BUSTED: Photo proof surfaces about Vols

Is the NCAA laying the groundwork for a Lack of Institutional Control charge or Failure to Monitor? Facebook & recruiting could be central

Tennessee football recruits Corey Miller (80) and Brandon Willis pose with Tennessee recruiting hostesses Dahra Johnson (left) and Lacey Earps after a game at Byrnes High in Duncan, S.C., on Sept. 25. Andy Staples/SI.com

Tennessee football recruits Corey Miller (80) and Brandon Willis pose with Tennessee recruiting hostesses Dahra Johnson (left) and Lacey Earps after a game at Byrnes High in Duncan, S.C., on Sept. 25. Andy Staples/SI.com

The excuses coming from Tennessee fans keep changing.

First, this allegation of girls traveling to see recruits away from campus was junk.

Then the girls traveled there but didn’t have contact with the students.

That nonsense was blown out of the water Friday afternoon when Sports Illustrated released a damning photograph.

According to Andy Staples of SI, “On the field, Rebels star defensive ends Corey Miller and Brandon Willis mugged for the cameras with a pair of young women who seemed overdressed for a high school football game played in the rain. The women’s names were Lacey Earps and Dahra Johnson, and both are members of Orange Pride, a student group that provides hosts for football recruits at the University of Tennessee. At the time, Willis and Miller had each recently pledged to sign with Tennessee in February.”

D’oh!

But it gets worse for the Volunteers.

The crack University of Tennessee compliance department wasn’t doing its job. The Tennessee coaching staff was warned about the potential violations by the hostesses, but apparently failed to report a secondary violation to the NCAA. According to the Greenville News, “Byrnes coach Chris Miller, who is not related to Corey Miller, said that upon learning the women were at the game he called the players and told them ‘to get away from them,’ then called Tennessee assistant coach David Reaves and notified him of the women’s visit.”

And what happened after Reaves was notified?

Apparently nothing.

According to one report, “UT had several weeks to research the situation, and it didn’t self-report any violations. It’s doubtful the NCAA would accept any self-reported violations after a third party gave the initial notification, but several sources inside UT’s athletic department claimed the program saw nothing outside the voluminous rules.”

Now do you Volunteer fans see why the NCAA is laying the groundwork for an official inquiry?

Lack of Institutional Control.

Can you even bring yourself to say it?

Perhaps you will only be hit with a failure to monitor charge. That is if you can convince the NCAA this was not part of some concerted plan to lure recruits to campus. However, that would seem difficult as this one girl, Lacey Earps, continues to surface. And Facebook could become a major factor in the probe. According to the Knoxville newspaper, “A source with knowledge of the investigation told the News Sentinel that the NCAA is using social networking to determine the nature of prospects’ relationship with UT hostesses.”

The role of Orange Pride hostesses and recruits was the subject of speculation by one blogger posting at the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s GoVolsXtra on March 2, 2009. And Facebook played a major role in discussion of recruiting and hostesses. According to the blog post, “Bryce Brown’s girlfriend Lacy Earps is a Jr. at UT, and would love nothing more than to watch her boyfriend play on Saturday’s without having to fly to Miami or Oregon. How serious this ‘romance’ is I can’t say, but if her Facebook profile picture is any indication of how interwoven this romance is, Brown may be running through the ‘T’ this fall. Lacey + Bryce = Bracey? This relationship must be serious, right?”

One comment left March 3, 2009, on the blog indicates a prior relationship status included Richardson. According to the anonymous comment from March 3, 2009, “Lacy is a member of the orange pride girl, and it is their job to take recruits and show them around campus. Just weeks before, her status was in a relationship to nu’keese richardson. Grow up peter pan. Quit stalking facebook.”

See a pattern?

Lacey Earps. Facebook. Recruits.

Not once. Not twice. But at least three different times with three different recruits.

The only question will be how much new information the NCAA can gather during these interview sessions; however, if we believe the high school football coach is telling the truth, it would appear the NCAA has enough to launch an official inquiry sooner rather than later.