Tennessee fails to extend contracts, suspends hiring amid football investigation, sources say


Tennessee officials have not extended the contracts of assistant football coaches and have suspended the recruitment of coaches for vacant positions as volunteers continue to investigate recruitment violations in the program, sources said Thursday at ESPN.

Earlier this week, the university announced that it had hired attorneys Mike Glazier and Kyle Skillman to help its internal lawyers and compliance officers with the internal investigation. Lawyers questioned current players this week about allegedly inappropriate perks and other rule violations, sources told ESPN.

“We take seriously our institutional commitment to NCAA compliance and are reviewing the regulatory issues that have been brought to our attention,” University spokeswoman Tyra Haag said in a statement this week. “As part of this process, we are currently working with attorneys Kyle Skillman and Michael Glazier with Bond, Schoeneck & King. We will provide additional information as appropriate.”

ESPN last month reported that compliance department officials interviewed current players, rookies, assistant coaches, student volunteers and other athletics department officials involved in football recruiting. The sources said the talks began in November.

The sources told ESPN that Tennessee’s recruitment of Amarius Mims, the No. 3 offensive tackle and the 2021 ESPN 300 overall ranking player, is part of the Compliance Department’s investigation. . Mims signed with Georgia.

Sophomore tailback Eric Gray, the team’s top runner with 772 yards and four touchdowns, was also held up in the regular season final against Texas A&M for undisclosed reasons. Sources told ESPN that Gray’s absence was linked to the compliance investigation.

As Tennessee officials wait for the investigation to be completed, the athletics department has not renewed or extended the contracts of assistant coaches, some of whom have agreements that expire at the end of the month, including the coach. running backs Tee Martin and inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer.

The volunteers also have at least two vacancies after head coach Jeremy Pruitt sacked defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh after four games and offensive line coach Will Friend left for South Carolina on last month.

Pruitt, 46, is 16-19 with the volunteers over three seasons. The Volunteers have gone 3-7 this season, losing seven of their last eight games.

After guiding volunteers to a record 8-5 in 2019, Pruitt was rewarded with a two-year contract extension that raised his annual salary to $ 4.2 million. The contract spans the 2025 season. If Tennessee were to fire Pruitt for no reason, they would owe him a buyout of around $ 12.8 million, or 60% of the money owed under the deal. .

Pruitt is expected to receive a retention bonus of $ 200,000 on February 15.

Under the terms of Pruitt’s contract, if the university terminates him for just cause, he “will not be entitled to any additional salary, compensation, benefits, perquisites or any other sport-related income or benefits arising from from the coaching position as the head football coach of the university. “

A handful of Tennessee’s top players have left the program or announced plans to leave in recent weeks, including junior cornerback Bryce Thompson (eight career interceptions), who entered the NFL draft earlier. this week. Running back Ty Chandler and tight end Austin Pope are among eight players who have entered the transfer portal since December. Quarterback JT Shrout transferred to Colorado and star defensive end Deandre Johnson transferred to Miami.

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