The NCAA has charged the Tennessee football program with 18 alleged Level 1 rule violations, the most severe according to its rules, for disallowed recruiting benefits totaling about $60,000 that were paid to prospects under former coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Among other allegations, Pruitt is accused of providing about $9,000 to the prospective mothers of two. His wife, Casey, is accused of making 25 cash payments totaling about $12,500 to help a potential mother make her car payments.
In a notice of allegations sent to Tennessee, which fired Pruitt in January 2021 after its internal investigation into the allegations, the NCAA said it was not accused of lack of institutional oversight because of its cooperation with NCAA investigators and its impartiality in dealing with misconduct. to the university on Friday.
“In every step of this process, we have taken swift and decisive action that exemplifies the enduring values of the NCAA that are affirmed in the new membership constitution,” Tennessee Chancellor Dondy Plowman said in a statement. “The university appointed an outside counsel to fully investigate the allegations regarding the football program, acted promptly to terminate the employment of football coaches and staff, and shared our findings with the NCAA application staff.”
The NCAA has accused Pruitt of failing to foster an atmosphere of compliance and of failing to monitor its employees. Former defensive coordinator Derek Ansley, now backing the Los Angeles Chargers coach defensively; Former outside quarterback coach Brian Niedermayer, now the defensive coordinator at IMG Academy; Former internship linebacker Shelton Felton, now the head coach at Valdosta High School in Georgia, was also cited in the alleged rule violations, along with his personnel director, recruiting director, and two other employees.
Pruitt has not demonstrated that he was monitoring his employees or promoting 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 detailed in Claims 1 through 9. . “As evidenced by the number of employees involved and the nature of the violations, J. Pruitt failed to demonstrate that compliance is a shared responsibility or set clear expectations that all coaches and employees are complying with NCAA rules and failed to establish a program that includes prompt reporting of actual and potential issues to compliance personnel.”
The NCAA has charged Pruitt and his staff with hosting six recruits and their families during a year-long fatality, as programs were not allowed to have on-campus recruiting activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCAA said volunteers hosted prospects on casual visits on nine weekends between July 2020 and November 2020, with prospects given free accommodation, meals, transportation and other benefits totaling $12,000.
Among the benefits allegedly offered to the prospects were nail salon treatments and a trip on the Tennessee River on a student-athlete boat.
“Receiving the notice of the allegations was an expected and necessary step in this process – a process that our university has proactively initiated through decisive and transparent actions,” Tennessee Athletics Director Danny White said in a statement. “This brings us one step closer to a final solution. Until we get to this point, I cannot discuss the issue in any 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 large number of Level I violations, NCAA application staff chose not to charge the university with a lack of institutional oversight, and even praised the volunteers for their cooperation during the investigation.
“The actions taken by the institution during the investigation should be the standard for any institutional investigations into potential abuses,” the notice of the allegations said. “Throughout the investigation period, the Foundation demonstrated exemplary cooperation in multiple ways. Once the Foundation’s counsel was alerted to allegations of potential violations within the football program, the Foundation took swift action to investigate the allegations and establish the various violations.
Pruitt was 16-19 overall in Tennessee and 10-16 against SEC opponents. The Vols were 2-11 against AP-ranked opponents under Pruitt, who was in his first stint as head coach. Pruitt worked as a senior defensive analyst for the New York Giants in 2021.
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