KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin said Thursday he was not “aware” of any recruiting violations committed by himself, his assistants or support staff regarding the university’s student ambassador program.
“Myself and our staff take the rules and the bylaws of the NCAA and SEC extremely serious,” Kiffin said. “We work extremely hard to follow those. In this situation right here, I don’t know of any wrongdoing of any members of our staff in this, or of the kids that are being questioned in this.”
Tennessee confirmed Wednesday the NCAA is looking into the activities of members of the university’s Orange Pride group in a statement.
Kiffin and Tennessee men’s athletics director Mike Hamilton spoke Thursday at a news conference held at Neyland Stadium originally scheduled in connection with the Vols’ berth in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Both said they had received no official inquiry from the NCAA and didn’t know whether one would surface.
Several Orange Pride’s “ambassadors” traveled nearly 200 miles to a high school football game where three players are being actively recruited by the Vols. Highly touted defensive lineman Brandon Willis and Corey Miller have committed verbally to Tennessee, and Kiffin’s 2010 class currently is ranked No. 5 nationally by Rivals.com.
Some Tennessee recruits have been questioned about the program’s recruiting practices, and more anticipate being interviewed.
The fathers of Willis and Miller said they hadn’t noticed any irregularities in their sons’ recruitment, or with the Orange Pride members’ visit. They described the female Tennessee students as friends of their sons who promised in the summer they would drive down for a game.
But the visit could be interpreted by the NCAA as an illegal recruiting trip off campus by non-sanctioned Tennessee personnel.
Kiffin said he was not contacted by The New York Times for the Orange Pride story. A Tennessee spokesperson said Hamilton was approached Tuesday night, hours before the story was published on The Times’ Web site.