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University of Tennessee reports recruiting violations

NET News Service • Feb 9, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee officials self-reported two secondary recruiting violations committed in January under new football coach Lane Kiffin and his staff.

In a letter to the NCAA and Southeastern Conference, the university’s athletic department said one violation occurred when nine prospects on an official visit to the school participated in a mock press conference at Neyland Stadium’s media center. Another violation occurred when a fog machine was used as a recruit entered the field at Neyland Stadium during his official visit on Jan. 9.

Under NCAA recruiting rules, schools are prohibited from simulating a game experience for recruits during official visits.

Tennessee issued letters of admonishment to Kiffin and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron and provided the staff with a review of NCAA recruiting policies. Neither the NCAA nor the SEC has issued any punishment.

“They understand that they must ask questions of the compliance office about anything ‘creative’ regarding campus visits,” the Jan. 26 letter said.

The violations were first reported Monday by The Knoxville News Sentinel.

Tennessee’s coaching staff believed the mock press conference was allowed because it was not done in public. The staff thought the use of the fog machine was allowed after seeing it used at other universities.

Kiffin, introduced as Tennessee’s coach on Dec. 1, was reprimanded by SEC commissioner Mike Slive on Feb. 5 for falsely accusing Florida coach Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation.

Kiffin said Meyer broke recruiting rules by phoning prospect Nu’Keese Richardson while the wide receiver was making his official visit to Tennessee. Doing so does not constitute a violation of either NCAA or SEC rules.

“I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn’t get him,” Kiffin said, according to a WVLT-TV report.

Kiffin made a formal apology to Meyer and Florida the following day.

In December, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier questioned whether Kiffin broke rules by contacting a recruit before being cleared by the NCAA to do so. Kiffin assured fans that he had been notified by the NCAA that he was cleared before making his first phone call.

Kiffin joked later that he received a 39 out of 40 on his recruiting test required by the NCAA.

Kiffin, who replaced Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee, was fired by the Oakland Raiders four weeks into the 2008 NFL season. It is Kiffin’s first job as head coach of a college team.

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