Notre Dame and Tennessee haven't played each other in college football since 2005. Now, both schools are preparing for an offseason of uncertainty in 2021.
The Volunteers disappointed in 2020, finishing with their third sub-.500 record in the past four years. The Irish were successful by most standards, reaching both the ACC Championship and the College Football Playoff. However, they came up short on both stages.
Let’s take a look at why things may look a little different in the fall for both of these prominent programs.
Notre Dame Placed on Probation
The NCAA placed the Fighting Irish football program on probation for one year due to multiple recruiting violations. According to an official statement from the NCAA, Notre Dame's punishment also includes a $5,000 fine and a six-month show-cause order for a former assistant coach who had impermissible off-campus contact with a high school recruit in January 2019.
Former cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght and linebacker Sav'ell Smalls of Garfield High School in Seattle were the main people involved. Lyght, who was an All-American cornerback at Notre Dame in 1989, was fired in January 2020.
Smalls, one of the top prospects in the 2020 class, signed with Washington. He was caught up in similar cases involving Florida's Dan Mullen and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher, which led to the pair of head coaches receiving show causes last year for improper recruiting contact.
The NCAA also found that Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had impermissible off-campus contact with a recruit in October 2019. The player recognized Kelly as he walked through a high school cafeteria in Pickerington, Ohio, and requested a photo with him. The NCAA said Kelly initially declined before allowing the picture.
The infractions case was adjudicated through the NCAA's negotiated resolution process. Notre Dame and the NCAA agreed that the case involved Level II and III violations.
Tennessee Hires Danny White as New AD
Tennessee has hired UCF athletic director Danny White as their new athletic director, three days after football coach Jeremy Pruitt was first and athletic director Phillip Fulmer retired.
Chancellor Donde Plowman announced the hiring Thursday, noting how important it was for the program to fill the void Fulmer left.
“Danny White is an innovative leader in college athletics with a strong track record in recruiting and developing leaders," Plowman said. “He brings the combination of winning attitude, competitive drive, and dedication to integrity and academics that we are looking for.”
White will be Tennessee's fourth different athletic director since September 2011. His first job will be bringing in a new football coach while the program is in the middle of an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations, which cost Pruitt his job.
“I am thrilled to be headed to Knoxville and to a university with a great competitive tradition and a spirited and devoted fan base," White said in a statement. “Volunteer fans have an expectation to win, and my first task will be taking on the search for a new head football coach.”
UT will be behind the 8-ball as they search for a new coach, as four players entered the transfer portal following Pruitt’s firing.