KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The NCAA on Friday announced penalties issued to the University of Tennessee for ‘hundreds’ of recruiting violations that occurred during former head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s tenure.
Tennessee was found to have committed 18 Level I violations over three seasons that led to then-head coach Pruitt and several other football staffers being fired for cause in 2021.
Level I violations constitute the most severe breaches of conduct in the NCAA’s four-tiered infraction system. While NCAA guidelines call for one or two-year postseason bans for Level I violations, Tennessee will not incur any bans from postseason play under the new NCAA policy which aims to avoid punishing programs or student-athletes not involved in the infractions.
Tennessee has been issued a $8 million fine. NCAA Infractions Committee chief hearing officer Kay Norton said Friday that the financial penalty is, “exponentially larger than the largest fine ever levied by the committee on infractions.”
Additionally, the panel also prescribed a fine of $5,000 plus 3% of the football program budget and a to-be-calculated fine for the participation of three ineligible players in the 2020 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.
A list of recruiting-related penalties issued can be found below.
NCAA penalties issued to Tennessee
- Five years of probation
- A reduction of 28 football scholarships, 16 of which have already occurred under self-imposed sanctions by Tennessee over the last two academic years.
- A reduction of 36 official football visits during the probationary period. Tennessee has already been credited for a reduction of seven.
- A reduction in football unofficial visits by a total of 40 weeks during the term of probation, eight of which have already been credited.
- A 28-week ban on recruiting communications during probation.
- A total reduction in evaluation days by 120 during probation, 20 of which have already been credited.
A school spokesperson confirmed Sunday that the program must vacate all 11 wins from the 2019 and 2020 seasons, putting Pruitt’s final record at 5-19 and the school’s all-time record to 856-410-53.
Pruitt, who most recently worked for the NFL’s New York Giants as a defensive assistant in 2021, was issued a six-year show-cause order. If he were to take an athletics position at an NCAA school in the future, he would be suspended for the first full year of the job.
Show-cause penalties make it difficult for the violator to get another job in the NCAA. Three other unnamed football personnel received show-cause penalties ranging from two to 10 years.
A notice of allegations sent to university leaders in July 2022 detailed more than 200 individual violations that led to the dismissal of Pruitt and nine other football staffers. Both Pruitt and his wife Casey were among those charged with giving impermissible gifts or cash payments to players’ families totaling $60,000.
The NCAA panel noted the university’s “exemplary cooperation” with their investigation in their announcement. Norton noted Friday that the university could have been issued a postseason ban had they not cooperated with the NCAA.
“Tennessee’s cooperation throughout the investigation and processing of this case was exemplary by any measure,” the panel said in a statement. “Although this case involved egregious conduct, (Tennessee’s) response to that conduct is the model all institutions should strive to follow.”