Tennessee Avoids Bowl Ban and Faces Severe Fines After NCAA Finds Program Responsible for 200 Violations

Tennessee Football Program Receives Penalties for Violations, Bowl Ban Avoided

The NCAA Committee on Infractions has handed down penalties to the University of Tennessee football program after finding the program responsible for over 200 individual violations, including 18 Level I violations. Former coach Jeremy Pruitt has received a six-year show cause order, while the university will face probation, vacated wins, and scholarship reductions, among other penalties.

Instead of a bowl ban, the football program will be placed on probation for five years and will have to pay an $8 million fine. Additionally, an independent compliance review will be conducted annually. The university will also face a legislated fine, as well as fines to recoup money earned during the period when the program was ineligible.

The fines imposed in this case are notably larger than those typically given by the NCAA. However, the NCAA explains that the increased fines aim to avoid punishing players and staff who were not involved in the violations.

Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel expressed relief and excitement about the program avoiding a bowl ban and protecting current and future players. He emphasized the importance of the ruling for the team’s overall well-being.

The NCAA investigation revealed that two players who later enrolled at Tennessee received direct payment from either Pruitt or his wife. The violations also involved a scheme to bypass unofficial visit rules during the recruitment of 29 players.

As part of the penalties, Tennessee will lose 28 scholarships over five years, with at least two scholarships lost each season. Pruitt’s six-year show cause order is the most significant punishment, but other staff members also received show cause orders. The program will also face restrictions on official and unofficial visits, as well as reduced weeks of recruiting communication and in-person evaluation.

The NCAA cited the university’s cooperation and self-imposed sanctions as reasons for not imposing further penalties. Despite the staggering number of violations, the university will not face additional repercussions.

Pruitt, who was fired in January 2021 after three underwhelming seasons, is considering legal action over a withheld buyout. The university dismissed several other staff members related to the violations, and some have reached partial settlements with the NCAA.

The fines and legal costs incurred by the university are expected to surpass the buyout amount. While Pruitt pursued a role as a defensive coordinator at Alabama, he was ultimately passed over for the position.

These penalties serve as a reminder that NCAA violations can have significant consequences for both the program and its personnel. Moving forward, the Tennessee football program will need to demonstrate a commitment to adherence and compliance in order to restore its reputation and integrity in college football.