Former Tennessee football staffers under Jeremy Pruitt hit with NCAA penalties

Four former members of the Tennessee State football staff have been disciplined by the NCAA for hiring violations and ineligible benefits under former head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

The NCAA announced Tuesday that four former Vols employees have reached an agreement with law enforcement officials, including fines for showing cause that will range from three to five years.

However, Tennessee and others involved in the case, including Pruitt, “challenged” the alleged violations or proposed punishments. As a result, the NCAA’s infractions committee will begin hearings to finalize the part of the case that includes possible fines for the football program.

This was reported by Sports Illustrated on Tuesday. that the four former Tennessee staffers who agreed to the NCAA punishment are assistant defensive coaches Brian Niedermeyer and Shelton Felton, and former director of player personnel Drew Hughes and former student assistant Michael Magness. These people agreed that violations, including cash payments to recruits and inadmissible contact with recruits during the dead period of COVID, took place “over several academic years.”

The NCAA said that fines for clear cause, which essentially prevent people from working in collegiate athletics, for the four people will begin immediately.

FILE - In this October 19, 2019 file photo, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt yells at officials during an NCAA college football game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The SEC entered this season with a contingency plan to deal with the coronavirus.  related questions.
Jeremy Pruitt was fired from Tennessee in January 2021 due to multiple NCAA infractions. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt, file)

Tennessee is facing 18 Level I violations.

Last July, the NCAA sent a notice of alleged violations to Tennessee, which included 18 Level I violations, the most serious in NCAA law enforcement.

The Tennessee football program, under Pruitt’s watch, was accused of handing out about $60,000 in unacceptable perks to recruits and their families over a three-year period. Pruitt and his staff also allegedly hosted several recruits during the NCAA-mandated dead period in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pruitt and nine others were fired in the case in January 2021 after Tennessee launched an internal investigation into the violations. Pruitt went 16–19 for three seasons in Tennessee, including going 3–7 in 2020, and has not been involved in college sports since. He spent a year as an assistant with the New York Giants but did not coach in the 2022 season.

Serious Sanctions Still Possible for Tennessee Football

Since Pruitt’s sacking, the Vols have made an impressive recovery under new coach Josh Hoipel. Hupel is 18-8 in two seasons, including 11-2 in 2022.

All this time, Tennessee has been cooperating, negotiating with the NCAA, trying to reach a solution. The school has imposed sanctions on itself, including cutting the number of football scholarships by 12 for the 2021 season.

But without an agreement reached with the NCAA at this time, it’s still possible that the school could still be subject to severe penalties at the upcoming Violations Committee hearing.


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