during the particular recruiting cycle, obviously for understandable reasons. The Volunteers are restarting once again, fresh off of the worst season in school history. Another new face has to prove himself again, this time with a gigantic unknown lingering over his head.

Most assume that a postseason ban in 2021 is a given, but a loss of scholarships or a multi-year postseason ban remains possible. According to Heupel though, he’s hopeful that they can put this behind them this year.

“At the end of the day, I’m going to revert back to what I said in the beginning: I really do feel like this is going to be a speed bump,” Heupel said. “And it’s something that the kids that we’re recruiting and the majority of our players on campus, they’re going to be able to go chase and compete for championships once they’re on campus. I feel like we’ve positioned ourselves to swallow up any of the potential sanctions here in this first year and be able to move forward and go compete.”