Here's the latest on the Tennessee football investigation, per Chancellor Donde Plowman
Tennessee does not expect to face NCAA penalties for the 2021 football season stemming from the ongoing investigation into recruiting malfeasance, but that doesn’t mean the Vols will avoid future punishment.
UT Chancellor Donde Plowman said Monday during the “Vol Calls” radio show that, given the long process of NCAA investigations, the NCAA's decision on Tennessee’s case likely won’t come ahead of this season.
“I think we may know where we are by then, what the allegations are, but they won’t have heard our case,” Plowman said during the radio appearance.
Plowman expects the university’s investigation to be completed within the next three weeks, at which point the baton will be in the NCAA’s hands. The entire process can be years long.
Plowman didn’t say whether the university plans to self-impose penalties on the football program for 2021. In January, she said UT planned to weigh that option.
Self-imposing penalties on the front end is a move sometimes used by universities that are under investigation for NCAA rules violations in an attempt avoid a stiff penalty from the NCAA on the back end.
“I think it’s premature to think about or talk about (potential self-imposed penalties) until we’ve learned more. The investigation isn’t even complete yet," Vols athletics director Danny White said Tuesday on Memphis radio station 92.9-FM.
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"I do think that this university, even prior to my arrival, has done all the right things in terms of protecting the integrity of the institution and moving things through the system as quickly as possible, involving the NCAA right from the beginning in the most appropriate way. The correct buttons have all been pressed to try to get past this as quickly as we can, but to, most importantly, handle it the right way.”
Tennessee launched an internal investigation after the chancellor’s office, on Nov. 13, received a credible verbal allegation of NCAA violations occurring within the football program.
On Jan. 18, Tennessee fired for cause coach Jeremy Pruitt, assistants Brian Niedermeyer and Shelton Felton and seven additional staffers who worked in recruiting, player personnel or quality control.
The university in November retained outside counsel from Overland Park, Kansas-based law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King to help steer its investigation, and the NCAA enforcement staff has been involved since December.
“I hope in next three weeks we’re going to kind of be done with our part, but the NCAA is in there with us,” Plowman said. “Hopefully that will speed up whatever they have to do.”
When announcing the football firings in January, Plowman described the evidence of violations as “stunning,” both in the amount of violations and number of people involved. She said that those involved went to great lengths to conceal their conduct from UT’s compliance department.
The university has not provided detail of the alleged violations, other than to note in termination letters to the fired football coaches that it expects multiple NCAA Level I or Level II violations – considered major violations – to result from their conduct.
Blake Toppmeyer covers University of Tennessee football. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Current subscribers can click here to join Blake's subscriber-only text group offering updates and analysis on Vols football.