Tennessee throws Pruitt under the bus

Christopher Walsh

Administrator
Staff member

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)."
 

Christopher Walsh

Administrator
Staff member
The SI story:



Jeremy Pruitt paid a player’s mother several hundred dollars in a Chick-fil-A bag while serving as football coach at Tennessee, according to a Knoxville News Sentinel report.

The news was one of several revelations in a 108-page response from the school to an NCAA notice of allegations obtained by the media outlet Thursday.

Pruitt admitted to giving the player’s mother $300 or $400 in the fast food bag after she asked for money during a meeting on campus in August 2020, according to the News Sentinel. The ex-Vols coach told NCAA investigators, “it was the human thing, the right thing to do” in a March 2022 interview.

Also revealed in the response document to the NCAA is the allegation that Pruitt’s babysitter delivered money to a player’s mother for car payments, the News Sentinel reported. The initial statement of allegations from the NCAA alleged in July that Pruitt, his staff and his wife provided nearly $60,000 in cash and gifts to players and their families during his tenure in Knoxville.

In the response document, the school denies that it failed to provide oversight of the program while recruited violations transpired on Pruitt’s watch. The school alleges that Pruitt, his staff and his wife concealed their wrongdoing despite the school’s best efforts to follow NCAA rules, per the News Sentinel.

“Despite the University’s monitoring efforts, athletics administrators and athletics compliance staffmembers were repeatedly deceived by the football program,” the school said in the response to the NCAA, per the News Sentinel. “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.”

Pruitt, who served as Alabama defensive coordinator prior to being hired at Tennessee, compiled a 16–19 record in three seasons at the helm for the Vols.
 
Top