Chris Low and Pete Tamale2 minutes to read
Tennessee’s football program avoided a tournament ban but was fined more than $8 million by the NCAA’s Division I Infractions Commission, which announced its punishment to the Volunteers on Friday after discovering more than 200 individual offenses committed by the school.
Among the penalties imposed, Tennessee was placed on probation for five years, sentenced to an $8 million fine among other monetary penalties and would see a total reduction of 28 scholarships; The school has been given credit for the reduction it has imposed on 16 scholarships over the past two seasons.
The $8 million fine, which the NCAA said was “equal to the financial impact the school would have faced if it missed the postseason during the 2023 and 2024 seasons” is the largest fine ever imposed in an infraction case. It could also indicate a trend towards heavier financial fines in future infraction cases.
In its decision, the Violations Committee said, “The Committee faced a difficult set of circumstances relating to the imposition of sanctions in this case.” “The Committee urges the Offenses Process Committee and members to clearly define its philosophy regarding penalties – which extends beyond postseason bans – and to memorialize that philosophy in an updated set of penalty guidelines.”
Tennessee was charged with 18 Level I violations—the most serious in the NCAA rules structure—in July 2022 due to the tenure of former head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Among the more than 200 infractions were charges of $60,000 in disallowed benefits and both Pruitt and his wife, Casey, making cash payments to the players’ families.
Pruitt received a six-year display order and would be suspended for the first full season if hired by an NCAA school. Pruett has come out of high-profile coaching since serving as a senior defensive assistant for the New York Giants in 2021.
Three other former employees also received show orders.
Tennessee is coming off an 11-2 season in 2022 under head coach Josh Hubbell, the program’s first season since 2007 with double-digit wins. The Volunteers won the Orange Bowl and have great momentum heading into 2023, which means avoiding a bowl ban is a critical step for the program’s growth moving forward.
The lack of bowl bans continues a recent trend in NCAA cases, as the organization has moved away from penalties that penalize existing players, especially those who were not present when the violations occurred.
Tennessee had not been charged with institutional lack of control a year earlier when the charges were announced, which reduced the potential range of penalties, as did a series of self-imposed penalties in anticipation of the NCAA decision.
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