Volunteers fire Donnie Tyndall

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Friday, March 27, 2015

The Tennessee Volunteersfired men's basketball coach Donnie Tyndall after one season Friday, though athletic director Dave Hart says the university never would have hired him if they knew the details of his unethical conduct atSouthern Missprogram during his tenure there.

Hart fired Tyndall on Friday after details of his activities at Southern Miss were revealed in an NCAA investigation, though UT officials have said they did their due diligence of vetting Tyndall's background before hiring him.

A source with direct knowledge told ESPN's Andy Katz that Tyndall will be accused by the NCAA, under the new coach control policy, of financial and academic violations. A formal notice of allegations still needs to be sent to Southern Miss, but the NCAA briefed Tennessee prior to the firing.

In his termination letter, Hart said Tyndall acknowledged deleting emails that could have been relevant to the investigation. The coach was 16-16 with the Vols, who will now look for their third coach in three years and fourth in six years.

"I am extremely saddened by my separation from Tennessee," Tyndall said Friday in a separate 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."

Hart said it's highly likely the NCAA will determine Tyndall failed to cooperate and that he failed to disclose "material information concerning violations of NCAA rules" during Tennessee's hiring process.

"It is disappointing that we have to take this action," Hart said in a statement released earlier Friday. "It is highly likely that Coach Tyndall will face significant penalties at the conclusion of the NCAA's infractions process. We believe that this decision is in the best interests of the University of Tennessee."

While Tyndall was at Morehead State, the program was placed on probation for two years in August 2010 because of violations related to booster activity. The school's self-imposed penalties included the loss of one scholarship and other recruiting restrictions.

At Tyndall's introductory press conference last year, Hart said he reviewed the situation "very thoroughly" and had no concerns about it moving forward.

"I was convinced at the time Donnie had learned from that," Hart said Friday. "If we'd known (then) what we know now, we'd have moved in a different direction."

Tyndall's contract at Tennessee allows the school to fire him for cause if he is 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."

The 44-year-old Tyndall was being investigated by the NCAA for potential rules violations related to improper financial aid to a pair of Southern Miss players -- Matt Bingaya and Shadell Millinghaus.

Southern Miss announced in January that it was self-imposing a postseason ban for its men's basketball program and acknowledged the investigation centered on the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years, when Tyndall was the Golden Eagles' coach.

The source told ESPN that the violations centered on financial aid for nonqualified academic student-athletes who sat out a season as well as academic issues related to junior college transfers. Tennessee looked at the case as similar to the Syracuse situation in that the head coach would be held responsible. The coach control penalty could be imposed on Tyndall, whether he was personally involved or not.

Tyndall said in his statement that he was "surprised and disappointed" by the allegations but "I accept ultimate responsibility for violations that occurred" at Southern Miss.

"During my time at Southern Miss, I believed that our program followed NCAA rules and worked well with the university's administration to maintain an atmosphere of rules compliance," Tyndall said.

Tennessee, according to the source, didn't want its head coach to be suspended again after it had gone through something similar when Bruce Pearl was suspended for eight SEC games by the league for violations (Tyndall succeeded Cuonzo Martin, who followed Pearl).

The NCAA has suspended Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim for the first nine games of the 2015-16 ACC season under the new coach control rule. He is appealing.

According to the source, Tyndall would likely receive a suspension for the 2015-16 season. However, because the investigation is still pending at Southern Miss, the suspension could also be for the 2016-17 season. According to the source, the suspensions are for the specific season designated, not open-ended whenever a coach returns to college, so Tyndall could outlast the suspension by sitting out.

Andy Katz, Jeff Goodman and Chris Low of ESPN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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