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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
McClendon, mother at Lady Vols game via booster

Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee football signee Jacques McClendon received an improper benefit when he and his mother attended a Lady Vols basketball game as guests of a booster, school officials said Wednesday.

Athletic department officials filed a report about the secondary violation and explained why McClendon, a star offensive lineman from Chattanooga, was at Sunday's game against Vanderbilt.

McClendon and his mother, Stephanie McClendon, were guests of Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball and his son, Tanner, who attends school with McClendon, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press.

McClendon was declared ineligible until he and his mother pay a total of $74 -- $15 apiece for game tickets and $22 apiece for a pregame meal at the arena -- to a charity of their choice. The university will send a warning letter to Ball.

"I apologize to everyone if there was a quote violation," Ball told the AP on Wednesday. "It was my fault, not Jacques' fault, not my son's fault. I was not thinking."

The McClendons were sitting on the front row in courtside seats assigned to boosters who have made at least a one-time donation of $40,000 per pair.

McClendon, who lives in Cleveland, was considered the prize recruit of this year's signing class. He committed early, and coach Phillip Fulmer praised him on the Feb. 1 signing day for sticking with the Vols despite the 5-6 season.

Ball's son, Tanner, asked his father if he was going to use all four of his tickets for the game and asked if McClendon and his mother could go with them.

"I didn't even think about it," Ball said.

Fulmer didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

The McClendons watched the first half of the game from the courtside seats. But they weren't there for the second half, and officials said they moved to seats in another section for the rest of the game.

Ball said he was made aware of the possible violation at halftime.

Secondary violations are fairly common among NCAA schools, and the SEC normally accepts whatever penalty the school has self-imposed.

"The institution believes that this violation was isolated and inadvertent. Further, it did not provide Tennessee with any competitive or recruiting advantage," officials said in the report.