The next phase of the NCAA investigation into Tennessee football is here. The NCAA sent Tennessee a notice of allegations on Friday, detailing the violations that occurred under former head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Ross Dellenger broke the news.
NEWS: Ex-#Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt & staff paid ~$60K in inducements & funded visits during COVID dead period, per NCAA Notice of Allegations, obtained by @SINow.— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 22, 2022
Pruitt & wife Casey paid recruits $12K+ in cash, arranged fishing trips, nail salon visits https://t.co/7IKSWLuYS3
Tennessee was hit with 18 level-1 violations in the 51 page report from the NCAA. The total amount money used in these impermissible benefits came out to around $60,000. Everything from hotels and food, to pure cash payments was included in that 60k.
In the most serious of allegations, Pruitt and his staff hosted at least six prospects and their families on nine weekend unofficial visits during the yearlong dead period, providing them with lodging, meals, transportation, household goods and even furniture that totaled $12,000. Pruitt himself is charged with having made cash payments of $3,000 and $6,000 to two prospects’ mothers, the first used to assist in medical bills and the other for a downpayment on a vehicle. (Sports Illustrated)
Assistant coaches Derrick Ansley, Shelton Felton, Brian Niedermeyer were also hit with violations.
Tennessee went 3-7 back in 2020, leaving Pruitt’s job status up in the air. Making matters worse was the fact that Pruitt had signed a new contract extension in the previous offseason, bringing his buyout to a whopping $12 million.
Rumors began to bubble to the surface during the season finale against Texas A&M, and the next month was downright weird. Finally, everything came to a head in January, and Pruitt was finally fired. Tennessee saw plenty of players leave the program during that time — some (most?) likely connected to the allegations.
The University conducted their own investigation that resulted in the removal of Pruitt. They also self-reported these violations to the NCAA, and then went out and hired one of the best athletic directors in the country in Danny White. His cooperation, along with Chancellor Donde Plowman, likely will save Tennessee from any harsh penalty here.
Statement from Athletics Director Danny White
“Receipt of our Notice of Allegations was an expected, requisite step in this process—a process our university initiated proactively through decisive and transparent actions. This moves us one step closer to a final resolution. Until we get to that point, I am unable to discuss the case in any detail. As a university, we understand the need to take responsibility for what occurred, but we remain committed to protecting our current and future student-athletes.”
Tennessee has 90 days to respond to the allegations. They are not expected to contest the charges. It feels like the football program will avoid anything too harsh here, and it certainly feels like the NCAA is set to hammer Pruitt, Niedermeyer, Ansley and Felton.