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Former Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt gave cash to recruits

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Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt walks during the Vol Walk ahead of a game between Tennessee and Mississippi State in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, October 12, 2019.Utvmstate1005
Credit: Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Former Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt and his wife were among a group of people who gave almost $60,000 in impermissible cash or gifts to recruits and their families, according to a notice of allegations filed against the program by the NCAA.

The 51-page document was obtained by Sports Illustrated, which shared the allegations on Friday. The NCAA alleges the Pruitts and staff members gave money and gifts to players after he was named Volunteers coach in December 2017, replacing Butch Jones. Pruitt was fired in January 2021 for cause.

According to Sports Illustrated, Pruitt and his staff allegedly hosted at least six prospects and their families on nine weekend unofficial periods during the lengthy recruiting dead period caused by the pandemic. During that time, they reportedly provided the recruits with lodging, food, transportation and assorted household items worth $12,000.

The report said Pruitt also made separate payments of $3,000 and $6,000 to mothers of recruits to pay for medical bills and a down payment on a car, respectively

In addition, Casey Pruitt, the coach’s wife, allegedly gave $13,000 in cash to unspecified recruits and their families, Sports Illustrated reported.

In all, there are 18 infractions — all Level I, the most serious — listed in the report. The reported violations allegedly were committed by the Pruitts; assistant coaches Derrick Ansley, Shelton Felton and Brian Niedermeyer; recruiting staff members Drew Hughes, Bethany Gunn and Chantryce Boone; and an unnamed student assistant.

None of them currently are employed by Tennessee.

Knox News said the NCAA gave Tennessee credit for self-reporting the violations and for “exemplary cooperation” as the NCAA investigated. The NCAA did not cite the university for a lack of institutional control, meaning it likely will face lesser punishment, per the Knox News report.

Tennessee already stripped itself of 12 scholarships last season.

“Receipt of our Notice of Allegations was an expected, requisite step in this process — a process our university initiated proactively through decisive and transparent actions,” Tennessee athletic director Danny White said in a statement Friday, per Sports illustrated. “This moves us one step closer to a final resolution. … As a university, we understand the need to take responsibility for what occurred, but we remain committed to protecting our current and future student-athletes.”

The Volunteers were 16-19 in Pruitt’s tenure. He was replaced by Josh Heupel, who led Tennessee to a 7-6 record in his first season.

–Field Level Media