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Tennessee says it reviewed Donnie Tyndall's role in NCAA infractions before hiring

By Evan Woodbery The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn. (MCT) • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:22 PM

April 23--Tennessee reviewed Donnie Tyndall's role in an NCAA investigation at Morehead State before hiring him and was satisfied about his commitment to rules compliance, athletic director Dave Hart said Tuesday.

While Tyndall was coach at Morehead, the school admitted to major NCAA infractions in a case involving a New Jersey booster. Tyndall was not personally sanctioned, although he accepted full responsibility. In his comments on Tuesday, he disputed some elements of the NCAA report.

The NCAA placed Morehead State on two years of probation and publicly reprimanded the school in 2010. Morehead was docked one scholarship but was not banned from the postseason or forced to forfeit any wins.

Tyndall left Morehead, his alma mater, after the 2012 season and has spent the last two years as coach at Southern Mississippi. He was announced as Tennessee's new coach on Tuesday.

Hart said the NCAA case at Morehead was thoroughly vetted.

"We looked into that very thoroughly. We were absolutely satisfied moving forward," Hart said.

Tennessee is particularly sensitive to issues of NCAA compliance because former basketball coach Bruce Pearl was fired shortly after the 2011 season after he admitted to lying to NCAA investigators.

In the Morehead case, the NCAA issued a summary disposition, which indicates that both investigators and the school substantially agreed on the facts of the case. There was not a formal hearing before the NCAA infractions committee.

The NCAA infractions report said Tyndall and members of his staff knew about and "at times directed or encouraged the impermissible recruiting activities" of a New Jersey-based booster.

The booster, who was not named in the report, represented himself as a scout for Morehead. He was "involved in the recruitment of numerous prospective student-athletes, arranged workouts, assisted in the arrangement of official and unofficial visits, and offered improper recruiting inducements to prospective student-athletes," according to the NCAA.

The NCAA said the booster was involved in the recruitment of at least 30 prospects.

The report portrays the booster as a retired alumnus whose well-meaning interest in supporting his alma mater crossed several lines with the knowledge or encouragement of the staff.

Tyndall echoed that characterization Tuesday, saying the man meant no "harm or ill will."

He also said that his staff did not know about some of the actions of the unnamed booster.

"My staff had a relationship with this guy," he said. "It wasn't ever proven and it wasn't the case that we ever asked him to do these things. He was just a guy who loved basketball and wanted to help get these people into school."

The NCAA said it was "not unusual for fans and alumni to contact coaching staffs at NCAA member institutions to inform them about promising prospective student-athletes. What made the (New Jersey booster's) actions impermissible was the fact he went far beyond ... He not only passed along names, but he contacted prospects; provided his evaluations of prospects, impermissibly arranged workouts for the coaching staff and in some cases, offered inducements to prospects and coaches; all clear violations of NCAA recruiting legislation."

The report said Tyndall failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance, and "rationalized" the actions of the booster by his belief that the booster was a "bona fide coach" at a New Jersey high school and that role "superseded" his status as a booster for MSU.

Tyndall said he had learned from the situation.

"I'm one of those guys that doesn't shy away from responsibility," he said. "I learned from it and certainly don't ever expect it to happen again."

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee athletics. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.


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