KNOXVILLE -- The University of Tennessee announced additional minor penalties from the NCAA stemming from the violations committed by Willie Mack Garza, an assistant coach on Lane Kiffin's staff, in 2009.
The Volunteers' two-year probationary period from the 2011 case involving football recruiting violations under Kiffin and the lies and recruiting violations to the NCAA from former basketball coach Bruce Pearl was extended two more years to August 23, 2015.
The NCAA also reduced the number of allowable official visits for football recruits from 51 to 47 for the current academic year and the number of evaluation days during the spring 2012 evaluation period. During unofficial visits for the first two SEC games next season, Tennessee can provide no complimentary tickets for unofficial football visitors.
"We finally close the chapter on the prior actions of members of a previous football coaching staff," Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said in the university's release. "We have significantly strengthened our culture of compliance at Tennessee and will continue to do so. We disagree with additional penalties for a matter we believed should have been a part of the previous case.
"We will now move forward."
The university met with the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in October for an expedited penalty hearing as part of summary disposition report Tennessee submitted in June. In a summary disposition, the NCAA's enforcement staff is not involved with penalties or recommendations on the penalties. Tennessee did not dispute the facts of the case, but the university and the COI could not reach a resolution, thus leading to the hearing.
"The University of Tennessee worked in full cooperation with the NCAA throughout this process," chancellor Jimmy Cheek said. "We were disappointed with the initial penalties and appealed on two occasions, in writing and at the hearing in Florida. Although we disagree with the additional penalties, we accept the decision of the Committee.
"I am proud of the stronger compliance structure we have instituted at the University of Tennessee."
In September 2011, a month after the NCAA closed Tennessee's initial case, Yahoo! Sports reported that Garza, the Volunteers' defensive backs coach under Kiffin, arranged for five-star tailback prospect Lache Seastrunk and his mother to visit Tennessee in June 2009 and reimbursed Willie Lyles, a scout and Seastrunk's mentor, for his purchase of airfare and hotel expenses.
Garza followed Kiffin to Southern California after one season in Knoxville, but he resigned two days before the 2011 season began, citing "some personal issues unrelated to USC that I need to address." Lyles is based in Houston and has been linked to potential recruiting violations at LSU and Oregon. Seastrunk never took an official visit, signed with Oregon and transferred to Baylor in his home state.
In an interview with the NCAA in August 2010, Garza failed to disclose information concerning the violation. A year later, when interviewed again by the NCAA, Garza denied knowledge of the violation until he was presented with the evidence of the financial transaction, after which he admitted to paying for Seastrunk's visit.
The NCAA slapped Garza with a three-year show-cause order, meaning any school that hired him during that period likely would have to accept the recruiting ban place on him or meet with the COI to contest the restrictions.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...