published Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Past coaches haunt Tennessee Vols

Former University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin
Former University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — Former University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin will coach the 11th game of his third season at the University of Southern California this afternoon when the school plays UCLA.

The fallout from his one-year run with the Volunteers, however, continued Friday when UT announced additional minor penalties from the NCAA that stem from violations committed in 2009 by Willie Mack Garza, an assistant on Kiffin's staff.

Under the new penalties, the Vols' two-year probationary period from the 2011 case -- involving football recruiting violations under Kiffin and lies about recruiting violations to the NCAA by former basketball coach Bruce Pearl -- was extended two more years to Aug. 23, 2015.

As part of the new punishment, the NCAA also reduced the number of allowable official visits for football recruits from 51 to 47 in the current academic year and also reduced the number of days during the spring 2012 evaluation period for recruits.

In addition, Tennessee can provide no complimentary tickets during unofficial visits by potential recruits for the first two Southeastern Conference football games next season.

After twice appealing the penalties assessed by the NCAA Committee on Infractions, the university finally accepted the additional penalties.

"We finally close the chapter on the prior actions of members of a previous football coaching staff," Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said in a news 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," he said.

The NCAA's enforcement staff issued Tennessee a verbal notice of inquiry last September, and the university, Garza and the NCAA agreed to a summary disposition in January. Tennessee did not dispute the facts of the case, and the report was submitted to the Committee on Infractions in June.

A month later, the committee proposed its additional penalties, but Tennessee said it did not agree to them. That led to an expedited hearing in Florida in October between the NCAA and Tennessee. Garza did not attend that hearing.

"The University of Tennessee worked in full cooperation with the NCAA throughout this process," UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said. "We were disappointed with the initial penalties and appealed on two occasions, in writing and at the hearing in Florida."

In September 2011, a month after the NCAA closed Tennessee's initial case, Yahoo! Sports reported that Garza, the Vols' 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 Houston-based 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 has been linked to potential recruiting violations at Louisiana State University and the University of Oregon. Seastrunk never took an official visit to Tennessee, signed with Oregon, then transferred to Baylor University.

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 specifically about the violations with Seastrunk, Garza denied knowledge of the violation. Once presented with the evidence of the financial transaction, Garza admitted paying for Seastrunk's visit.

The NCAA slapped Garza with a three-year order for unethical conduct, known as a show-cause order. Any school that hired him during that period likely would have to accept the recruiting ban place on him or meet with the Committee on Infractions to contest the restrictions.

about Patrick Brown...

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 ...

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