Michael Lyons, the attorney representing former Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt, sent a letter to the university on October 7, asking that both sides try to reach a settlement. Pruitt was fired last January and is currently being investigated by the school and the NCAA in regards to alleged recruiting violations, along with impermissible benefits given to former student athletes.
In the letter, which was first obtained by Blake Toppmeyer and which OutKick has obtained. Lyons asks for “All documents regarding Larry Pratt, Bobby Maze, or [UT men’s basketball coach] Rick Barnes and the use of any Foundation or organization in connection with providing benefits to student athletes or recruits.”
On Tuesday night, Rick Barnes responded to the letter that included his name.
“I’m really disappointed that Jeremy would throw people’s names around that he knows did nothing but support him the entire time he was here and make these unsubstantiated claims,” he told ESPN. “I would invite the NCAA to come in any day of the week and investigate our program. I have too much respect for our players, our school and our administration for somebody to ever think we were not doing things right here and make such ridiculous statements.
“Jeremy is not here because of the decisions he made and the way he led his program,” Barnes added. “Here’s what I know: Our university has done everything it possibly can in working with the NCAA to clean up the mess he left behind and bring this to closure.”
Rick Barnes wasn’t the only one to respond to the letter. Former Tennessee football coach and athletic director Phillip Fulmer let it be known that Pruitt “screwed up” the situation by allegedly cheating to win.
“The days I interviewed each candidate for the head football coaching position at the University of Tennessee, including Jeremy Pruitt, I emphasized that you did not have to cheat to win at the University of Tennessee and that cheating would not be tolerated,” Fulmer told ESPN. “Jeremy has no one to blame but himself for his firing from UT. He had a great opportunity at a great university, and he simply screwed it up.”
As he has tried in prior months, Pruitt’s attorney has been working to get Tennessee to cough up some kind of buyout money, which the school does not have to do because Pruitt was fired for cause. The university felt it had enough information in January, not even two months into the investigation, to fire Jeremy Pruitt with cause and not pay him his $12 million dollar buyout.
As a result, Tennessee attorney Ryan Stinnett issued a reply to Lyons’ letter, saying, “Interestingly, your letter contains no denials of your client’s actions. Instead, you raise vague and unsupported allegations of other violations by the University and threaten to embarrass the University publicly by revealing these alleged violations. The University emphatically denies these allegations and will not be intimidated into settling with your client based on your unsupported assertions. Also, these allegations reveal an additional ground for the termination of your client’s employment because he failed to promptly report them as required by paragraph 3.2.2(c) of his employment agreement.”
Stinnett further added, “The University has already taken necessary steps to preserve all evidence pertaining to your client’s termination and the underlying investigation. The University will supplement its evidence preservation to specifically address the items you listed; however, your attempts to drag innocent donors and other coaches into this matter is tactless, highly offensive, and only serves to exacerbate this dispute.”
We shall see what happens next in this saga.