Passwords for free parking at Tennessee games? Jeremy Pruitt recruits said these magic words

Mon, Aug 7, 2023, 5:05 AM EDT·5 min read

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A secret password would’ve gotten a Tennessee football fan into premier parking lots near Neyland Stadium during fired coach Jeremy Pruitt’s tenure.

But only a few coveted recruits and their family and friends were told the passwords, NCAA investigators found. And the passwords were changed for each Vols football game.

Wouldn’t you like to know what the passwords were for those games?

Fortunately, Knox News obtained text messages by Pruitt’s staff via public records requests, and they reveal the secret passwords.

Parking lot passwords were a minor part of the pervasive recruiting scandal that included more than 200 infractions under Pruitt from 2018 to early 2021.

But free parking amounted to about $1,500 in impermissible perks, which broke NCAA rules because they were used by recruits on unofficial visits to campus. Recruits are required to pay their own expenses on those trips.

Jeremy Pruitt greets fans during the Vol Walk before a game between Tennessee and South Carolina at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, October 26, 2019.
Jeremy Pruitt greets fans during the Vol Walk before a game between Tennessee and South Carolina at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, October 26, 2019.

Investigators confirmed 37 instances of free gameday parking. There’s no way to know how many more recruits got free parking, but the practice was referenced by Pruitt’s staff in text messages as a regular occurrence.

By the 2020 season, Pruitt’s staff simply left parking passes in envelopes at the front desk of the recruits’ hotel. Of course, they also paid for those hotel stays, which violated more NCAA rules.

But during the 2019 season, recruits and their guests needed to utter these secret passwords to parking attendants to access premier Neyland Stadium lots on gamedays.

‘It’s football time in Tennessee!’

This didn’t age well.

For the 2019 opener, Pruitt’s staff thought it was appropriate for recruits to say, “It’s football time in Tennessee!” – the famous John Ward radio call – to park their car next to Neyland Stadium free of charge.

The Vols suffered a shocking 38-30 loss to Georgia State. It was clearly not football time in Tennessee, at least not that week.

But it’s interesting to think about how that plan could’ve gone awry.

After all, that saying is shouted countless times by UT fans on gamedays. You have to wonder if any enthusiastic fan greeted a parking attendant with those words and then to their surprise gained free entry into a premier lot.

Knoxville News Sentinel

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