Tennessee Volunteers head coach Donnie Tyndall during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Thompson-Boling Arena. Courtesy photo: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
University of Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart fired Donnie Tyndall Friday for NCAA violations committed while Tyndall was the head basketball coach of Southern Miss.
“I am extremely saddened by my separation from Tennessee,” Tyndall said Friday in a statement released by his lawyer. “I apologize to my players, assistant coaches and the entire UT community that past occurrences led to today’s result. I have truly loved my time at Tennessee.”
Tyndall’s contract with Tennessee specified that if he were found in violation of NCAA rules from a previous coaching stint, Tennessee could fire him without any financial consequence for the university.
Tyndall coached the Volunteers for one season and registered a record of 16-16 and 7-11 in the SEC. Tennessee will now begin to search for its third coach in three years and fourth in six years.
“One of the things we have strived for is to get stability, and we had hoped when we hired Donnie that we would have that element in our men’s basketball program,” Hart said. “This is not the outcome that we had hoped for when we stood before you a year ago.”
As a coach, Tyndall has been associated with allegations through the years, even before his time at USM. At Morehead State, booster activity violations were committed under his watch. The allegations at USM stemmed from improper benefits being given to ‘Prop 48′ recruits.
A ‘Prop 48’ recruit is a player that comes from high school or junior college without meeting the academic standards set forth by the NCAA in order to participate in college athletics. Those players must sit out a season while attempting to become academically eligible.
The investigation centered around how tuition, living expenses and other fees were paid for ‘Prop 48’ recruits who enrolled with Southern Miss during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years. Per NCAA rules, ‘Prop 48’ players may not receive any financial benefits during the academic year in which they are attempting to become academically eligible.
After self-imposing a postseason ban on itself and dismissing Jeremiah Eason and Rasham Suarez after being ruled ineligible in January, the Golden Eagles crumbled on the court. Southern Miss lost most of its core from the beginning of the season due to penalties from the NCAA.
“During my time at Southern Miss, I believed that our program followed NCAA rules,” Tyndall said. “(We) worked well with the university’s administration to maintain an atmosphere of rules compliance.”
Tyndall’s career now appears to be in serious doubt after facing serious allegations at his first two coaching stints and being fired from the third for those sanctions. A source close to the situation told ESPN that Tyndall could be suspended by the NCAA for a full season.
“We are continuing to work collaboratively with the NCAA to review the serious issues raised regarding the men’s basketball program while under the leadership of the former coaching staff,” said Southern Miss Director of Athletics Bill McGillis in a statement.
“In order to maintain the integrity of the investigation, and pursuant to NCAA policy, we cannot comment further regarding any details of the case at this time,” he said.
It is unknown at this point if USM will be further penalized by the NCAA. It is still possible that more members of the team may be ruled ineligible as three former ‘Prop 48’ recruits remain on the roster—Matt Bingaya, Davon Hayes and Shadell Millinghaus.
Printz Sports Editor Josh Campbell contributed to this story.