The NCAA said Tuesday that the four had reached agreements with the enforcement staff that include show-cause penalties ranging from three to five years, making it difficult for them to get other college jobs during that time. The NCAA did not identify the former staffers who worked under former coach Jeremy Pruitt, but SI.com identified them as inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer, outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton, director of player personnel Drew Hughes and student assistant Michael Magness.
The agreement has received preliminary approval from a Committee on Infractions panel. Tennessee and other individuals named in the case have contested either violations, certain penalties or both. In a statement after the negotiated resolutions for the four ex-staffers were announced, Tennessee cited its cooperation with the NCAA during its investigation.
“Through that process, the individuals acknowledged their involvement in violations, including unethical conduct and, in some cases, failing to cooperate with investigators,” the school said. “The university continues to pursue a resolution of its case that recognizes and demonstrates for other NCAA member institutions that the actions taken by the university during the investigation, including our swift corrective actions and exemplary cooperation, should be the standard for institutional inquiries into potential violations.”
The four will be able to begin serving their penalties immediately without having to wait for the final ruling from the Division I Committee on Infractions.
The NCAA notified Tennessee in July 2022 of 18 potential Level I violations, the most serious, for allegations of providing impermissible cash, gifts and benefits worth about $60,000 to football recruits and their families under Pruitt. The notice of allegations says at least a dozen members of Pruitt’s staff were involved in more than 200 individual violations over a two-year period.
The university fired Pruitt and nine others in January 2021 after Tennessee found what the university chancellor called “serious violations of NCAA rules” uncovered in an internal investigation. The firing negated Pruitt’s $12.6 million buyout after he went 16-19 in three seasons.
The show-cause penalties announced Tuesday stemmed from violations over several years and involved cash payments to recruits and their families, along with improper recruiting contacts during a dead period for COVID-19 and other inducements during unofficial visits.
Tennessee did not self-impose a postseason ban to avoid punishing current players.
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