Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde discuss the NCAA Notice of Allegations sent to Tennessee relating to 18 Level 1 violations allegedly committed by former head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff.
DAN WETZEL: Tennessee Vols Jeremy Pruitt era is closing, finally. A disastrous decision. Probably one of the worst hires in SEC history, and it's an illustrious group there.
18 level one violations. It's not the amount, it's $60,000 about in gifts, cash, food, all that. It's the incredible brazenness of this, which is comical.
Now, Tennessee is not that upset about these violations because whatever they're going to pay, they don't have to pay Jeremy Pruitt $12.6 million buyout, or they're going to say, because Pruitt took the NCAA manual and just lit it on fire. I mean, it includes his wife becoming a bag woman, helping pay car payments and stuff.
And to let-- you know, of these things are fairly small, but clear violations. Jeremy Pruitt's wife was a compliance director--
PAT FORDE: That's one of the best parts.
DAN WETZEL: --at Florida State and Troy. And she committed NCAA violations, allegedly. The entire staff is practically involved in this thing.
PAT FORDE: Yeah. It's a full team effort.
DAN WETZEL: The violations occurred, like, not only were they doing illegal on these little recruiting visits, but it was during a dead period.
PAT FORDE: A COVID dead period.
DAN WETZEL: Or during a COVID shutdown. Yeah, right.
PAT FORDE: Yeah, not just a, well, everybody needs a break. Let's have six weeks off or two weeks off in the calendar. No, this is a COVID shutdown because people were going to the morgue or going to the hospital. And so let's not have a bunch of people traveling to and from a campus. Oh, no. No, Tennessee, you go right ahead. You do your deal.
DAN WETZEL: And no matter what you think of the rules, these were the rules they all agreed to. If you're Kentucky or something and you're sitting there following the rules, I can't have a kid on campus who can't have his family visit. It's a dead period. We got this COVID thing. We're not doing that right now.
And Tennessee's bringing everyone down and taking them to zip lining and out to dinner. That's cheating.
PAT FORDE: Yeah. That is cheating. There are plenty of people who are like, well, no, these things are all legal now. No, no, all of these violations would still be violations in 2022.
DAN WETZEL: Yeah.
PAT FORDE: You cannot have the head coach give a wad of cash to the mother of a player. You cannot have the head coach's wife give a wad of cash to the player. You cannot pay for unofficial visits. All those things are still rules. I hate to break it to people.
DAN WETZEL: I mean, look, Pruitt was a disaster on the field, disaster off. I don't know what the penalty here will be, but 18 violations is pretty serious. And just the sheer, just, we don't care. I don't know what the wiggle room is.
PAT FORDE: The penalty will be really interesting. This is where Tennessee may get lucky twice here. First of all, they were able to rigorously investigate this largely not because they wanted to get to the bottom of it or because they didn't want to pay Jeremy Pruitt $12.6 million as a buyout, which by the way, that buyout figure went up when the great Phil Fulmer, truly one of the great administrators in college history, gave Jeremy Pruitt a raise after his second season and an extension.
A season in which they lost to Georgia State. Not Georgia, but Georgia State. He still got a raise in an extension, and so that upped the price. So yeah, all right, now all of a sudden, we want to get rid of him, but we don't want to pay. Oh, well, we've got these violations. Yes, let's look into that.
So they get credit for exemplary cooperation, which OK, fine. They did at least look under the rug to find the reasons they found. But then they're going to get lucky on the back end, probably, because we are heading towards a overhaul of the NCAA manual that it will include infractions and will likely lessen the probability of postseason bans. So this kind of thing that would normally be a multi-year postseason ban.
I mean, the head coach is handing out cash. Maybe a no postseason ban. I think there will still be sanctions. I think there will be significant sanctions, but they may actually get to play in bowl games this year, next year, and the year after and forever.
DAN WETZEL: They're less likely to punish the current players that are going to Tennessee.
PAT FORDE: Right.
DAN WETZEL: That seems to be Pruitt. Not-- I mean, this is-- this is basically like if someone went in and didn't know the rules.
PAT FORDE: Right. It is.
DAN WETZEL: Like, just had no idea. Like, wait, you can't buy him meals? Because I don't know what they were trying to-- what they thought they were going to accomplish on this.
PAT FORDE: Can't buy them meals, and we can't just talk about it in texts on our phones just like regularly as a matter of course? Who knew?
DAN WETZEL: And they were also, like, publicly all over town with all these people.
PAT FORDE: Yeah. During a dead period.
DAN WETZEL: Wow. I'm going to-- I already miss coach Pruitt, and I appreciate him giving us one last laugh.