NCAA to Smack Tennessee, Lane Kiffin
The NCAA will cite the University of Tennessee's football program with a failure to monitor a violation stemming from the short tenure of former head coach Lane Kiffin, multiple sources close to the investigation both inside and outside the university told FanHouse.
The violation is related to improper recruiting contacts by Vol coaches and by Vol hostesses in the since-disbanded Orange Pride program. What's more, in a stunning development that reaches across the country and implicates another of the nation's most-storied programs, the NCAA will also cite Kiffin, now at USC, with a failure to monitor charge as well as additional citations against Kiffin's brother-in-law, David Reaves, formerly an assistant quarterbacks coach at Tennessee.
Reaves, who was not hired as part of Kiffin's USC staff, is currently a New Mexico assistant in charge of quarterbacks and the passing game.
All of these charges stem from the coaches' tumultuous one-year reign in Knoxville and involve improper contact with recruits. While the university's Orange Pride program -- a group that was disbanded in 2010 in the wake of the NCAA investigation into its activities -- has received most of the media attention, the NCAA's investigation into improper contacts was much more wide- ranging and includes alleged violations that do not implicate the hostess program at all.
Allegations that some members of Orange Pride had been used to improperly recruit top football recruits were first reported by The New York Times in December 2009.
In a press release in December 2009, the university described Orange Pride as "one of three student admissions groups that serve as ambassadors for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Orange Pride's responsibilities include staffing university-wide admissions programs, providing campus tours, and hosting prospective student athletes and their families. There are 75 students, both men and women, in the group."
The allegations reported by The New York Times centered around Vol hostesses traveling to a high school football game in South carolina to watch three Vol recruits play. One of the those three players, Corey Miller, went on to sign with Tennessee, the other two players, Marcus Lattimore and Brandon Willis, signed with South Carolina and North Carolina, respectively.
In its investigation, the NCAA has determined that Reaves, then an assistant coach at Tennessee, made improper contact with recruits as well as providing written and oral instruction to the Vol hostesses about which top recruits to contact, how to contact them, and asked for updates on those conversations, which occurred either via Facebook, text message or phone call.
The hostesses were also urged to inquire as to how official visits to other schools went and to make sure that recruits remained committed to the Vols. According to the NCAA, these contacts were improper and amounted to a failure to monitor on the part of the football program.
Upon receipt of the notice of allegations, the university and the coaches are expected to respond to the charges within 90 days, likely arguing that the hostesses acted alone and without direction from the coaching staff. Indeed, Reaves maintained to NCAA investigators that he provided no direction to members of Orange Pride. But the NCAA has written evidence to counter these denials and that evidence in conjunction with interviews with the hostesses led the NCAA to believe that Kiffin, Reaves and the University of Tennessee football program have all violated NCAA rules.
The University of Tennessee and Southern California declined comment on the NCAA's allegations.
Asked to comment on allegations against assistant coach David Reaves, the University of New Mexico said, "Neither David Reaves nor the University of New Mexico have received official rulings from the NCAA so as far as we're concerned that is still an investigation and we cannot comment."
The decision to pursue charges against Kiffin and Reaves represents an expansive assault on not just the Volunteer football program, but the coaches themselves, who have since left for other schools.
A prominent NCAA attorney, Mark Jones, chair of the law firm Ice Miller's collegiate sports practice, said that "failure to monitor allegations are almost always classified as a major violation," but that punishments for failure to monitor can vary significantly based upon the NCAA's opinion of the severity of those violations.
Jones also stated that situations where coaches commit a violation and then move on to another school and receive punishment are "not the norm, but in the past twenty-five years that has happened in a number of cases."
The most recent example of a coach with a checkered past being slammed was Kelvin Sampson, the disgraced former Indiana coach who was handed a five-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA that effectively acts as a five-year college coaching ban. Sampson's penalty occurred after continued improper recruiting contacts. But Sampson was a serial rule violator, having previously been punished at Oklahoma prior to arriving at Indiana.
Kiffin has, until now, escaped NCAA sanction for significant violations, although he did skirt the edge of the NCAA rulebook with several high profile secondary violations as Tennessee's coach.
Whether USC, which is already under stiff NCAA probation that it is presently appealing, stands behind its first-year coach as he defends himself in this matter is a decision for first year athletic director Pat Haden to make. In the meantime, both coaches, as well as the University of Tennessee, will have an opportunity to defend themselves in a hearing currently scheduled for this summer.
The NCAA's findings in football still leave the University of Tennessee awaiting full punishment from the NCAA for admitted violations in its basketball program.
But, for now, the disastrous Lane Kiffin tenure -- Kiffin went 7-6 in one year at the helm before bolting for USC -- continues to haunt the football program.
Shortly after taking the helm Kiffin acknowledged that his program had a bull's eye on it: "The problem right here, because it's Tennessee and it's a new job and the approach I've taken of pushing things a little, everybody is looking for something. We're real quick to turn things in. We know everybody is looking at us."
Tennessee, Kiffin, and Reaves will have 90 days to respond to the NCAA's findings once the official letter of allegations arrives. In the meantime, two of the most storied progams in college football are on shaky ground.
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