The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions announced today additional penalties for the University of Tennessee related to a major infractions case involving Willie Mack Garza, an assistant coach on the staff of head coach Lane Kiffin, during the 2009 season.
These penalties include a two-year extension of the probation issued during the 2011 infractions case, a reduction in official visits for the 2012-13 academic year from 51 to 47, a reduction in evaluation days during the spring 2012 evaluation period (already completed), and during unofficial visits during the fall of 2013, no complimentary tickets may be provided to prospective student-athletes for the first two conference games of the season.
The University met with the Committee on Infractions on October 13 for an expedited penalty hearing on an agreed upon summary disposition report submitted in June of 2012. The facts of the case, that Garza funded a prospect's unofficial visit to the University in 2009 and subsequently lied to the Enforcement staff when interviewed as an employee of the University of Southern California, were not in dispute. Resolution between the Committee on Infractions and the University of Tennessee regarding the penalties could not be reached and an expedited penalty hearing was held.
"We will finally close the chapter on the prior actions of members of a previous football coaching staff," said Dave Hart, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics. "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 part of the previous case. We will now move forward."
At issue in the penalty hearing was whether the penalty in the 2011 case would have substantially differed had the facts of this case been known at that time, whether the University should be punished for unethical conduct by a former staff member working at another institution and whether the penalties were grounded in precedent and substantially related to the violation committed. The Committee on Infractions made it clear that they are establishing new precedent with this case and others moving forward.
"The University of Tennessee worked in full cooperation with the NCAA throughout this process," said Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. "We were disappointed with the initial penalties and appealed on two occasions, in writing and at the hearing in Florida. Although we disagree with the additional penalties, we accept the decision of the Committee. I am proud of the stronger compliance structure we have instituted at the University of Tennessee."
In the facts agreed upon by the University, the NCAA and Garza, during the summer of 2009, Garza reimbursed Will Lyles, an individual associated with prospect Lache Seastrunk, for airfare and hotel expenses associated with an unofficial visit for Seastrunk and his mother to the University. Because Lyles arranged the trip for Seastrunk, the NCAA classified him as a booster of the University.
This visit took place two months prior to the permissible time period for prospects to make expense paid visits to the University. In August 2010, while employed at the University of Southern California, Garza was interviewed by the NCAA Enforcement Staff and failed to disclose information concerning the impermissible visit. In a subsequent interview with the Enforcement Staff conducted in August 2011, Garza denied knowledge of these activities until presented with objective proof of the financial transfer, at which time Garza admitted his role in the matter. Garza was an employee at the University of Tennessee from January 16, 2009, to January 21, 2010.