UT responds to Pruitt’s lawyer in heated letter

The lawyer for former University of Tennessee football coach, Jeremy Pruitt, gave the University of Tennessee a deadline for making a settlement, according to WVLT contributor and ESPN reporter Chris Low.
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 12:04 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2021 at 2:59 PM EDT
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UT Responds to Pruitt’s Lawyer in Heated Letter

WATCH: UT officials are now responding after former Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt's lawyer threatened the University to reach a settlement by Oct. 29. Read more:

Posted by WVLT on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The lawyer for former University of Tennessee football coach, Jeremy Pruitt, gave the University of Tennessee a deadline for making a settlement, according to WVLT contributor and ESPN reporter Chris Low.

Pruitt’s lawyer, Michael Lyons, gave the university an Oct. 29 deadline to settle.

Lyons wrote a letter to UT’s lawyer requesting a meeting to address a $12.6 million buyout which he claims Pruitt is owed for being fired in January, according to Low.

“As we have previously discussed, a public lawsuit with its related discovery, document productions, depositions, disclosures, and court filings is a no-win situation for UT,” Lyons wrote in the letter, which was obtained by ESPN on Tuesday through an open records request. “Even if UT prevails on its claimed defenses to the contract, which is unlikely, the public revelations from the lawsuit will invariably embarrass UT, its athletics department and the administration. All of the parties to this dispute should try to avoid that.”

Lyons alleged in his letter that the university covered up multiple NCAA violations before and during Pruitt’s time as a coach and threatened that a future lawsuit “could ensnare the parties for years to come, impugn the university’s reputation further, and potentially cripple UT’s athletic programs for years,” according to Low.

UT’s counsel, Ryan Stinnett, responded that the university had no plans to settle with the former coach, according to a letter obtained by WVLT News.

“The University maintains that it had proper cause to terminate your client for breach of his employment agreement in January, and our position has only strengthened since then,” Stinnett said in his response.

The letter also shares that the dispute comes at a time when University is focused on the football program under it’s new leadership.

“We understand that you have communicated with a member of the media about the letter, which is why we are unfortunately having to respond during a time in which those who care about the University of Tennessee are otherwise focused on the incredibly positive direction of the University’s football program under its new leadership.”

According to a letter written on October 18, the claims written by Lyons contains no denial of Pruitt’s actions and instead, raised a vague and unsupported allegations of the other violations by the University.

“You raise vague and unsupported allegations of other violations by the University and threaten to embarrass the University publicly by revealing these alleged violations,” as stated in the letter.

Additionally, the letter clarifies that if Pruitt decided to pursue the lawsuit that the University has enough evidence to justify his termination from the school.

“If your client chooses to pursue this matter through legal channels, rest assured that the University will mount a vigorous defense, and evidence already gathered is sufficient to persuade any factfinder that your client’s termination for cause was fully justified.”

Low spoke with UT Basketball Coach Rick Barnes who said, “I’m really disappointed that Jeremy would throw people’s names around that he knows did nothing but support him the entire time he was here and make these unsubstantiated claims.”

Phillip Fulmer, the Vols’ Hall of Fame former head football coach, hired Pruitt in December 2017, a week after being named athletic director.

“The days I interviewed each candidate for the head football coaching position at the University of Tennessee, including Jeremy Pruitt, I emphasized that you did not have to cheat to win at the University of Tennessee and that cheating would not be tolerated,” Fulmer told ESPN. “Jeremy has no one to blame but himself for his firing from UT. He had a great opportunity at a great university, and he simply screwed it up.”

The letter to Lyons from Stinnett concluded that the University has already taken the necessary steps to preserve all evidence pertaining to Pruitt’s termination and the underlying investigation and that his attempt to expose the University’s ruling is embarrassing to himself and the University. “Your attempts to drag innocent donors and other coaches into this matter is tactless, highly offensive, and only serves to exacerbate this dispute.”

You can read the full letter from the University here:

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