Tennessee reported two secondary violations last month that occurred while hosting football recruits on official visits.
Nine prospects in Knoxville for an official visit on Jan. 16 participated in a mock press conference in Neyland Stadium’s media center after touring the stadium. Coaches asked the prospects questions while they were being filmed.
According to a letter UT sent Jan. 26 to the SEC and NCAA, UT coach Lane Kiffin and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron were involved in the violations. The university became aware of the violation when the compliance staff read a prospect’s account of the visit in a news article.
Also included in UT’s letter, obtained by the News Sentinel through an open records request, was a previously reported violation that occurred when UT used a fog machine as a recruit entered the field in Neyland Stadium during his official visit Jan. 9.
The SEC office informed UT of that violation, which only involved one prospect.
“The violations occurred due to an incorrect assumption by the football coaching staff regarding official visit activities,” Tennessee wrote in its letter.
According to the letter, UT’s coaching staff believed that the mock press conference was permissible because it was not a public act and only involved a conversation between the coaching staff and recruits. Kiffin believed the use of a fog machine was permissible because he had seen it used while employed at another school.
That was most likely Southern California, where Kiffin was an assistant coach for six seasons. Washington reported a similar secondary violation last month by new head coach Steve Sarkisian, who coached with Kiffin at Southern California.
UT deemed both the mock press conference and use of the fog machine violations of an NCAA rule prohibiting schools from simulating a game experience for recruits during an official visit.
Those violations were the only self-reports involving UT’s football program since last summer.
UT issued letters of admonishment to Kiffin and Orgeron and provided the coaching staff with a review of NCAA legislation regarding official and unofficial visits.
“They understand that they must ask questions of the compliance office about anything ‘creative’ regarding campus visits,” UT wrote.
Tennessee immediately declared the 10 prospects involved in the violations ineligible, a standard procedure when reporting violations. The NCAA has since reinstated all the recruits involved, UT athletic department spokeswoman Tiffany Carpenter said.
UT reported six other minor violations involving various men’s and women’s programs dating to June 2008.
Tennessee likely will not receive additional punishment from either the NCAA or SEC for any the violations it reported during that time period.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.