The University of Tennessee football team is facing additional NCAA penalties, for violations that occurred during the Lane Kiffin era.
According to a press release at UTSports.com, the penalties are related to former assistant coach Willie Mack Garza during the 2009 season. Garza was hit with a three-year show cause letter/ He followed Lane Kiffin to USC but abruptly resigned two days before the Trojans' season opener 2009.
Garza was accused of reimbursing travel expenses for Will Lyles, who helped arrange an unofficial visit for recruit Lache Seastrunk and his mother. The visit took place two months before the permissible time period for prospects to make expense paid visits to the University. In addition, because Garza arranged the visit, the NCAA classified him as a booster.
The NCAA said Garza denied the claims when he was interviewed at USC in August 2011, until he was shown the financial records. Then, he admitted it.
UT has been fighting the additional penalties, which include a two-year extension of the probation issued during the 2011 infractions case, a reduction in official visits for the 2012-13 academic year from 51 to 47, a reduction in evaluation days during the spring 2012 evaluation period (already completed), and during unofficial visits during the fall of 2013, no complimentary tickets may be provided to prospective student-athletes for the first two conference games of the season.
"The University of Tennessee worked in full cooperation with the NCAA throughout this process," said Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. "We were disappointed with the initial penalties and appealed on two occasions, in writing and at the hearing in Florida. Although we disagree with the additional penalties, we accept the decision of the Committee. I am proud of the stronger compliance structure we have instituted at the University of Tennessee."
"We will finally close the chapter on the prior actions of members of a previous football coaching staff," said Dave Hart, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics. "We have significantly strengthened our culture of compliance at Tennessee and will continue to do so. We disagree with additional penalties for a matter we believed should have been part of the previous case. We will now move forward."
According to UT, at issue in the penalty hearing was whether the penalty in the 2011 case would have substantially differed had the facts of this case been known at that time, whether the University should be punished for unethical conduct by a former staff member working at another institution and whether the penalties were grounded in precedent and substantially related to the violation committed.
The Committee on Infractions is establishing a new precedent with this case and others moving forward.