NCAA Scrutinizes Brian Niedermeyer’s Shady Recruitment of Darnell Washington, Former Tennessee Assistant Coach Violated Rules for Top Prospect

Former Tennessee football assistant coach, Brian Niedermeyer, engaged in a year-long violation of NCAA rules while recruiting Darnell Washington, a highly coveted tight end in the 2020 class. Despite Niedermeyer’s efforts, Washington ultimately committed to Georgia. The details of Niedermeyer’s recruitment tactics and violations were revealed in the NCAA findings of the University of Tennessee’s recruiting misconduct under former coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Although Washington’s name was not directly mentioned in the NCAA findings, Knoxville News identified him as the “prospective student-athlete 9” and “prospect 4” through NCAA investigative documents and sources with knowledge of the situation. The violations by Niedermeyer were confirmed during negotiations in February, leading to a five-year show-cause order for the coach.

Washington, a Las Vegas prep product, was ranked as the No. 34 prospect in the nation and the top-ranked tight end according to the 247Sports Composite. Niedermeyer, who was the tight ends coach and a well-regarded recruiter at the time, heavily pursued Washington. The violations began in January 2019 when Niedermeyer engaged in impermissible contact with Washington during a visit to his high school. They played basketball together and had a recruiting conversation before Niedermeyer gave him $750 in the parking lot.

Between March and July 2019, Washington made two visits to Tennessee, both of which involved NCAA violations. The violations included impermissible benefits worth approximately $1,713, such as free lodging, meals, and UT apparel. Niedermeyer provided apparel to Washington and his mother during a spring scrimmage in March 2019, while former recruiting director Bethany Gunn provided an impermissible meal. Another staff member allegedly provided UT apparel during one of Washington’s visits.

In December 2019, Niedermeyer flew with Washington’s family from Las Vegas to Knoxville for his official visit, breaking NCAA rules once again. Despite Tennessee being his final official visit, Washington ultimately chose to sign with Georgia over Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida. Washington went on to have a successful college career, winning back-to-back national titles with Georgia before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Niedermeyer was fired for cause in January 2021 along with the rest of the coaching staff as a result of the widespread recruiting violations under Pruitt’s leadership. The NCAA findings shed light on the extent to which Niedermeyer and the University of Tennessee violated recruiting rules in their pursuit of Darnell Washington. The repercussions of these violations have not only impacted Niedermeyer’s career but have also raised questions about the integrity of the recruitment process in college football.