The Tennessee Vols are the talk of the college football world right now thanks to a recruiting scandal that has cost three coaches their jobs (along with several recruiting staffers).
On Monday, Tennessee fired head coach Jeremy Pruitt, inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer, and outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton after an internal investigation revealed numerous level I and level II recruiting violations.
“The scope of the actions should indicate to you that the number of violations is significant, and the number of people involved (is significant) — and deliberate efforts to conceal these activities from our compliance office,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman in an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel this week.
Tennessee’s attorneys interviewed Pruitt, assistant coaches, staffers, and players over the last several weeks. Pruitt’s interview was monitored by the NCAA. Sanctions are almost certainly on the way.
So where did it all go wrong for the Vols?
A source with knowledge of the NCAA’s investigation of Tennessee tells AtoZ Sports Nashville, that the NCAA was aware of Tennessee’s “sloppy” recruiting practices for over a year now.
The NCAA started paying close attention to UT because the program was giving out free gear to recruits. That may not seem like a big deal, but it’s not allowed under NCAA rules. And it’s a pretty easy way to get caught not being above-board with recruiting rules.
From there, things devolved. We know that at least one assistant coach was funneling benefits to players/recruits through a current player on the team.
On Tuesday, Dan Patrick reported that Tennessee was handing recruits cash in McDonald’s bags on recruiting visits.
Source: Tennessee #Vols got sloppy with recruiting. They were handing recruits cash in McDonald’s bags when they visited campus.
Also a name to look out for to fill the Head Coaching vacancy: Jason Witten pic.twitter.com/HKDd02rldz
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) January 19, 2021
That’s a fun story, but according to the same source, it’s absolutely not true.
Did Tennessee get sloppy in their recruiting efforts?
Absolutely. That’s why they need a new head coach.
But they weren’t quite as reckless as Patrick suggested on Tuesday. And they weren’t using McDonald’s bags to give money to recruits.
This stuff happens at nearly every major program. Tennessee got a little too comfortable, though, and made it easy for attorneys to uncover more information than they’d be able to uncover at most programs.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports