Tennessee accused of 18 NCAA violations under former coach Jeremy Pruitt

Former Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff are accused of committing nearly 20 NCAA violations.

According to Sports Illustrated, the NCAA sent Tennessee a notice of allegations on Friday that outlines the alleged violations that happened during Pruitt’s tenure. Pruitt was fired after the 2020 season as Tennessee said that it had found evidence of NCAA violations. By firing Pruitt for cause, Tennessee said that it wasn’t contractually obligated to pay Pruitt’s $13 million buyout.

The allegations center around recruiting violations and even include Pruitt making cash payments to two recruits’ mothers. In all, the sum dollar value of the 18 allegations is $60,000. From SI:

In the most serious of allegations, Pruitt and his staff hosted at least six prospects and their families on nine weekend unofficial visits during the yearlong dead period, providing them with lodging, meals, transportation, household goods and even furniture that totaled $12,000. Pruitt himself is charged with having made cash payments of $3,000 and $6,000 to two prospects’ mothers, the first used to assist in medical bills and the other for a downpayment on a vehicle.

Pruitt was fired after Tennessee initiated its own investigation into wrongdoing within the program. That investigation came after Tennessee finished the 2020 season 3-7 and lost seven of its last eight games. None of the Vols’ losses were by fewer than 11 points.

Pruitt’s wife Casey, a former athletic department employee at two other schools, is also accused to making $12,500 in cash payments to recruits and their families. Seven other staff members are named in the NCAA’s notice of allegations. Tennessee wasn’t charged with a lack of institutional control since it initiated its own investigation of the violations.

FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2019, file photo, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt yells to his players during an NCAA college football game against Chattanooga in Knoxville, Tenn. Pruitt said he canceled Friday's practice for No. 25 Tennessee due to a
Tennessee went 16-19 in Jeremy Pruitt's three seasons with the team. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

The investigation came under athletic director Danny White. He was hired to replace former Tennessee football coach Phil Fulmer after Fulmer stepped down a day after Pruitt was fired for cause. Following Pruitt's firing, the former coach's attorney threatened to sue Tennessee in an attempt to recoup Pruitt's buyout. However, no legal action appears to have been initiated in the months since Tennessee hired Josh Heupel to replace Pruitt.

“Receipt of our Notice of Allegations was an expected, requisite step in this process — a process our university initiated proactively through decisive and transparent actions," White said in a statement. "This moves us one step closer to a final resolution. Until we get to that point, I am unable to discuss the case in any detail. As a university, we understand the need to take responsibility for what occurred, but we remain committed to protecting our current and future student-athletes.”

Fulmer became Tennessee’s athletic director after a messy coaching search that led to Pruitt’s hiring. Pruitt was hired after backlash to former AD John Currie’s potential hire of Greg Schiano led to Currie leaving the school.

A former assistant at Georgia and Alabama, Pruitt had a record of 16-19 at Tennessee. The Vols’ lone winning season under Pruitt came in 2019 when UT went 8-5 and won the Gator Bowl. After he was fired from Tennessee, Pruitt spend the 2021 season on the New York Giants' coaching staff but that staff was fired at the end of the season.