KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The NCAA has extended Tennessee's probation by two years as part of additional penalties handed down Friday following the ruling that former football assistant coach Willie Mack Garza provided impermissible travel and lodging to a former prospect.
Penalties include a public reprimand and censure plus a reduction in official visits, evaluation days and complimentary tickets to recruits on unofficial visits. This extends a probationary period that started in August 2011 and now runs through Aug. 23, 2015.
Garza, who worked at Tennessee on former coach Lane Kiffin's staff, received a three-year show-cause order. The show-cause penalty means that any school that hires him must prove to the NCAA that it is rules compliant. Garza resigned as USC's secondary coach two days before the Trojans started their 2011 season.
The NCAA ruled Garza reimbursed talent scout Will Lyles for plane tickets and hotel expenses associated with an unofficial visit made by Lache Seastrunk and his mother in the summer of 2009. The visit occurred outside the permissible time period for prospects to make expense-paid visits. The NCAA classified Lyles as a booster because he arranged the trip.
Seastrunk, a running back, eventually signed with Oregon and now plays for Baylor.
"We will finally close the chapter on the prior actions of members of a previous coaching staff," Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said in a statement released by the university. "We have significantly strengthened our culture of compliance at Tennessee and we continue to do so. We disagree with additional penalties for a matter we believed should have been part of the previous case. We will now move forward."
The penalties reduce the number of official visits Tennessee's football staff can have for the 2012-13 academic year from 51 to 47. The school also can't provide complimentary tickets to recruits who make unofficial visits for Tennessee's first two conference games in the 2013 season.
The NCAA also reduced the Tennessee coaching staff's number of evaluation days the 2012 spring evaluation period from 168 to 164. Although it was announced Friday along with all the other punishments, university athletic department spokesman Jimmy Stanton said the school already had served this particular penalty.
According to the NCAA infraction committee's report, Garza's act was considered unethical conduct because he knew the travel and lodging he provided to Seastrunk weren't allowed. The report also noted that Garza didn't disclose his involvement during interviews with the NCAA enforcement staff until he was provided with proof. Garza was working at USC at the time of those interviews.
Tennessee's previous infractions case in 2011 included 12 secondary violations by Kiffin's staff over a 10-month span, all of which concerned recruiting. The committee stated at the time that it was "troubled by the number and nature of the secondary infractions by the football coaching staff during its one-year tenure at the institution."
Tennessee wasn't considered a repeat violator because the latest violations occurred before the NCAA's previous ruling.