The Tennessee Vols had their best drive of the season in the first quarter against Texas A&M.
True freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey took the Vols down the field with ease and capped the drive with a 33-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jacob Warren.
Good vibes for Tennessee, finally.
And then the bad news came.
Fox Sports Knoxville’s Trey Wallace reported shortly after the touchdown that Tennessee is under investigation by its own compliance department and the NCAA.
According to sources, the University’s general counsel has been interviewing subjects that are the focus of the investigation over the past several weeks. Multiple sources suggest the investigation dates back to at least early December.
The alleged violations are said to involve players recruited by Tennessee and players currently on the roster.
Inside Linebackers Coach Brian Niedermeyer, multiple Tennessee assistant coaches, support staffers, and players have been questioned by the university’s compliance department. Also, members of Tennessee’s recruiting department have been questioned.
According to sources, Tennessee’s compliance department, including Adam Tate, was made aware of potential violations and began an investigation immediately.
Prior to the game, it was announced that defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley, running backs coach Jay Graham, running back Eric Gray and quarterback Brian Maurer would all miss today’s game.
No reason was given for their absences, though I’m hearing that Gray and Maurer are not out because of COVID related issues.
I don’t want to speculate too much on why Graham is out, but it should be noted that he was hit with a six-month show-cause penalty earlier this year (due to violations that occurred at Texas A&M) that runs through December 31.
It’s certainly possible that nothing comes of this report. Programs are investigated all the time. But players sitting out and the direct mention of on-field coaches is definitely reason for concern.
Considering the poor season that Tennessee’s had this season, it’s absolutely possible that this is the beginning of the end for Pruitt at UT (for what it’s worth, I’ve heard things are a “mess” at UT and there’s debate among Phillip Fulmer and senior-level officials on Pruitt’s future at the program).
Investigations can be tough for a head coach to service. It’s even tougher for a head coach whose team hasn’t played very well this season.
Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports