Jeremy Pruitt’s lawyer seeks Oct. 29 deadline for settlement by Tennessee, says Volunteers facing lawsuit if not met


An lawyer representing Jeremy Pruitt has given University of Tennessee officers till Oct. 29 to achieve a monetary settlement with the previous Vols soccer coach, or face a lawsuit that he says will embrace particulars of myriad NCAA guidelines violations within the soccer program and different sports activities and end in debilitating NCAA sanctions.

In an Oct. 7 letter to Tennessee basic counsel Ryan Stinnett, lawyer Michael Lyons of Dallas requested a gathering to resolve Pruitt’s calls for for a $12.6 million buyout that he claims he’s owed after being fired in January for alleged guidelines violations in his program. The college mentioned he was terminated with trigger and is owed nothing.

“As we have previously discussed, a public lawsuit with its related discovery, document productions, depositions, disclosures, and court filings is a no-win situation for UT,” Lyons wrote within the letter, which was obtained by ESPN on Tuesday by way of an open data request. “Even if UT prevails on its claimed defenses to the contract, which is unlikely, the public revelations from the lawsuit will invariably embarrass UT, its athletics department and the administration. All of the parties to this dispute should try to avoid that.”

Contents of the letter have been first reported by the USA Today Network.

Lyons warned in his letter {that a} lawsuit “could ensnare the parties for years to come, impugn the university’s reputation further, and potentially cripple UT’s athletic programs for years.”

Furthermore, Lyons alleged in his letter that UT’s higher administration “ignored and covered up” a number of self-reported NCAA violations throughout Pruitt’s teaching tenure, and a few violations that occurred earlier than he was employed.

Lyons added in his letter: “We have learned that UT upper administration was involved in or encouraged impermissible recruiting tactics. We have also learned that several prominent UT boosters have been and are involved in efforts to impermissibly recruit student athletes across multiple sports spanning multiple coaching regimes — some of which are still in place.”

In a response to Lyons on Monday, Stinnett wrote that the college “declines to participate in any informal or formal settlement negotiations with your client. The University maintains that it had proper cause to terminate your client for breach of his employment agreement in January, and our position has only strengthened since then.”

Stinnett famous in his response that the “evidence already gathered is sufficient to persuade any factfinder that your client’s termination for cause was fully justified.”

Sources have informed ESPN that Tennessee has but to obtain a discover of allegations from the NCAA.

In his letter, Lyons requested that Tennessee and its workers protect “all documents and communications regarding impermissible benefits provided by UT donors to student athletes” and the “use of any Foundation or organization in connection with providing benefits to student athletes or recruits.” He additionally requested the preservation of paperwork associated to Volunteers basketball coach Rick Barnes, former athletic director Phillip Fulmer, former soccer assistant coaches, particular boosters and different people.

Fulmer and Barnes each responded Tuesday, criticizing Pruitt’s actions.

Fulmer, the Vols’ Hall of Fame former head soccer coach, employed Pruitt in December 2017, every week after being named athletic director.

“The days I interviewed each candidate for the head football coaching position at the University of Tennessee, including Jeremy Pruitt, I emphasized that you did not have to cheat to win at the University of Tennessee and that cheating would not be tolerated,” Fulmer informed ESPN. “Jeremy has no one to blame but himself for his firing from UT. He had a great opportunity at a great university, and he simply screwed it up.”

Barnes, who’s coming into his seventh season because the Vols’ basketball coach, echoed Fulmer’s sentiments.

“I’m really disappointed that Jeremy would throw people’s names around that he knows did nothing but support him the entire time he was here and make these unsubstantiated claims,” he informed ESPN. “I would invite the NCAA to come in any day of the week and investigate our program. I have too much respect for our players, our school and our administration for somebody to ever think we were not doing things right here and make such ridiculous statements.

“Jeremy is not right here due to the selections he made and the way in which he led his program. Here’s what I do know: Our college has completed every part it presumably can in working with the NCAA to wash up the mess he left behind and produce this to closure.”

In a notice-of-intent-to-terminate letter sent to Pruitt in January, the university concluded that “the conduct by not less than two assistant coaches and a number of other recruiting employees members are prone to result in an NCAA discovering of Level I and/or Level II violations of a number of Governing Athletic Rules. The University additionally has concluded that these possible findings have been the results of both your materials neglect or lack of affordable preventive compliance measures.”

The school also fired assistant coaches Brian Niedermeyer and Shelton Felton, four members of the on-campus football recruiting staff, the director and assistant director of football player personnel and a football analyst/quality control coach.

Chancellor Donde Plowman in January said it was “gorgeous” and “surprising” the number of people involved and the amount of incidents the university’s internal investigation had uncovered.

“Interestingly, your letter accommodates no denials of your shopper’s actions,” Stinnett wrote to Lyons. “Instead, you elevate obscure and unsupported allegations of different violations by the University and threaten to embarrass the University publicly by revealing these alleged violations. The University emphatically denies these allegations and can not be intimidated into settling along with your shopper based mostly in your unsupported assertions.”

Lyons, in comments to ESPN, questioned Tennessee’s decision-making.

“Tennessee’s dug in and decided not to pay Jeremy Pruitt, and my shopper goes to guard his pursuits,” Lyons told ESPN on Tuesday. “That’s what he is employed me to do. I’m not stunned. … Someone within the Tennessee management goes to have to return and take a look at this when it is all mentioned and completed and say, ‘Was it price it?’ Is it definitely worth the reputational loss that you will take amongst good, certified coaches who’re keen to return to Tennessee? I’m not simply speaking about soccer, I’m speaking about any sport. Is it definitely worth the ache that is going to be exerted by way of the NCAA means of self-reported violations that you just discover by way of this course of?”

Lyons previously represented former Kansas football coach David Beaty, who sued the Jayhawks in March 2019, after they withheld his buyout because the university claimed he committed a Level II NCAA violation. In June 2020, the sides agreed to a $2.55 million settlement.

Earlier this month, the Independent Accountability Resolution Process notified Beaty that it had withdrawn the allegation against him and that he was no longer part of the case.

“If anyone thinks I’m a bluffer, go discuss to Kansas. See what they are saying,” Lyons said. “That’s not my popularity. I’m an advocate for my shopper, however I’m ethically duty-bound to ensure that I do not misrepresent something. I’m actually not going to place one thing in a letter that might element an NCAA violation that Tennessee has to show round and go report. Because then what occurs? I can not speak about it. It turns into the topic of an NCAA investigation, proper?”

Just previous to the 2020 season, Tennessee introduced it had rewarded Pruitt with an extension and a elevate, taking his contract by way of the 2025 season. Pruitt was set to earn $4.2 million yearly beginning in 2021.

Pruitt was 16-19 total at Tennessee and 10-16 in opposition to SEC opponents. The Vols have been 2-11 in opposition to AP-ranked opponents below Pruitt, who was in his first stint as a head coach. He was beforehand the defensive coordinator at Alabama below Nick Saban. He at present works as a senior defensive analyst for the New York Giants.

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