Perhaps Tennessee football is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the NCAA investigation.
Whether it was the NCAA stumbling into doing the right thing, for a change, or whether it was by design, the sanctioning body issued a 51-page report, outlining 18 level-one violations that allegedly occurred during former head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s tenure, AFTER SEC Media Days concluded.
Had the NCAA delivered its report a day or two earlier, current UT coach Josh Heupel would have been peppered with endless questions about the findings. Maybe that’s a good sign.
So, what does all this mean? It means that, in the NCAA’s eyes, Tennessee was justified in taking a blow torch to its football program and starting over. Level-one violations are the worst kind, according to the NCAA, and Tennessee allegedly committed 18 of them, all of which might have been dealt with legally, had they occurred a year later.
And the tab for those alleged violations? The total was about $61,000. Pretty small potatoes when you consider Southern Cal allegedly bought Reggie Bush’s mother a house.
But they were violations at the time and Tennessee will be called to account. But how bad will Tennessee get hammered? In the Chicken Little wing of Vol Nation, there is a prevailing thought that the school is going to get hit pretty hard. After all, the NCAA issued a 51-page report. They surely are going to go nuclear on Tennessee, right?
I really don’t think so, but I learned long ago never to predict what the NCAA will and won’t do. The group has ignored some industrial-strength violations and handed down some head-scratching decisions.
But Tennessee was very proactive about getting its house in order. It fired Pruitt and his staff, sent then-AD Phillip Fulmer out to pasture, then brought in Danny White to serve as athletics director.
Oh, by the way, Tennessee installed a new president in Randy Boyd and chancellor Donde Plowman. The leadership demonstrated by the UT brass on cleaning up this mess drew praise from the NCAA.
The fact that Tennessee has been very proactive about disinfecting its athletic house will serve it well. That and the fact that the NCAA has new leadership, leadership who doesn’t want to penalize current coaches and athletes for sins of the past.
A 51-page report? That’s what the NCAA does. It has long been an outfit of paper pushers. Don’t let that distract you, if you are in the Big Orange bubble.
Tennessee will likely face a slight reduction in scholarships, perhaps a healthy public rebuke and a fairly hefty fine.
I think Pruitt and his band of McDonald’s moonlighters will face some kind of coaching ban.
That’s who should pay the price for this fiasco.
Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox radio show, which airs 4-6 p.m. CT Monday-Thursday on WRJB, 95.9 FM, Camden, Tennessee.