Tenn. releases official response to NCAA investigation of football program

University officials said they investigated the team from Nov. of 2020, through May of 2021, conducting more than 120 interviews.
Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 4:11 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The University of Tennessee released its official response to the 18 violations set forth by the NCAA.

“Unfortunately, this case demonstrates that several former football coaches and noncoaching staff members, including former head football coach Jeremy Pruitt (J. Pruitt), disregarded the University’s compliance expectations by knowingly committing serious violations,” university officials said in the response obtained by WVLT News.

University officials said they investigated the team from Nov. of 2020, through May 2021, conducting more than 120 interviews.

“University investigators spent considerable time and resources to review, evaluate and cite to the voluminous case record, which included over 230,000 pages of forensically imaged cell phone data, and to produce a report of the investigation (and all related evidence) to the NCAA enforcement staff in a manner that would expedite the staff’s supplemental investigation. In addition to collecting and producing the overwhelming majority of the factual record in this case, University investigators sought and obtained numerous interviews and records from third parties who had no obligation to cooperate in the investigation.”

University officials said they were only fully disputing one of the 18 violations. They said their own investigation determined allegations 1-9 did occur and they were accepting responsibility for the allegations. Allegations 10-17 were also confirmed to be true by their investigation but the individuals responsible should be punished, not the program.

The only violation they are disputing is a failure to monitor their own football program which carries the heaviest penalty which would include a postseason ban.

“The University’s efforts to monitor the football program were no less rigorous and included placing an experienced athletics compliance staff member directly in the football offices throughout J. Pruitt’s tenure. In short, the University’s expectations for NCAA rules compliance were clear, yet J. Pruitt and his staff repeatedly deceived the University to such a degree that compliance staff could not reasonably prevent, or immediately detect, the intentional misconduct that occurred in this case.”

The University Reported

None of the staff who were involved in the allegations currently work at the university which is why they are asking the NCAA to not impose penalties that adversely impact the current program since they were not involved in the alleged violations.

“The application of traditional penalties that negatively impact the student-athlete experience does not align with the reality of this new era, and some of the most severe penalties (i.e., postseason bans) are unfair, counterproductive, and place a significant portion of accountability for the violations on student-athletes and coaches who had no responsibility for the violations.”

The NCAA acknowledged that university officials had self-reported most of the violations and also gave the program credit for its cooperation in the investigation. NCAA officials also said that the problem did not stem from the program itself, a key decision that could spare the program from the most serious punishments.