It seems that Tennessee football will add more fuel to the fire, as they were just caught red-handed; in this case, however, the red is ketchup. According to multiple sources, Tennessee assistants stuffed McDonald’s bags with cash to give to potential recruits. This has led to an ongoing investigation of the University of Tennessee and has also led to the firing of head coach Jeremy Pruitt as well as several members of his coaching staff. Athletic director and former coach Philip Fullmer retired shortly after the news broke. On top of this all, Tennessee went 3-7 in 2020 and were one of the worst teams in the SEC. It looks like the money didn’t pay off in this case.
College athletic programs have a long history of bribing recruits. Some schools don’t get caught while others do and face the consequences as a result. From O.J. Mayo to Reggie Bush, many famous athletes have been caught accepting money and gifts from universities and this situation is similar. Although it has not been disclosed as to who accepted money, Tennessee just committed one of the most ridiculous violations of all time.
University Chancellor Donde Plowman said that during the investigation, evidence revealed “a significant number of serious NCAA rules violations”. All of which will likely lead to a hefty punishment from the NCAA. On the bright side, Tennessee was already able to fill the open athletic director spot; hiring UCF’s Danny White. White served as UCF’s athletic director from 2015 and oversaw multiple winning football seasons. Most notably, UCF went 13-0 in 2017 and declared themselves the national champions. He will now try to put out the fire that was left by Fullmer and Pruitt.
Probably the biggest hit from these violations will be in recruiting and the transfer portal. Multiple sources have confirmed that four players have already entered the transfer portal. Among them include leading tackler Henry To’o To’o and running back Eric Gray who led the team in all-purpose yards as well as touchdowns. And this list does not include players who have already entered the portal. Three quarterbacks alone (Including starter Jarrett Guarantano) hit the portal. A total of 8 players transferred between December and Jan. 7 which makes the transfer count a total of 12 players (The number will likely increase as the investigation proceeds). In the 2021 class, 4 recruits rated 4-stars or higher decommitted. In total, 9 players have already dropped their commitments to the school. In the 2022 class, the Vols do not have one commit. Defensive end Jimmy Scott, the only recruit in UT’s 2022 class, announced his de-commitment earlier in the week.
All in all, this is a terrible look for the Tennessee football program. These violations will not only punish the team but will also punish the future of the team. Tennessee football is quickly falling behind the competition, and at this rate, they won’t ketchup.