Tennessee head football coach Lane Kiffin stands to the side Thursday before answering questions on the upcoming Chik-Fil-A bowl and recent reports of a possible NCAA investigation into the football program.
KNOXVILLE -- University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin staunchly defended his program's recruiting tactics Thursday afternoon in response to reports of an NCAA review.
A story focusing on UT's use of Orange Pride, a coed student ambassador group more commonly known as the Vols hostesses, that was first reported Wednesday in the New York Times quickly became national news.
"Myself and our staff take the rules and the bylaws of the NCAA and SEC extremely seriously," Mr. Kiffin said in a news conference. "In this situation right here, I don't know of any wrongdoing of any members of our staff in this, or of the kids that are being questioned in this."
Several female Orange Pride members traveled nearly 200 miles earlier this fall to a high school game at Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., where several UT prospects -- including two committed players -- were playing.
The NCAA could interpret the weekend trip as an illegal recruiting trip made by nonsanctioned UT personnel.
The fathers of UT commitments Brandon Willis and Corey Miller said they saw no irregularities in the trip. They described the female students as friends of their sons who had planned since the summer to attend a game.
At the news conference, Mr. Kiffin, UT men's athletic director Mike Hamilton and several school officials reiterated that they haven't seen an official letter of inquiry from the NCAA to announce specific problems. But they said they plan to cooperate with any forthcoming concerns.
"We treat any situation like this very seriously," Mr. Hamilton said.
Mr. Kiffin noted the success that UT's staff has enjoyed on the recruiting trail -- the Volunteers have one of the nation's top classes, according to most analysts -- and he suggested that might have played a role in opposing coaches or administrators leaking information to the media.
"People will always try to take shots at us, and they'll always try to bring us down, but it won't matter," he said. "We're excited about the direction we're going."
"As I talked about earlier, as the head coach, it's my job to make sure we're doing everything by the rules. And we are," he said.