The University of Tennessee, staring down the barrel of NCAA sanctions for its football program, will voluntarily cut its coaching staff by one full-time member and reduce its maximum total of football scholarships by 10.
University President Joseph E. Johnson said the self-imposed penalties were revealed to the NCAA's Committee on Infractions during a 5 1/2-hour hearing in Asheville, N.C.
The NCAA has accused Tennessee of five recruiting violations, all of which involved former assistant coach Jack Sells. The NCAA also charged the university with running an improper summer camp, an allegation Johnson said the university defended during the hearing.
Sells was fired June 7, and Johnson said it is Sells' coaching position that will remain unfilled. The university has admitted all the accusations against Sells except one.
The allegations of recruiting violations against Sells, 29, are relatively minor. His greatest offense, which he has admitted, was lying to an NCAA investigator the first time he was questioned.
"All along I've known this thing didn't start with Jack Sells, it started with the summer prospect camp," Sells said. "I had indications of that from the NCAA and the university prior to this meeting, and now I'm very well aware that that's how this investigation got started."
The NCAA says the summer camp, which Tennessee calls a "seniors camp," was by invitation only and thus improper under NCAA rules. An invitation-only camp could be used as a try-out camp for future recruits.
But Tennessee says the camp was advertised by word of mouth and was open to anyone who wished to enroll. If the football program is penalized, it is expected the heaviest penalty will be for the camp.
Johnson said the camp will remain suspended until the university is sure how to run it according to NCAA guidelines.