Last Updated on July 15, 2023
The Tennessee football program has been found guilty of committing 18 Level I violations over three seasons, which included over 200 individual infractions, primarily related to recruiting breaches and direct payments made to prospects, student-athletes, and their families. Additionally, four Level I unethical conduct violations involving former university employees were identified.
Although NCAA rules and penalty guidelines require a 1-2 year postseason ban for violations of this level, a new constitution adopted in January 2022 says, “to the greatest extent possible that penalties imposed for infractions do not punish programs or student-athletes not involved nor implicated in infractions.”
So, instead of a postseason ban, the panel chose an enhanced financial penalty of $8 million. There’s also a laundry list of other penalties and sanctions.
Sanctions Against Tennessee
- An enhanced financial penalty of $8M, meant to represent the financial equivalent of missing two postseasons.
- A legislated fine of $5,000 plus 3% of the football budget, plus a fine to address ineligible play in the 2020 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Game.
- Five years of probation.
- Reduction of 28 football scholarships throughout the probationary period, with a minimum of two scholarships per year. Tennessee had previously self-imposed and is credited with 16 scholarship reductions from the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years.
- Reduction of 36 football official visits during the probationary period, including at least four visits per year. Tennessee will prohibit official visits for a total of 10 regular-season home games, four of which must involve SEC opponents. The school already self-imposed and is credited with a reduction of seven official visits from the 2021-22 academic year, with additional reductions possible for regular-season home games in the 2022-23 academic year.
- Reduction of 40 weeks for football unofficial visits during the probationary period, with a minimum of six weeks per year. Tennessee will prohibit unofficial visits for 10 regular-season home games, including four against SEC opponents. The school previously self-imposed a six-week reduction in 2021 and two weeks during 2022, with potential additional reductions for regular-season home games in the 2022-23 academic year.
- A 28-week ban on recruiting communications during the probationary period, including at least three weeks per year. This includes one week each in December and January, and one week between March and June.
- A reduction of 120 evaluation days throughout the probationary period. Tennessee self-imposed and is credited with a reduction of 12 days in fall 2021 and eight days in spring 2022, with further reductions possible during the 2022-23 academic year.
- Vacation of all records in which ineligible student-athletes competed. The university must provide a written report detailing the affected contests to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 14 days of the decision’s public release.
- Indefinite disassociation of an unnamed booster referred to as “Booster 2” (self-imposed by the school during the 2021 football season).
- Additional self-imposed penalties, including forgoing the purchase of advertising during all football postseason broadcasts in which Tennessee participates during the 2023-24 academic year. Additionally, an external group will conduct an annual compliance review of the football program with a focus on recruiting operations, and Tennessee will host mandatory annual compliance seminars on recruiting for all football staff, with representatives from the NCAA or the Southeastern Conference in attendance.
Show-Cause Orders Against Coaches and Staff
There were also a number of show-cause orders issued against coaches and recruiting staff:
- A 6-year show-cause order for Jeremy Pruitt, which includes a potential suspension from 100% of his first season of employment if he joins an NCAA school in an athletically related position during the show-cause period.
- A 2-year show-cause order for former assistant coach Derrick Ansley, with a prohibition from participating in on- and off-campus recruiting activities if employed by an NCAA member school during that period (he’s currently a DC with the Los Angeles Chargers).
- A 5-year show-cause order for the former director of recruiting, Bethany Gunn.
- A 10-year show-cause order for the former assistant director of recruiting, Chantryce Boone.
- A self-imposed 5-year show-cause order for former assistant coach Brian Niedermeyer.
- A self-imposed 4-year show-cause order for former assistant Shelton Felton.
- A self-imposed 4-year show-cause order for former director of player personnel Drew Hughes.
- A self-imposed 3-year show-cause order for former student assistant Michael Magness.