The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the University of Tennessee (“UT”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The most serious allegations in this case involved the former men’s basketball coaching staff and their conduct in the commission of violations, the provision of false information and misleading information about them, and the inducement of others to do the same. The violations originally stemmed from a September 20, 2008, incident in which the former men’s basketball coach and former assistant coaches 1, 2, and 3, had impermissible, off-campus, in-person contact with three prospective student-athletes (“prospects”). The contacts took place in the evening following an institutional football game when the prospects and their families attended a dinner at the home of the former head men’s basketball coach. The prospects were high school juniors making unofficial visits to the institution.
After the prospects arrived and spent some time at the dinner, the three prospects and their family members were ushered to an outdoor veranda by the former head men’s basketball coach. There he informed them that their attendance was in violation of NCAA rules and encouraged them to not disclose to others their attendance at the gathering. The coaches did not report the violations to the institution and others were encouraged to provide false information. On April 6, 2010, the enforcement staff received an anonymous letter and photograph with a hand-written note that stated “Is having [prospect 1] a 2010 high school recruit in your home an NCAA violation?” When the former men’s basketball coaching staff was interviewed regarding the possible violations, they denied knowing where the photograph was taken.
In the sport of football, it was alleged that major violations occurred in the conduct of the program, including recruiting activities undertaken by student interns. The Committee concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support findings of major violations. However, the Committee was troubled by the number and nature of secondary infractions (12 violations) by the football coaching staff in only one year.
The Committee found that UT committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Impermissible Telephone Calls in violation of NCAA Bylaws 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199.2, and 188.8.131.52.7
a. Between August 1, 2007 and July 29, 2009, members of the men’s basketball coaching staff placed 94 impermissible telephone calls to 12 men’s basketball prospective student-athletes or their family members. The calls were made by the former head men’s basketball coach and former assistant coaches 1 and 2.
i. UT began a review of the men’s basketball telephone records in May 2009 after being informed by the NCAA that it had received reports of potential rules violations in the program. Ninety-four impermissible calls were discovered, with all but 10 of them made by the former head men’s basketball coach or former assistant coach 1. Thirty-three of the impermissible calls were made to 5 of the prospects in violation of the “one call per week” rule, while the 61 calls to the other 7 prospects violating NCAA legislation allowing coaches to make 1 call per month to high school juniors. Forty-four of the 61 impermissible monthly calls to high school juniors were made to the same prospective student-athlete.
2. Impermissible Contact in violation of NCAA Bylaws 184.108.40.206, 13.2.1, 13.5.3, and 220.127.116.11.1
a. On September 20, 2008, the former head men’s basketball coach and former assistant coaches 1-3 had impermissible, in-person, off-campus contact with prospects and their families at the former head men’s basketball coach’s home and provided the your men and their families an impermissible meal. Additionally, prospects 1 and 3 were provided impermissible automobile transportation by a student-athlete between the institution’s campus and the former head men’s basketball coach’s home.
i. The prospects attended a “tailgate” gathering prior to UT’s football game during the afternoon of September 20th. After the game, the prospects were invited to attend a dinner at the former head men’s basketball coach’s home. For the first time at the dinner, the prospects and their families were told that their attendance at the meal was a violation of NCAA legislation. The former head men’s basketball coach told the prospects and their families not to tell anyone.
3. Unethical Conduct by the Former Head Men’s Basketball Coach in violation of NCAA Bylaws10.1-(c), 10.1-(d), 19.01.2, and 32.1.4
a. From the 2008-09 academic year through June 14, 2010, the former head men’s basketball coach acted contrary to the principle of ethical conduct when he knowingly engaged in violations of NCAA recruiting legislation and failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship by providing false and misleading information to the institution and enforcement staff and by attempting to influence others to furnish false and misleading information.
i. The former head men’s basketball coach knowingly violated NCAA legislation when he hosted a dinner at his home and provided a meal to the prospects. Additionally, the former head men’s basketball coach informed the prospects and their families that such meal was impermissible, he was not going to tell anyone, and they should not tell anyone either.
ii. During the former head men’s basketball coach first interview with the enforcement staff, he provided false and misleading information to the institution and NCAA enforcement staff when he denied knowledge of the location where the photograph was taken even though it was in the kitchen in his home. Additionally, he provided false information by denying that he knew the identity of all those pictured in the photograph. Specifically, he denied knowing the identity of former assistant men’s basketball coach 3’s wife.
iii. In spite of the NCAA enforcement staff’s instructions not to discuss the investigation with others, the former head men’s basketball coach contacted via telephone on two occasions the father of prospect 1 to discuss the incident and determine what he would tell NCAA investigators. The Committee concluded that the former head men’s basketball coach was trying to influence prospect 1’s father to make false and misleading statements to the NCAA.
iv. On August 5, 2010, the former head men’s basketball coach was re-interviewed and he provided truthful information to NCAA investigators.
4. Failure to Cooperate and Act with Honesty and Sportsmanship in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 11.1.1, and 19.01.3
a. During the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years, former assistant coaches 1-3 violated the NCAA’s principles of honesty when they failed to provide full and complete information to UT and the NCAA enforcement staff regarding their involvement in and knowledge of violations of NCAA legislation.
i. The former assistant men’s basketball coaches attended the dinner at the former head men’s basketball coach home on September 20, 2011 and interacted with the prospects, but did not report the violations to UT. The former assistant men’s basketball coaches failed to furnish full and complete information relevant to the investigation when they did not disclose that they were present during the September 20, 2011 dinner. Additionally, none of the coaches acknowledged knowing former assistant men’s basketball coach 3’s wife who was pictured in the photograph described above.
ii. Despite being specifically instructed not to discuss the interviews with anyone, shortly after the interviews occurred they met with the former head men’s basketball coach and talked about various information discussed.
iii. On August 5, 2010, during a follow-up interview, the former assistant men’s basketball coaches provided truthful information.
5. Failure to Monitor and Failure to Promote an Atmosphere of Compliance in violation of NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168
a. From August 1, 2007 to July 29, 2009, the former head men’s basketball coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and failed to monitor the compliance activities of assistant men’s basketball coaches.
i. The former head men’s basketball coach knowingly committed and allowed rules violations to occur. Further, he asked 3 prospects and their families to not mention the violations.
ii. By his failure to require his staff to keep complete, timely and contemporaneous phone logs, the former head men’s basketball coach also failed to monitor his staff regarding the activities leading to violations of NCAA telephone call legislation. The former head men’s basketball coach did not designate a time that records should be turned in, nor did he conduct even a cursory review of the logs so as to assist in the compliance effort.
6. Failure to Monitor by the Institution in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1
a. The scope and nature of the violations of NCAA telephone call legislation demonstrate that between August 1, 2007 and July 29, 2009, UT failed to monitor the men’s basketball coaching staff’s telephone contacts with prospective student-athletes and their relatives.
i. The men’s basketball coaching staff did not keep adequate telephone call logs and records and UT did not have adequate systems in place to monitor whether telephone calls made by the men’s basketball staff members to prospective student-athletes or their relatives complied with NCAA legislation.
ii. UT acknowledged that it failed to monitor the men’s basketball phone records during the period in question. The system in place at the time of the violations generally consisted of the compliance staff auditing the written logs submitted by the coaching staffs. The system did not include cross-checking phone bills with the submitted logs.
7. Secondary Violations in violation of NCAA Bylaws 11.5.1, 22.214.171.124.1.1, 13.01.4, 13.02.7, 13.02.14-(c), 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52.1, 184.108.40.206.1, 220.127.116.11.1, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124-(h), 13.11.1, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206.1, and 13.14.1
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized UT as follows: