Portions of Tennessee’s formal response to the NCAA’s notification of the allegations have been revealed. The Knoxville News Sentinel obtained documents through a record request on Thursday.
According to Adam Sparks of the Knoxville News Sentinel, Tennessee had only minor disputes with 5 out of 18 Level I violations for approximately $60,000 in improper benefits. The NCAA noted that the program’s primary argument on the case was that it had not missed the football program, but rather that those violating the rules deceived compliance officers in the athletic department.
“Despite the university’s monitoring efforts, track and field administrators and track and field compliance staff have been repeatedly deceived by the football program,” UT said in response to the NCAA. “The University respectfully states that it is unrealistic to expect an institution to prevent or immediately detect the willful and covert misconduct in this case.”
The Level I violations were committed by former head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his wife Casey, as well as several UT football assistants including former coaches Derrick Ansley, Shelton Felton and Brian Niedermeyer, and recruiting staff Drew Hughes, Bethany Gunn and Chantryce Boone. An unnamed booster also committed violations in the 2018-2021 period, according to Sparks.
“The factual information in this case demonstrates that veteran football coaches and non-coaches knowingly violated longstanding and well-understood NCAA rules and went to considerable lengths to conceal their wrongdoing,” UT said in its response. “The record also demonstrates that the university monitored football recruitment visits in line with industry standards.
“As part of the University’s monitoring efforts, Athletics Administration and Athletics Compliance staff have had a physical presence in and around the football program (including embedding a senior compliance officer in the program).”
Pruitt and 9 football staff were in January 2021. Josh Heupel was hired later that month.
The NCAA now has 60 days to respond to Tennessee’s responses, according to Knox News.
Sports betting in Tennessee officially launched on November 1st, 2020 and many of the biggest sportsbooks are live and operational in the Volunteer state. Tennessee is just one of a few SEC soccer states with legalized sports betting.