NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When the University of Tennessee fired its head football coach for cause on Monday, it was merely just the beginning.
The University signed off on his $12.6 million buyout just four months ago before the start of the 2020 season. Language in his contract states he can be fired for cause if NCAA violations are uncovered.
We still await word on specific findings from the NCAA, but it’s clear violations are on the way based on UT Chancellor Donde Plowman’s comments yesterday.
Plowman said findings of the internal investigation were, “Stunning. The number of people involved and the number of incidents. That was shocking. That’s partly what you see in the level of actions today.”
However, through his attorney Michel Lyons, Pruitt argues that, “The timing of the university’s actions and decisions appear to be preordained and more about financial convenience and expediency than fair and complete factual determination by the university.”
As for Pruitt’s culpability in the actions that lead to two assistant coaches and six other staff members fired, Chancellor Plowman says what happens in his program is on him.
“Coach Jeremy Pruitt is the leader of our football program. He is responsible for hiring assistant coaches and a staff and making sure that those who report to him comply to NCAA rules. This is written into his employment contract,” she read from a written statement in Monday’s press conference. “In addition, under the NCAA bylaws, he is presumed responsible for the actions of all staff members who report to him either directly or indirectly.”
Pruitt’s attorney also accuses Tennessee of leaking information to the press to “steer the narrative in a way that is desirable to the University to justify a decision likely made weeks ago.”
Predictably, action will be taken.
“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 a effort to avoid paying his contractual liquidated damages.”
“Timing” is the key word in what happens next. Pruitt’s attorney alleges that Chancellor Plowman told Pruitt Monday morning a decision had yet to be made on his employment and then three hours later, Pruitt was emailed a letter of termination.
In addition, the University hired the Parker Executive Search firm to, “represent the University of Tennessee Knoxville in the search for the next Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics,” according to the official contract.
The contract between the University and Parker Executive Search was signed on January 16, two days before Pruitt was fired and Phillip Fulmer retired.
The legal battle has just begun.