The NCAA has charged Tennessee’s football program with 18 alleged Level I rules violations for about $60,000 worth of impermissible recruiting benefits given to incoming players and players under former coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Among other charges, Pruitt is accused of giving two prospective mothers about $9,000. His wife, Casey, is accused of making 25 cash payments totaling about $12,500 to help an expectant mother make a car payment.
Tennessee, which fired Pruitt in January 2021 after an internal investigation into the allegations, was not charged with a lack of institutional control because of its cooperation with NCAA investigators and its honesty in handling misconduct, the NCAA said in a notice of charges sent by the NCAA. Friday to the university.
“Throughout every step of this process, we took swift and decisive action to exemplify the NCAA’s long-standing values as reiterated in the members’ new constitution,” Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman said in a statement. “The university hired outside counsel to fully investigate the allegations about the football program, acted immediately to suspend the football coaches and staff, and shared our findings with NCAA enforcement staff.”
The NCAA accused the volunteers of “failing to adequately monitor its football program’s arrangement of unofficial visits and compliance with NCAA recruiting law.”
The NCAA accused Pruitt of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance and failing to supervise his staff. Pruitt is also charged with violating the NCAA Code of Ethics when he “knowingly arranged, provided and provided, provided, and provided additional benefits in the form of improper inducements and impermissible entertainment to prospective student-athletes and their family members or persons associated with prospective student-athletes.” and made cash payments to numerous persons, the notice said.
“Proud did not demonstrate that he supervised his staff or promoted a conducive atmosphere within the football program, and that his staff engaged in at least a dozen individual violations of NCAA law over a two-year period. Charges Nos. 1 through 9,” the notice of charges said. By nature, J. Pruitt failed to demonstrate that compliance is a shared responsibility or to establish clear expectations that all coaches and staff will comply with NCAA rules. This includes prompt reporting of actual and potential issues to compliance staff.”
The NCAA accused Pruitt and his staff of hosting six recruits and their families during a yearlong blackout in which, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, no on-campus recruiting activities were allowed. The NCAA said volunteers offered opportunities for unofficial visits over nine weekends between July 2020 and November 2020, offering prospects free lodging, meals, transportation and other benefits worth $12,000.
Among the perks allegedly offered to prospects were nail-salon treatments and trips down the Tennessee River on a student-athlete boat.
The NCAA awarded one of the coach’s wives, Casey Pruitt and/or Niedermayer, $3,200 for a security deposit and an initial rent payment to relocate to Knoxville, Tennessee. The person’s name was changed in a notice of allegations sent to ESPN by the university.
“Receiving notice of our allegations is an expected, necessary step in this process — one that our university has initiated through decisive and transparent actions,” Tennessee athletic director Danny White said in a statement. “This moves us one step closer to a final resolution. Until that point, I cannot discuss this case in detail. As a university, we understand the need to take responsibility for what happened, but we are committed to protecting our current and future student-athletes. “
Despite the high number of Level I violations, NCAA enforcement officials chose not to charge the university with a lack of institutional control and praised the volunteers for their cooperation during the investigation.
“The company’s actions during the investigation should be standard for any company investigation of possible violations,” the notice of charges said. “Throughout the investigation, the company demonstrated exemplary cooperation in several ways. Once the company’s president was alerted to the allegations of potential violations at the football event, the company took swift action to investigate the allegations and confirmed the various violations.
Pruitt was 16-19 overall at Tennessee and 10-16 against SEC opponents. The Vols were 2-11 against AP-ranked opponents under Pruitt, who was in his first year as a head coach. Pruitt served as the New York Giants’ senior defensive analyst in 2021.
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