Tennessee turmoil takes twist with money allegedly delivered in McDonald’s bags
ATHENS — Tennessee’s troubles are drawing a myriad of responses from around the SEC, from at least one coaching staff, to media and certainly fans on social media.
The firing of Coach Jeremy Pruitt amid what the UT chancellor referred to as “stunning” and “shocking” numbers of incidents and people involved — 10 were fired — has caught everyone’s attention.
In a story that grows more bizarre by the day, the Vols alleged stuffed money into McDonald’s bags that were distributed to recruits who came to campus on visits, according to former ESPN star Dan Patrick.
Source: Tennessee #Vols got sloppy with recruiting. They were handing recruits cash in McDonald’s bags when they visited campus.
Also a name to look out for to fill the Head Coaching vacancy: Jason Witten pic.twitter.com/HKDd02rldz
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) January 19, 2021
It was Georgia that triggered Tennessee’s on-field issues, which some suggested led to the atmosphere where someone was willing to turn-in the program for alleged recruiting improprieties.
Whispers: (If Tennessee was 7-3 this season instead of 3-7 then Jeremy Pruitt is still the head coach).
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) January 18, 2021
The Bulldogs, despite Zamir White getting stopped on back-to-back plays from the 1-yard line right before halftime, rallied from 21-17 down to a dominant 44-21 win over UT on Oct. 10.
The UGA win snapped what had been the FBS ranks’ longest Power 5 win streak at eight games and sent the Vols into a tailspin. Pruitt was furious with his team and let them know in harsh verbal terms, per the parent of a player on the team.
The Tennessee team spirit crumbled. The Vols’ players were suddenly tentative and afraid to make a mistake, lest they draw Pruitt’s fiery ire on the sideline with cameras zoomed in.
A 34-7 loss to Kentucky ensued, and the once supportive VolTwitter began to turn on Pruitt and his staff, suspecting that a change could be needed.
Unbeknownst to them and most everyone else, the beginning of the end was underway even before the fifth and sixth losses to Auburn and Florida amid the team’s plunge.
The Tennessee chancellor revealed that her office had received a tip of wrongdoing on Nov. 19, and immediately, the school took action with its legal counsel.
In addition to Pruitt, former “National Recruiter of the Year” Brian Niedermeyer was discovered to be caught up in the alleged improprieties and was fired.
Shane Beamer, a former Georgia and Tennessee football assistant who is the new head coach at South Carolina, said the Vols’ troubles represent a teaching point for his staff.
“We’re certainly going to do things the right way here,” Beamer said on Tuesday. “It’s great teaching tools for sure, when you’re able to pinpoint or spotlight other programs that maybe are dealing with some issue like some school out there right now as an illustration of mistakes they made.”
Shane Beamer when asked about the situation at Tennessee: “I’ve seen it done at Oklahoma and other schools… you can do things the right way… when I go home and lay down… I’m gonna feel good about the way we did things (at USC).” @abc_columbia pic.twitter.com/TlcfflQdFF
— Mike Gillespie (@MikeABCColumbia) January 19, 2021
Pruitt, meanwhile, is contesting the charges that got him fired with cause, clearly looking to salvage some of the $12.6 million he would have reportedly been due otherwise.
There will no doubt be plenty more litigation before Pruitt gets his day in court, so to speak.
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 19, 2021
The program remains under investigation for the foreseeable future, the NCAA sometimes taking years to complete thorough sweeps into programs that have committed numerous Level l and Level ll violations.
Outgoing UT athletic director Phillip Fulmer, formerly the Big Orange’s Hall of Fame football coach, conceded Monday it could take the program time to recover from what’s about to follow.
In the meantime, Tennessee will need to settle for being known best for popular coach Rick Barnes’ basketball team, while fans from outside and within the Volunteer State poke fun at the once-proud football program’s expense.
— Sugurray from UGA🏌️♂️🍻🏈🍻🏆 (@sugurray4UGA) January 19, 2021
After the Tennessee report the wife made me go get McDonald’s. We’re very disappointed there’s food inside instead of a fistful of cash. pic.twitter.com/Z8N3Ta3lZr
— Barning Knight (@BarningKnight) January 20, 2021
When you are a recruit going to Tennessee for a visit and you open your McDonald’s and it’s actually a Big Mac pic.twitter.com/KXvLh8pj0V
— Latrell Biggims the 16th (@HaskinsFor6) January 20, 2021
Went to McDonald’s to get dinner. This was in my bag. With that being said I would like to announce I am committing to the University of Tennessee. No question please. pic.twitter.com/tctw1mHQCo
— Jake Jones (@CoachJones_11) January 19, 2021
*Tennessee coaching staff at McDonald’s* pic.twitter.com/4a8USpBRk6
— Wesley Pitts™ (@PAPA_PITTO) January 19, 2021