While NCAA representatives have been on campus multiple times now talking to different people and investigating allegations that came to light under the previous staff, first-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is optimistic that the Vols aren’t in line for any serious penalties.
“I don’t expect anything significant. I really don’t, based on everything I’ve heard,” Dooley said. “They have been on campus talking to people, but you always get a feel for when they leave what happened. I’d be surprised if anything major came out of it.
"I don’t anticipate, from what I’m hearing, that we’ll lose any scholarships. Now, I might be surprised.”
Most of the NCAA’s attention has centered on the trip members of the Orange Pride hostess group took to see high school prospects last September in Duncan, S.C. One of the players they went to see, defensive lineman Corey Miller, wound up signing with the Vols and is already enrolled in school.
NCAA representatives had already talked with several of the players Tennessee signed under former coach Lane Kiffin in this class and other players the Vols recruited.
The latest round of interviews have led NCAA representatives to Tennessee’s campus, where they’ve talked to the Orange Pride members and school officials affiliated with that group. Some of those interviews have lasted as long as three and four hours.
If there’s evidence that anybody on Tennessee’s coaching staff directed the girls to make that trip last fall, that’s when the Vols could be facing some major issues. Otherwise, it’s likely to be secondary in nature with a few people possibly getting reprimanded and some off-campus recruiting restrictions being imposed.
“Hey, if anything happens, you move on,” Dooley said. “The recruits will know that it wasn’t this regime that did it. If there is something that went on that wasn’t right, I hope the NCAA will consider a little bit what we’re doing here institutionally right now.”
Dooley is also a strong proponent of sanctions and/or penalties following the coach who commits them, especially when that coach leaves for another school. In other words, if the NCAA finds that Kiffin and his staff were guilty of any wrongdoing, then they’re the ones who should have to pay the heaviest price.
“I think that’s something they need to look at,” Dooley said. “That’s not right, when coaches can leave and start over and the institution gets hit. That needs to be examined.”