University of Tennessee released Thursday its 108-page response to the NCAA's notice of allegations of rules violations committed under Jeremy Pruitt.
The University of Tennessee disputed the NCAA's finding that it failed to monitor the football program while recruiting violations were committed under fired coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Instead, the university said Pruitt, his wife and his staff knowingly concealed their malfeasance despite Tennessee's best efforts to follow NCAA rules in monitoring the football program. That was the university's only major dispute in responding to the NCAA notice of allegations.
The Knoxville News Sentinel, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, obtained the university's 108-page response to the NCAA on Thursday morning.
In the document, Tennessee had minor disputes with five of the 18 Level 1 violations that the NCAA found during its investigation. Otherwise, it agreed generally that rules were broken and that almost $60,000 of cash or gifts were provided to players and their families by Pruitt, his wife and numerous coaches, recruiting staff and at least one booster.
But the university argued that it was not guilty of the 18th violation — the most serious against the institution, failure to monitor the football program.
"Despite the University’s monitoring efforts, athletics administrators and athletics compliance staffmembers were repeatedly deceived by the football program," Tennessee said in the response to the NCAA. "The University respectfully submits that it is unrealistic to expect an institution to prevent, or immediately detect, the intentional and concealed misconduct that occurred in this case."
The NCAA alleged the Level 1 violations — the most serious in its four-tier system — were committed by Jeremy and wife Casey Pruitt; assistant coaches Derrick Ansley, Shelton Felton and Brian Niedermeyer; recruiting staff members Drew Hughes, Bethany Gunn and Chantryce Boone; and an unnamed booster from 2018-21.
Tennessee argued those individuals knew what they were doing was wrong and intentionally kept the university in the dark.
"The factual information in this case demonstrates that experienced football coaches and non-coaching staff members knowingly violated longstanding and universally understood NCAA rules and went to considerable lengths to conceal their misconduct," the university said in its response. "The record also supports that the University monitored football recruiting visits in accordance with industry standards.
"As part of the University’s monitoring efforts, athletics administration and athletics compliance staff maintained a physical presence in and around the football program (including embedding an experienced compliance staff member in the program)."