Four former Tennessee staffers under Jeremy Pruitt hit with show-cause penalties for violating NCAA rules
Four former Tennessee football staffers have been subjected to years of NCAA fines for their role in recruiting violations under former Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt, who has yet to be disciplined by the NCAA, and the school can still contest many of the charges, meaning their case remains open despite a partial settlement with employees who admitted to the NCAA that they violated recruitment rules.
Four employees identified sports illustrations as inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer, outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton, director of player personnel Drew Hughes and student assistant Michael Magness all acknowledged Level I violations related to cash payments, inappropriate contact with recruiters during the Covid-19 dead period and inducements. In total, Tennessee was charged with 18 Level I violations, the most serious violations.
Historically, the NCAA Violations Committee has made decisions involving all parties simultaneously. However, the NCAA Transformation Committee recommended that the committee could more easily “bifurcate” cases when different stakeholders are involved. The four aforementioned employees were willing to negotiate an effective settlement before the Tennessee investigation came to a close. This is the third time the NCAA has used multiple resolution paths.
NCAA notice of charges, which was delivered in July 2022, it was alleged that Tennessee players received $60,000 from Pruitt, his wife, and others associated with the program over several years, including $15,000 for a car and one player’s rent. The violations were self-reported, but Tennessee did not reach an agreement with the NCAA. Volunteers themselves imposed fines in response to violations.
Pruitt was fired in January 2021 amid a tumultuous investigation into the NCAA program. He went 16-19 for three seasons, including two losing seasons. Niedermeyer and Felton were also fired, along with Hughes, Magness and several other recruiters. Defense coordinator Derrick Ansley was later implicated as well.
Citing potential NCAA sanctions, Tennessee decided to fire Pruitt on the grounds that he could avoid a buyout that would be close to $13 million. Rumors circulated that Pruitt would take over as Alabama’s defensive coordinator this offseason, but the role ultimately went to former Pruitt assistant Kevin Steele as Pruitt waits for his NCAA situation to be resolved.
None of the four people who agreed to show reasons are coaching in college. Hughes is the director of personnel for the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Felton and Niedermeyer have been high school coaches. Magness works in sales. While Show Cause Orders do not prevent people from participating in college athletics, they are usually a strong deterrent.
After Pruitt was fired, Tennessee hired UCF coach Josh Hupel. The Volunteers compiled an 18–8 record over two seasons, including a 6th-place finish in the final AP Top 25, Tennessee’s best season since 2001.