NASHVILLE − Tennessee athletics director Danny White knows the football program will be living with the consequences from recruiting violations for years to come, but he’s glad a decision was finally made and the program can move forward.
White was at the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Omni Nashville Hotel on Saturday night, where he and Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman were honored as co-Tennesseans of the year, months before the NCAA announced its findings on July 14. Tennessee received a five-year probation, including $8 million in fines, scholarship reductions, vacated wins and show-cause penalties for seven former coaches and staffers but, crucially, no postseason ban.
“It wasn’t news for me,” White said. “We had been embedded in it the whole way through. I’m really proud to work at a university that handled things the right way, proud to work for a chancellor that handled things the right way. I think through this process I hope that we’ve shown there’s a path forward where you can hold yourself accountable and move swiftly through an investigation and do the right things for the right reasons. I know that’s what we’ve done.”
Despite avoiding a bowl ban, White said he wouldn’t classify the sanctions as “relatively minor.” He described the actions that occurred under fired coach Jeremy Pruitt as “serious misconduct” and, in reaction, believes the university was tagged with “serious penalties.”
“That’s fair,” White said. “We are responsible for things that happened on our campus, even though the people that made those decisions and the bad actors are no longer there.
“It’s something that we’ll be managing for the next few years, but to have a decision — and one that we think is fair and just — we’re thrilled to have that behind us and now we can spend less time thinking about that and more time continuing to build our programs.”
White and Plowman were honored by the hall of fame for an impressive year in Tennessee athletics. In the last 12 months, the Vols’ football team won the Orange Bowl, the baseball and softball teams each advanced to the College World Series and the men’s and women’s basketball teams both advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.
“A ton of student-athletes and coaches have really invested a lot of themselves into rebuilding our athletics department really fast,” White said. “I’m really proud of obviously our football program but all of our sports, and a phenomenal fan base that’s really responded so powerfully so that has us going on a really positive trajectory.”
Nick Suss is the Titans beat writer for The Tennessean. Contact Nick at email@example.com. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.