Jeremy Pruitt wasn't the only university employee that was ousted due to the internal and NCAA investigation into football recruiting violations. Tennessee terminated outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton's and inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer's contracts with cause while five off the field employees were fired.
The off the field employees that were terminated included director of football player personnel Danny Stiff and assistant director of football player personnel J.T. Hill. Stiff and Hill are in the top of the recruiting department and helped with scouting.
Stiff had been on Tennessee’s staff since Pruitt arrived in Knoxville serving as assistant director of football player personnel, until Drew Hughes left his position as director of football player personnel last spring to take the same position at South Carolina.
Stiff was promoted to Hughes’ position, and Hill was hired away from an off the field position at Alabama to become Pruitt’s assistant director of football player personnel.
The other employees in the recruiting department fired included Bethany Gunn, Rachel Bell, Chantryce Boome and Taylor Hooker. Quality control coach Larry Harold was also let go.
It was the widespread nature and quantity of violations that disturbed Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman the most.
“We were briefed extensively, and President Boyd was there, too, Friday,” Plowman said. “It was stunning. The number of people involved, as I said in my comments, and the number of incidents. That was shocking and partly what you see in the actions that we’re taking today.”
While the departure of those in the recruiting office may not seem like a massive loss at face value, they will be missed in the short term as Tennessee tries to continue to recruit and evaluate prospects during this time of instability.
With Tennessee down four assistant coaches, the coaches still on staff have been busy with easing the concerns of current players and keeping them out of the transfer portal, making it nearly impossible to pick up the extra recruiting work left by the seven staffers terminations.
Niedermeyer and Felton were fired with cause due to these amendments in their contracts.
“Conduct or omission(s) by Coach that constitutes a Level 1 or Level 2 violation of one or more Governing Athletic Rules.”
“Failure of Coach to report promptly to the Director of Athletics or the staff member in the Athletics Department with primary responsibility for compliance any actual knowledge of or reasonable cause to believe that a violation of Governing Athletic Rules or University Rules has been committed by a Coach and/or any other person.”
“Conduct or omission(s) by Coach that constitutes material neglect or inattention by Coach to the standards or duties generally expected of University employees.”
Neither Niedermeyer or Felton have contested their termination the way Pruitt has, but Niedermeyer was on an expiring contract and was owed no further money while Felton had just one season left on his contract, meaning UT would have owed him $250,000 in 2021.
Niedermeyer had extensive recruiting success in his roles as Tennessee's tight end and inside linebackers coach. The Alaska native was 247sports recruiter of the year for the 2019 signing class, helping the Vols sign Henry To’o To’o, Quavaris Crouch and Darnell Wright. The former assistant director of recruiting operations at Alabama had been linked to the investigation from its offset and his departure was no surprise.
Felton, however, hadn’t been linked to the NCAA violations prior to his termination on Jan. 18. Felton had just joined Tennessee’s staff as outside linebackers coach in January of 2020. While that seems to limit the time Felton could have committed violations, the former Georgia high school coach was on Pruitt’s first staff in 2018 as a quality control coach.
The assistant coach’s termination has affected Tennessee with a pair of inside linebackers, To’o To’o and Crouch, entering the transfer portal.
The smaller football staff made it even more imperative that Tennessee move with speed in hiring a new athletic director and football coach.