Jeremy Pruitt and his lawyer have responded to his termination with cause, claiming it was unrighteous and a coordinated effort by members of the university's leadership.
“The timing of the university’s actions and decision appear to be preordained and more about financial convenience and expediency than a fair and complete factual determination by the University,” Pruitt’s lawyer Michael Lyons said in a statement he released.
Included in the statement, Lyons claimed that Pruitt met with University of Tennessee Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman Monday and was told that the investigation was ongoing, Plowman hadn’t read the transcripts from Pruitt’s interview with investigators and that a decision hadn’t been made on his future.
“While the limited portions of the University’s self-initiated investigation shared with Coach Pruitt provide some evidence of violations committed by off-field staff, Chancellor Donde Plowman personally confirmed with Coach Pruitt this morning that: (1) the University’s investigation had yet to have been completed; (2) the Chancellor had not yet read Coach Pruitt’s NCAA interview transcript; and (3) there was no evidence that Coach Pruitt was either actively in any alleged violations or knew they were occurring. She further confirmed to Coach Pruitt that no employment decision had been made,” Lyons said. “Less than three hours later, however, Coach Pruitt was e-mailed a five-page, single-spaced letter of termination - the contents of which were immediately leaked to the public.”
The release comes just hours after Plowman called the results of the investigation “disturbing” and that it included “serious infractions (that) warrant immediate action.”
Lyons also claims that the investigation was used as a ruse to help the University justify firing Pruitt with cause.
“Moreover, it seems clear that the recent leaks to the press are indicative of an interest to steer the narrative in a way that is desirable to the university to justify a decision likely made weeks ago,” Lyon said.
Lyons stated that he and Pruitt plan to defend any allegations that he broke NCAA rules. Without cause, Tennessee would owe Pruitt a total of $12.6 million to buy him out of his current contract.
However, Tennessee will likely reach a financial agreement with Pruitt that pays him part of his buyout.
Tennessee finishes paying former head coach Butch Jones his full buyout this month, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created massive revenue loss across all of college athletics.
Through Lyons, Pruitt also expressed appreciation for his players at Tennessee and the Volunteer fanbase.
“Coach Pruitt and his family are thankful for and will always cherish their time with the University,” the statement said. “In addition to having made lifelong friends in Knoxville, Coach Pruitt is most thankful for and appreciative of the outstanding young men he was able to coach and mentor. He wishes those student-athletes and the remarkable fans that support them nothing but success.”