Everybody noticed the liberal use of "former coaching staff" this and "former head coach" that in the NCAA report on Tennessee's alleged football recruiting violations, right? That language may hold the key to any future sanctions levied against the Volunteer football program.
The fact that the basketball program is being hit with allegations at the same time provides a convenient way to contrast the charges leveled at the two teams. (Banner day for Tennessee here, in case you hadn't noticed.) In the document detailing the NCAA allegations against the football program (available on Tennessee's athletics website), you'll note that the charges of "failure to monitor" and "failure to promote an atmosphere for compliance" are directed at the Vols' former head coach and his staff, while the university itself is named in a failure to monitor charge regarding basketball recruiting.
There's been almost a wholesale turnover of assistant coaches since Kiffin's departure to USC, though one staffer named specifically in the findings, recruiting intern Steve Rubio, remains at Tennessee. And though standard NCAA operating procedure is to punish the institution for transgressions committed by players, coaches, and boosters, and though schools have been brought low before by the actions of since-departed figures, a precedent for sanctioning a departed coach does exist: Stewart Mandel reminds us that Rick Neuheisel was banned from off-campus recruiting for a year at Washington based on the NCAA's sentencing of Colorado.
What's really interesting is the next step in the process between the university and the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, wherein the school will be compelled to report whether Kiffin did, in fact, facilitate an environment of compliance at Tennessee. There's already one indication (that we know about) that he didn't: The very first charge leveled against "former members of the institution's football coaching staff," involving improper phone calls to recruits during the January 2010 dead period:
These calls were placed subsequent to the football staff's receipt of information in December 2009 from the institution's compliance staff that such telephone calls were impermissible.
Can the University of Tennessee exact some Appalachian justice on the coach who so publicly jilted them? We won't know for ages, but look forward to three months of spiteful speculation.
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