KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Hours after Jeremy Pruitt was fired from his position as head coach at Tennessee, his attorney, Michael Lyons, released a statement on his behalf, emphasizing he will be defending Pruitt against the NCAA violations put forward by the University.
"He is extremely disappointed with the decision, the public announcement of which was made prior to any substantive opportunity to respond before the appropriate decision-makers," Lyons said in the statement.
Pruitt, as well as nine other football personnel, were fired on Monday afternoon as an investigation into "serious" NCAA violations continues.
Pruitt was fired for cause and, as of now, will not receive a buyout from the University. His contract and subsequent extension back in 2020 would give the coach upwards of $12 million if he had been fired without cause.
UT Chancellor Donde Plowman said the firings were due to serious Level I and Level II NCAA violations reported on November 13, 2020, but could not confirm precisely what those violations were yet because it could potentially jeopardize the investigation. She said the firings came after discovering staff in the football program tried to conceal those offenses from leadership.
"We believe the decision to be the culmination of an orchestrated effort to renege on contractual promises made to Coach Pruitt upon his hiring in 2017 and reiterated less than five months ago," Lyons said in the statement.
Here's is a full transcript Lyons made available on his firm's website early Monday evening:
"This afternoon, Coach Pruitt learned that Tennessee was terminating his employment for cause. He is extremely disappointed with the decision, the public announcement of which was made prior to any substantive opportunity to respond before the appropriate decision-makers. We believe the decision to be the culmination of an orchestrated effort to renege on contractual promises made to Coach Pruitt upon his hiring in 2017 and reiterated less than five months ago.
While the limited portions of the University's self-initiated investigation shared with Coach Pruitt provide some evidence of violations committed by off-field staff, Chancellor Donde Plowman personally confirmed during an in-person meeting with Coach Pruitt this morning that: (1) the University’s investigation had yet to have been completed; (2) the Chancellor had not yet read Coach Pruitt's NCAA interview transcript; and (3) there was no evidence that Coach Pruitt was either actively involved in any alleged violations or knew they were occurring. She further confirmed to Coach Pruitt that no employment decision had been made. Less than three hours later, however, Coach Pruitt was e-mailed a five-page, single-spaced letter of termination—the contents of which were immediately leaked to the public.
The timing of the University’s actions and decision appear to be preordained and more about financial convenience and expediency than a fair and complete factual determination by the University. Moreover, it seems clear the recent leaks to the press are indicative of interest to steer the narrative in a way that is desirable to the University to justify a decision likely made weeks ago.
Coach Pruitt and I look forward to defending any allegation that he has engaged in any NCAA wrongdoing, as well as examining the University’s intent to disparage and destroy Coach Pruitt’s reputation in an effort to avoid paying his contractual liquidated damages.
Despite the apparent outcome-oriented nature of the investigation and the absence of any reliable evidence suggesting any preventable failure by Coach Pruitt in the oversight of his program, Coach Pruitt and his family are thankful for and will always cherish their time with the University. In addition to having made lifelong friends in Knoxville, Coach Pruitt is most thankful for and appreciative of the outstanding young men he was able to coach and mentor. He wishes those student-athletes and the remarkable fans that support them nothing but success."