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Tennessee Halts Football Hires, Extensions Amid Probe

Paul Steinbach

University of Tennessee officials haven't extended the contracts of assistant football coaches and have paused hiring coaches for vacancies as the Volunteers continue to investigate whether recruiting violations occurred within the program, sources told ESPN on Thursday.

Earlier this week, the university announced it had hired attorneys Mike Glazier and Kyle Skillman to assist its in-house counsel and compliance officials in the internal investigation. The attorneys have interviewed current players this week about alleged improper benefits and other rules violations, as reported by ESPN's Mark Schlabach.

"We take seriously our institutional commitment to NCAA compliance, and are reviewing regulatory issues that have been brought to our attention," university spokeswoman Tyra Haag said in a statement this week. "As part of that process, we are currently working with attorneys Kyle Skillman and Michael Glazier with Bond, Schoeneck & King. We will provide additional information when it's appropriate."

Last month, ESPN reported that compliance department officials had interviewed current players, recruits, assistant coaches, student volunteers and other athletics department officials involved in football recruiting. The sources said the interviews started in November.

The sources told ESPN that Tennessee's recruitment of Amarius Mims, the No. 3 offensive tackle and No. 19 player overall in the 2021 ESPN 300, is part of the compliance department's inquiry. Mims ultimately signed with Georgia.

Sophomore tailback Eric Gray, the team's leading rusher with 772 yards and four touchdowns, was also held out of the regular-season finale for undisclosed reasons. Sources told ESPN that Gray's absence was related to the compliance inquiry.

While Tennessee officials wait for the investigation to be completed, the athletics department hasn't renewed or extended the contracts of assistant coaches, some of whom have deals that expire at the end of this month, including wide receivers coach Tee Martin and inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer.

The Volunteers also have at least two vacancies after head coach Jeremy Pruitt fired defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh after four games and offensive line coach Will Friend left the team last month. A Tennessee official said Pruitt has talked to potential candidates and that the university has vetted them, but confirmed new coaches haven't been hired.

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