The University of Tennessee now knows exactly what it faces in the NCAA’s investigation into football recruiting violations under fired coach Jeremy Pruitt.
In a Notice of Allegations submitted to the university on Friday, the NCAA lists 18 violations and nearly $60,000 in cash or gifts given to players and their families by Pruitt, his wife and numerous coaches, recruiting staff and at least one reminder.
Knox News obtained the 51-page document on Friday.
In the Notice of Allegations, the NCAA credited Tennessee for the self-declaration violations and its “exemplary cooperation” in the investigation. Nor did he find the university lacking in institutional control, an important move that likely shields the program from crippling levels of punishment.
The NCAA says Pruitt and his team gave players money and gifts throughout his tenure with the Vols from 2018-21. And he says his wife, Casey Pruitt, paid more than $15,000 in rent and car payments for a Tennessee player and his mother for 2 and a half years.
All 18 offenses are Level I, the most serious of the NCAA’s four-level offense structure.
They include offenses allegedly committed by Jeremy and Casey Pruitt; assistant coaches Derrick Ansley, Shelton Felton and Brian Niedermeyer; and recruit staffers Drew Hughes, Bethany Gunn and Chantryce Boone.
None of those named in the allegations no longer work for Tennessee: They were either fired or left to fend for themselves after the university began its own investigation in November 2020. Tennessee ultimately fired Pruitt for cause, an unusual move at the highest university level. athletics, and a decision that could be a major factor in limiting punishment for the football program.
The NCAA is going out of its way to praise the way university leaders have handled the scandal, saying “the steps taken by the institution during the investigation should be the standard for any institutional investigation into potential violations.”
The report lists 32 cases of rookies or players taking money or gifts, but because names have been redacted, it’s impossible to say how many individual players the NCAA has identified, as some could have been involved in multiple violations.
Now comes the penalty phase of the case.
Tennessee and the named individuals have 90 days to respond to the Notice of Allegations. Then, NCAA law enforcement personnel have 60 days to respond to those responses.
Could Tennessee’s cooperation mean lighter penalties?
The document reflects the serious tone introduced by UT Chancellor Donde Plowman in January 2021. It was then that she fired Pruitt for cause, along with two assistant coaches and seven staff members, and announced that a university investigation had revealed evidence of serious and serious NCAA violations. under Pruitt’s supervision.
“At every step of this process, the university’s quick and decisive actions have exemplified longstanding NCAA values that are reiterated in the new membership constitution,” a university statement said.
“While NCAA statutes prohibit the university from publicly commenting on specific allegations, the university has and will continue to seek a resolution to this matter that is consistent with the new NCAA constitution and in the best interests of the ‘University of Tennessee.
In January, the NCAA ratified a new constitution that calls for individuals to be punished rather than “student-athletes innocent of infractions,” and that postseason bans rarely be enforced as penalties.
Tennessee hasn’t imposed a self-imposed bowl ban because it doesn’t want to punish players for the actions of coaches and staff who are no longer in the program, though sources familiar with the matter have said. told Knox News that Tennessee imposed restrictions on recruiting and scholarships last year without making a public announcement.
Here are the 18 offenses listed in the Notice of Allegations:
From late July to mid-November 2020, six recruits made unofficial visits to campus and accepted cash or gifts during the recruiting dead periods amid the COVID-19 pandemic. None of those recruits enrolled in Tennessee.
Coaches Jeremy Pruitt, Ansley, Felton and Niedermeyer and scouts Gunn, Boone and an unnamed student assistant arranged or provided $12,173 in hotel stays, meals, entertainment, transportation and team clothing.
Also, Casey Pruitt arranged for a realtor to meet with a rookie’s family.
Jeremy Pruitt, Gunn, Boone and an anonymous booster arranged or provided a player with $12,707 in hotel stays, meals, airfare and other transportation, game day parking, furniture and October household items 2018 to December 2020.
This included Jeremy Pruitt paying $3,000 cash to the player’s mother to help pay his debt for a medical bill. The giveaways started when Tennessee was recruiting the prospect and continued after he signed up and played for the Vols.
Casey Pruitt provided $12,500 in cash car payments – 25 payments of $500 each – and $3,000 in cash rent payments for a player and his mother from September 2018 to March 2021. The giveaways began during the recruiting the prospect and continued after he signed up and played for Vol.
This accounted for the bulk of the $23,260 in ineligible inducements given to the player by Jeremy and Casey Pruitt, Felton, Niedermeyer and Gunn. The remainder included hotel stays, meals, entertainment, team apparel and game day parking.
Notably, Casey Pruitt worked at Florida State‘s NCAA compliance office in 2013 when she met Jeremy Pruitt, then the Seminoles’ defensive coordinator. She was responsible for checking player eligibility and making sure the athletic department was following NCAA rules. She also worked in the compliance office at the University of Troy.
Gunn and Hughes provided or arranged $1,983 for a rookie and his family from November 2018 to December 2019, including hotel stays, game-day parking and team apparel. The rookie then signed up at Tennessee and played for the Vols.
Niedermeyer and Gunn arranged or provided $2,463 for a rookie and his family from January to December 2019, including cash, hotel stays, entertainment, transportation and team apparel.
Niedermeyer also paid the recruit $750 in cash at his high school, provided more gifts on an unofficial visit, and accompanied the recruit and his family on a flight to Knoxville for an official visit. The rookie did not enroll in Tennessee.
Offenses 6 and 7
Gunn arranged or provided a combined $1,755 for two rookies and their families, including hotel stays, meals and game-day parking. Both rookies signed up at Tennessee and played for the Vols.
From January 2019 to November 2020, coaches and staff provided $3,919 to 13 recruits and their families in cash, hotel stays, meals, entertainment, transportation and team apparel . Nine of the rookies signed up at Tennessee, including six who played in games for the Vols.
Jeremy Pruitt, Felton, Ansley, Gunn, Boone and Hughes hosted or provided the benefits. The coaches also had forbidden contact with one of the recruits during the COVID-19 dead recruit period.
At least seven Tennessee football players received $1,338 in cash from April through November 2020 for living and other expenses incurred in hosting prospects for unauthorized recruiting visits during the dead period of COVID- 19.
Jeremy Pruitt, Niedermeyer, Gunn, Boone, and an anonymous student recruitment assistant arranged or provided the payments. Four of the players have played in games for the Vols.
Jeremy Pruitt, Felton, Niedermeyer, Gunn, Boone, Hughes and an unnamed student recruitment assistant were each assigned a Level I violation for unethical conduct.
The investigation determined that they knowingly offered impermissible inducements to recruits, provided false information to investigators, and influenced others to do so.
The investigation determined that Jeremy Pruitt committed a head coaching liability violation because he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in the football program and monitor staff from September 2018 to January 2021.
This period lasted all but the first eight months of his tenure.
The investigation determined that the university failed to monitor the football program’s recruiting plans to ensure staff followed NCAA rules during Jeremy Pruitt’s tenure. However, the university was not found to have committed the worst violation of lack of institutional control.
Case cost so far
Tennessee paid $1.12 million in legal fees to the firm Bond, Schoeneck & King from November 2020 to February 2022 to work on the NCAA case, according to invoices the university provided to Knox News after a request for public records. The latest rates, billed quarterly, are not yet available.
That pales in comparison to the $12.6 million buyout the university refused to pay Pruitt when he was fired for cause over the allegations.
Contact Adam Sparks at [email protected] and on Twitter @AdamSparks.