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Tennessee Avoids Bowl Ban, gets $8M Fine and Scholarship Reduction

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

The Tennessee vs. NCAA court case has finally come to an end. The NCAA found over 200 infractions while investigating Tennessee Football during Jeremy Pruitt’s tenure. The investigation dates back to 2020, and the NCAA has finally announced Tennessee’s punishments.

The Tennessee Football Program avoids a bowl ban, which would have been a significant step back as a program. However, Tennessee was fined $8 million and will see a total reduction of 28 scholarships. The scholarship loss will hurt the Vols, but this was the best-case scenario for Tennessee.

Looking at all the infractions and level-one violations that the NCAA found, this could have been a lot worse. Not getting a bowl ban is massive for the Vols.

The Tennessee Football Program had already self-imposed a scholarship reduction that began in 2021. Tennessee has already imposed 16 scholarships in the last couple of years, which softened the blow by the NCAA punishment.

Since Tennessee has already self-imposed 16 scholarships, which will be 18 after this season, and the NCAA has settled on 28 scholarships being taken away, the Vols are looking at a minimum of 2 scholarships per year for the next five years.

People will be upset that Tennessee was not punished as badly as it could have been, but the Tennessee Athletic Department handled the whole investigation with transparency and integrity.

Tennessee purged all involved immediately after University officials discovered all the level-one violations that were being reported. Jeremy Pruitt was let go, Phillip Fulmer was let go, almost every assistant coach was fired, and all the players that were being paid and that were involved in the scandals all transferred.

Unlike most schools, Tennessee cooperated as well as one can with the NCAA and cleaned house so these problems would not continue.

The Tennessee Athletic Department responded correctly with openness and transparency, making it tough for the NCAA to enforce harsher penalties on the Football program. It would be unjustifiable and harmful for the NCAA to punish the current Tennessee Football staff and roster for what a completely different coaching staff and roster did years ago.

If Tennessee still had some of the players that Pruitt recruited illegally, then the current staff should be punished. However, the University dismissed all those involved and no one is left to be punished besides the school’s administration.

Speaking with ESPN’s Pete Thamel about the punishments, Josh Heupel said, “The logical thought is, How are you going to punish innocent people and innocent kids?” Heupel also stated his relief to avoid a bowl ban.

Why should Josh Heupel and his program be punished for something that happened while he and his staff were at UCF?

The Tennessee Football Program is finally back in the national spotlight, and it would have been devastating for the Vols to receive a bowl ban. Such a ban would have affected the program immensely. I can not say it enough: the Tennessee Athletic Department handled this whole situation perfectly, and it paid off in the end.

Tennessee joins a “notorious” list of programs that have received significant penalties for alleged violations (according to the NCAA), such as the 2005 USC football program, the 2012 Notre Dame football program, the 2010 Ohio State football program, and the 2017 Ole Miss football program.

Camden Gober also produces content for Last Word On Sports. You can check out his work HERE. or follow him on Twitter HERE.

This article is not being used for monetary or commercial purposes.



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