KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — The ongoing NCAA investigation of Tennessee’s Donnie Tyndall’s former school is the latest in a series of coaching complications over what has been tumultuous several years in Knoxville.
Southern Mississippi announced Tuesday that it was self-imposing a postseason ban for this season as the NCAA investigates its men’s basketball program. The school also acknowledged the investigation centers on the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years, when Tyndall was Southern Mississippi’s coach.
There’s been a consistent stream of coaching chaos at Tennessee since the days of Phillip Fulmer and Pat Summitt.
Fulmer was named the head coach of the football program at the end of the 1992 season and remained in place until being fired in 2008. Summitt led the women’s basketball program to eight national titles and an NCAA-record 1,098 victories in 38 seasons before stepping down in 2012, one year after announcing she had early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
But there have been revolving doors since then.
Bruce Pearl led the men’s basketball program to some of its greatest heights from 2005-11. But he was fired in 2011 amid an NCAA investigation that resulted in a three-year show cause penalty for him and a two-year probation for Tennessee’s program. Cuonzo Martin replaced Pearl, but Martin left for California after three seasons.
Lane Kiffin replaced Fulmer and left for Southern California after one year. Derek Dooley took over from there and was fired after three straight losing seasons.
Now Tennessee is facing potential fallout from the situation at Southern Miss involving Tyndall.
“All I can say is I’ve cooperated 100 percent and if I need to, I will continue to do that,” Tyndall said after Tennessee’s 66-62 victory at South Carolina on Tuesday night. “That’s all I can say on that matter.”
The investigation casts a shadow over Tennessee’s surprising performance this season and marks one more potentially turbulent chapter for a school that was a model of coaching consistency for most of the 1990s and 2000s.
Butch Jones has stabilized the football program by leading Tennessee to its first winning season since 2009. And at least on the floor, Tyndall has produced splendid results in his debut season at Tennessee.
Picked in the SEC preseason media poll to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the conference, Tennessee (12-5, 4-1 SEC) is in sole possession of second place. The Vols have won eight of their last nine games despite returning only one player who scored more than five points per game for the team that reached an NCAA regional semifinal last season.
Tennessee officials declined comment on Southern Mississippi’s decision Tuesday.
When Southern Mississippi announced the NCAA review on Nov. 6, Tennessee athletic department spokesman Jimmy Stanton said that during its vetting process, the school held “very specific conversations with the NCAA and school officials at Southern Miss regarding compliance during coach Tyndall’s tenure there, during which no issues were brought to our attention.”
Tyndall’s contract at Tennessee allows the school to fire him for cause if he’s found to have committed an NCAA Level I or Level II violation “whether the conduct occurred during (Tyndall’s) employment with the university or another NCAA-member institution.”
If the NCAA or SEC chose to suspend Tyndall due to violations, his contract allows the school to fine him $10,000 for each game he misses.
Two members of Tyndall’s staff have resigned since Southern Mississippi’s November announcement. Assistant coach Adam Howard stepped down for what the school described as personal reasons. R.J. Rush cited family reasons for resigning as special assistant to Tyndall.
When Tyndall was coaching Morehead State in 2010, the program was placed on two years of probation for recruiting violations related to booster activity. The school’s self-imposed penalties included the loss of one scholarship and other recruiting restrictions.
The Vols are now back in a wait-and-see mode, waiting to see if the Southern Miss situation will impact them.