Even three years later, Lane Kiffin's brief tenure at Tennessee remains the “gift” that keeps on giving to the Vols.
On Friday, the NCAA announced that additional penalties had been levied against Tennessee's football program stemming from a major infractions case involving former assistant coach Willie Mack Garza, who was on Kiffin’s staff at Tennessee during the 2009 season.
The additional penalties include a two-year addition of the probation levied during the 2011 infractions case, a reduction in the official visits from 51 to 47 during the 2012-13 academic year, a reduction in the evaluation days during the spring 2012 evaluation period (already completed) and the elimination of complimentary tickets for the first two conference games during the 2013 season for prospects making unofficial visits.
Officials at Tennessee met with the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on Oct. 13 for an expedited penalty hearing on an agreed upon summary disposition report submitted in June of 2012. The facts of the case -- that Garza funded a prospect's unofficial visit to Tennessee in 2009 and subsequently lied to the NCAA enforcement staff when interviewed as an assistant at USC -- were not in dispute. Resolution between the Committee on Infractions and Tennessee regarding the penalties could not be reached, and an expedited penalty hearing was held.
"We will finally close the chapter on the prior actions of members of a previous football coaching staff," Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said. "We have significantly strengthened our culture of compliance at Tennessee and will 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."
At issue in the penalty hearing was whether the penalty in the 2011 case would have substantially differed had the facts of this case been known at that time, whether Tennessee should be punished for unethical conduct by a former staff member working at another institution, and whether the penalties were grounded in precedent and substantially related to the violation committed. The Committee on Infractions made it clear that it is establishing new precedent with this case and others moving forward.
Garza, a defensive backs coach, went with Kiffin from Tennessee to USC following the 2009 season, but Garza resigned from the USC staff just prior to the start of the 2011 season. His resignation came amid reports that USC officials were notified that he had been named during an interview NCAA investigators had with former Texas-based scout Willie Lyles.
While at Tennessee, Garza reimbursed Lyles, an individual associated with prospect Lache Seastrunk, during the summer of 2009 for airfare and hotel expenses associated with an unofficial visit for Seastrunk and his mother to Tennessee, according to the NCAA's report. Because Lyles arranged the trip for Seastrunk, the NCAA classified him as a Tennessee booster.