Legal fees for the University of Tennessee topped $ 1 million for its year-long internal NCAA investigation into allegations that football coach Jeremy Pruitt and his team committed gross recruiting violations.
The legal fees are paltry compared to the $ 12.6 million buyout Tennessee refused to pay Pruitt after firing him for cause in January 2021. But it’s still a steep price.
Tennessee paid $ 1,077,638 in legal fees to the firm Bond, Schoeneck & King through November for its internal investigation, which began on November 19, 2020, according to invoices the university provided to Knox News after a public registration request.
Documents obtained by Knox News included a quarterly bill for $ 134,170 from September through November. The December invoice is not yet available.
Pruitt’s attorney, Michael Lyons, threatened to sue university and alluded to the exposure of further rule violations if UT does not work out with its client and pay a portion of the canceled buyout. But there is no indication that Lyons has filed a complaint.
Meanwhile, Knox News learned that Tennessee had not received notice of the NCAA allegations.
The latest development of the NCAA Flight test, which exceeds $ 1 million in legal fees, has been virtually silent since Nov. 4, when the university announced it had completed its internal investigation and refused to comment further.
“NCAA regulations prevent us from sharing details of the investigation at this time, but we are committed to providing that information when we can,” a college statement said.
Where Tennessee Could Self-Impose Sanctions
Tennessee did not impose a self-imposed bowl ban “in the interest of protecting the rights of innocent student-athletes,” the university said in its November statement. The Vols lost to Purdue 48-45 in overtime in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 to cap coach Josh Heupel’s first season. The Vols ended the season at 7-6.
Self-imposed sanctions have the potential to mitigate the NCAA’s blow if the program is found to have broken the rules, but they offer no guarantee of protection against further sanctions.
The Tennessee statement suggested the possibility of self-imposed sanctions specific to “the nature of the violations.” Allegations against Pruitt, two assistants and seven other staff – who were fired for cause on January 18 – center on recruiting wrongdoing.
Tennessee Football:Thefts will not impose a bowl ban following an internal investigation
Tennessee could choose to impose sanctions on itself such as scholarship cuts or hiring restrictions, and sources told Knox News the process began no later than September.
The football program did not welcome recruits for its season opener against Bowling Green on September 2. Other self-imposed recruiting restrictions could also have included limiting the number of official visits by rookies and coaches’ contact with prospects.
Despite these obstacles, Heupel staff landed the Recruitment class ranked n ° 15 in December, according to 247 Sports Composites. The class consisted of 20 signatories with the option to add more during the late signing period in February.
Could scholarship cuts affect the 2022 roster?
Heupel said he intends to sign a full class, which can include a maximum of 25 players. This indicates that any potential reduction in scholarships would come from Tennessee’s existing roster rather than its incoming signing class.
The Vols must show contrition to the NCAA without limiting their level of play for the 2022 season. But past scholarship cuts should give them wiggle room or keep their roster roughly the same size.
Tennessee played the 2021 season with just 71 stock players, well below the NCAA maximum of 85, in addition to seven super seniors. Super Seniors are players whose eligibility has been extended for one season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are not deducted from the ceiling of 85 scholarships.
That means Tennessee had 78 active stock players, but it had the option of adding up to 14 more players. This is a scholarship cut that the university will likely present to the NCAA as a self-imposed sanction.
In November, Heupel said “workforce management” has never been so complicated in college football. Potential penalties could add another layer to this task, making every offseason roster remarkable.
Cornerback Alontae Taylor and offensive lineman Cade Mays declared for the NFL Draft despite remaining college eligibility. Since the end of the regular season, running backs Tiyon Evans and Dee Beckwith have entered the transfer portal.
But other players have announced that they will return in the 2022 season despite graduating, already playing four seasons or being a potential NFL prospect. Some of them will take advantage of a COVID exemption to extend their eligibility.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker, wide receiver Cedric Tillman, offensive lineman Jerome Carvin, linebacker Solon Page, defenseman Trevon Flowers and tight ends Princeton Fant and Jacob Warren have announced their return.
If Tennessee imposes on itself scholarship cuts or anticipates such NCAA penalties, it should plan accordingly. But Heupel, one of college football’s most successful freshmen this season, has been positive about the situation.
He said he thought the NCAA investigation effect will be a “speed bump for our program” because “our university found out what was going on, reported it and was transparent from the start”.
University of Tennessee legal fees for NCAA investigation
November: $ 12,876.70
December: $ 93,765.15
January: $ 189,171.96
February: $ 92,268.08
March: $ 109,096.10
April: $ 91,344.00
May: $ 77,211.57
June: $ 90,720.18
July: $ 99,728.67
August: $ 87,285.04
Sept-November: $ 134,170.93
TOTAL: $ 1,077,638.38
* University switched to quarterly invoices
Source: Fee invoices invoiced by the company Bond, Schoeneck & King
Contact Adam Sparks at [email protected] and on Twitter @AdamSparks.