Pruitt’s Attorney: No evidence of involvement in violations

“We’re going to follow the rules and we’re going to do what we can to advance the interests of coach Pruitt.”
Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 2:24 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -The attorney for former Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt says that he will do whatever it takes to protect Pruitt under the terms of his contract with the University.

Attorney Michael Lyons, who spoke to WVLT News from his Dallas-based trial firm Lyons & Simmons, maintains that there is no evidence that Pruitt was involved in or had any knowledge of any alleged NCAA violations.

In a letter sent to Pruitt on Monday from University of Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman, it stated that Pruitt was responsible for “becoming knowledgeable of and complying with all Governing Athletic Rules and University Rules.” Chancellor Plowman said in a press conference that Pruitt’s termination was “for cause,” meaning no $12.6 million buyout.

Lyons claims that the blame being put solely on Pruitt is not that simple.

“The bylaws within the NCAA require that there is a joint shared responsibility between the Institution, which includes the Chancellor, the Athletic Director, and the compliance department,” said Lyons, who also represented former University of Kansas head football coach David Beaty when his contract was terminated. “They, jointly with the head football coach, share the responsibilities of promoting a culture of compliance and monitoring.”

Lyons contends that the timing of the University’s actions and the decision appeared to be “preordained and more about financial convenience and expediency than a fair and complete factual determination by the University.”

When asked if Pruitt felt blindsided by his firing following the internal investigation which began in mid-November, Lyons said that this is a situation that all coaches are familiar with.

“Once that situation began to pick up steam, I think Coach Pruitt and any other coach in his position would know what the endgame is,” Lyons said.

Lyons added that the allegations swirling with what did or did not happen during Pruitt’s tenure with the Vols have been deeply disappointing to the Pruitt family.

“There’s a business aspect of intercollegiate athletics that the public knows,” said Lyons. “It doesn’t change the fact that these coaches are human beings. They give their heart and soul to their employers and to the institutions that they work for.”

Along with Pruitt, two assistants and seven members of the recruiting and support staff were fired. Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer, who hired Pruitt in December 2017, announced he would be retiring. Chancellor Plowman emphasized that there was no one outside of the football office involved in the allegations.

As for what happens next for Lyons and Pruitt with the investigation still ongoing, Lyons kept his next moves close to the chest.

“I can tell you that we’re going to move forward in good faith. We’re going to follow the rules and we’re going to do what we can to advance the interests of coach Pruitt.”

And as for Pruitt joining another Division 1 college football program anytime soon, Lyons had this to say.

“He’s certainly a guy that’s very well respected and very much in demand for his services.”

WVLT News has reached out to the University of Tennessee for an update on the investigations.

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