published Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

UT has penalty for itself

KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee placed its athletic department on two years of probation and punished its football and men’s basketball programs with recruiting restrictions, school officials confirmed Friday afternoon.

According to an afternoon report in the Knoxville News Sentinel, which had obtained documents outlining the punishment through an open-records request, UT self-imposed the sanctions in May after responding to the Notice of Allegations the school received from the NCAA in February.

Once UT received the letter from the NCAA detailing the 10 major infractions charged against the men’s basketball program and two major infractions against the football program, the school had 90 days to respond. UT went before the NCAA Committee on Infractions June 11 in Indianapolis, and the COI will announce any further sanctions as early as next month during its unofficial window of 8-12 weeks.

Attempts by the Times Free Press to obtain the school’s full response to the NCAA were unsuccessful because the document won’t be available until Monday morning.

According to the News Sentinel report, the football staff had the number of days it could recruit during April’s evaluation period reduced by six, and only five coaches can make phone calls to recruits on Nov. 1, the first day of a contact period. New Volunteers basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and his staff cannot provide occasional off-campus meals during the next academic year.

All but one of the major infractions — a failure-to-monitor charge for men’s basketball — was levied against former football coach Lane Kiffin, former football assistant David Reaves, former basketball coach Bruce Pearl and former basketball assistants Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay. Kiffin and Reaves left UT after a year, UT fired its basketball staff in March and Mike Hamilton resigned as athletic director in June before UT met with the COI.

The standard minimum probation period for major infractions is two years, though LSU received just one year of probation earlier this week for recruiting violations its football program committed in 2009.

UT becomes the third Southeastern Conference football program on probation, joining LSU and Alabama, which the NCAA placed on probation in 2009 for a textbook scandal. South Carolina also received a letter of inquiry last September.

Through the pre-emptive action of self-imposing penalties, UT is hoping to alleviate any further punishment from the NCAA.

“There are going to be problems,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive told the Times Free Press on Wednesday at the league’s media days in Hoover, Ala. “But how you handle them is important. I think that the contrast of the cases that we just saw come out this week indicates that the [COI] has seen the importance of and understanding of that you’re going to have issues, but if you handle it properly that you can get through it.”

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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