May 25, 2024

Tennessee football coach cited death of George Floyd, others as reason for helping players: report

The Tennessee Volunteers football program was hit with major penalties last week for committing more than 200 infractions during the head coaching tenure of Jeremy Pruitt.

New details revealed in a Knox News report on Monday appeared to show Pruitt’s rationale behind some of the things he was found to have done in violation of NCAA rules. The outlet obtained some of the details through FOIA requests.


Jeremy Pruitt in 2018
Then-Tennessee NCAA college football head coach Jeremy Pruitt speaks during Southeastern Conference Media Days in Atlanta, July 18, 2018. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Pruitt told investigators he was thinking about the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor when he helped a player’s mother with some bills. Pruitt said the woman had come to him pleading for help because of financial hardships during the coronavirus pandemic.

“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 told investigators, via Knox News.

“… (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.”


George Floyd mural in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Damarra Atkins pays respect to George Floyd at a mural at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on April 23, 2021. (AP/Julio Cortez)

Pruitt said he would have done it again and did not think he was breaking the rules based on what the university’s student assistance fund would have done in the same situation if the country was not in the middle of the pandemic. The student assistance fund, used for students with hardships, was reportedly low on cash.

The NCAA fined Tennessee $8 million after the organization determined the program committed more than 200 infractions during a three-year period under Pruitt, including 18 Level I violations. The NCAA’s report said most involved recruiting infractions and direct payments to athletes and their families. The benefits totaled about $60,000.

Tennessee avoided a postseason ban and Pruitt was given a six-year show-cause order.

The NCAA found that Pruitt or his wife were involved in impermissible payments to two prospects who later signed with Tennessee.

Jeremy Pruitt in 2017

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