Fired Univ. of Tennessee football coach says illegal acts were inspired by George Floyd

The University of Tennessee was hit with steep penalties as a result of a major scandal involving former football coach Jeremy Pruitt who violated NCAA rules by illegally paying recruits and their families, costly infractions that he claimed were at least partially motivated by black social justice martyr figures including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both of whom sparked unrest after they died in police-involved incidents in 2020.

Last Friday, the NCAA announced its punishment for the school for committing over 200 recruiting violations involving more than $60,000 during Pruitt’s tenure, including an $8 million fine, a loss of scholarships, and the vacating of 11 wins from the 2019 and 2020 seasons, although the Tennessee Volunteers dodged a postseason ban over the offenses.

Pruitt, who was fired in 2019 after three seasons in Knoxville, explained his bizarre reasoning to investigators when asked about $300 given to a player’s mother in a Chick-Fil-A bag, saying that he was inspired by Floyd and others to break the rules, according to documents obtained by Knox News through an open records request.

The ex-coach said that he gave the woman the money when in 2020, during the COVID shutdown, “she showed up in the parking lot outside the UT football complex in tears because of financial hardship. She told him she had nowhere else to turn for money to pay her bills,” the outlet reported, adding that “Pruitt admitted giving her the cash from his car, where he typically stored it.”

Pruitt explained that he felt sorry for the player’s mom due to the financial problems from the shutdown and that the school’s fund used to help athletes with financial hardships was “tapped out,” telling investigators that “his privilege, her race and social unrest were on his mind.”

“Then you throw in George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, okay, so you sit there as a white man and you see all of this going on and you can see these kids suffering,” Pruitt said, referring to the three 2020 deaths that drew widespread outrage and in Floyd’s case, ignited violent race riots throughout the nation.

“… (It’s) pitiful when you sit in a room and you hear grown men, and I’m talking about our coaches too, when they talk about growing up and the circumstances that they’ve been under, because it’s hard for a white man to understand, right,” he added.

Pruitt also told investigators that he had no regrets,  “I would do it again because I don’t think it’s breaking the rules (based on what would’ve been available through UT’s Student Assistance Fund if not for the pandemic),” Pruitt said. “I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve got little kids, and I hope one of these days when I’m dead and gone that somebody does the right thing for them.”

In addition to the harsh penalties to the University of Tennessee, Pruitt was hit with a six-year show-cause penalty meaning that any team that wants to hire him must have the approval of the NCAA and if approved, he will be suspended for the first year of employment.

The Volunteers finished an impressive 11-2 last year, capped off by a 31-14 Orange Bowl win against the Clemson Tigers.

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