Sources: Vols expect letter of inquiry
The NCAA has broadened the scope of its investigation of the Tennessee football program beyond the appearances of recruiting hostesses at high school games, sources told ESPN.com on Friday.
Tennessee officials acknowledged last December that the NCAA was investigating the school's use of female students as hostesses for football recruits, with some traveling to South Carolina and Georgia to attend prospects' games. Since then, sources said investigators have looked into whether assistants under former coach Lane Kiffin had improper contacts with high school players at an all-star game and whether coaches improperly interacted on players' Facebook pages.
A source close to the investigation said such actions could be considered secondary in nature "but if you look at it all together, [it] looks like there was not a sense of adhering to all the rules all of the time," which could result in a "major violation" classification.
Tennessee has acknowledged it committed at least six secondary violations during Kiffin's tumultuous tenure.
According to sources, the Vols' football program is expecting a letter of inquiry from the NCAA before the start of the 2010 season.
After practice at Southern California on Friday, Kiffin restated his opinion that the investigation won't find any wrongdoing. The coach also said the NCAA investigators will be in Los Angeles at some point this fall to interview assistant coaches who followed Kiffin from Knoxville to Los Angeles earlier this year.
"They started looking into things when we were there, eight or nine months ago," Kiffin said. "All the reports I've heard is that there's nothing wrong."
NCAA investigators interviewed Tennessee assistant football coaches Lance Thompson and Jim Chaney and other school officials in Knoxville last spring. Thompson and Chaney are the holdover coaches from Kiffin's one-year regime. Florida State assistant Eddie Gran, a former Tennessee assistant under Kiffin, also has been questioned by the NCAA, a source said.
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton declined comment on the nature of any ongoing investigation but said Friday: "It's been publicly acknowledged that the NCAA has followed up on allegations related to our football program last fall. We have not received a letter of inquiry and can't comment any further at this time."
When asked if he was worried about the impact of another NCAA investigation, Kiffin replied: "Absolutely not at all. There's no way. I have great confidence in what we did there, that we didn't do anything wrong. ... That's [the NCAA's] job, to make sure there isn't any wrongdoing. Just because they're looking into something doesn't mean we did anything wrong."
USC was hit with major NCAA sanctions shortly after Kiffin's arrival, including a two-year bowl ban, scholarship restrictions and four years of probation.
Joe Schad is a college football reporter for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN.com investigative reporter Mike Fish and The Associated Press contributed to this report.