The Tennessee football program and head coach Jeremy Pruitt may break up here soon.
A bad 2020 season, coupled with serious alleged recruiting violations, may mean the Tennessee Volunteers will have no choice but to fire head coach Jeremy Pruitt this offseason.
The Tennessee football program has been down for the last decade-plus, as the last time the Vols made it to Atlanta as SEC East champions, athletic director Phillip Fulmer was their head coach. With Tennessee hiring Mike Glazier and his law firm to represent them amidst these allegations, you know the Vols are in hot water. Even Tennessee alum Paul Finebaum thinks Pruitt is out.
“It’s seeming to be more unlikely by the day,” said Finebaum Monday on WJOX FM on if Pruitt will keep his post into the 2021 college football season. “That is a story that comes and goes off the radar screen like a bad storm. But all signs are pointing toward him heading toward the exit.”
Who would even want the Tennessee job if Jeremy Pruitt is let go?
Tennessee had a past reputation of being a college football blue-blood, meaning it is one of the 15 best jobs in the country. But ever since Fulmer’s dismal back in 2008, it has been a revolving door of former coordinators and Group of 5 head coaches who could not get it done in Rocky Top. Pruitt has only been the Vols head coach for three seasons, but it feels like the breakup is imminent.
Assuming Tennessee will be on sanctions after the internal investigation, the football program will be at its nadir. Most quality coaching candidates will not want this job if offered it by Fulmer. The question is who would be willing to ride out a bit of a rough period with Tennessee for the first half of the 2020s. Two marquee coaches to keep an eye on are Hugh Freeze and Jamey Chadwell.
Freeze had great success in the SEC with the Ole Miss Rebels before scandal led to him being ousted in Oxford. In the last two years, he has made the national independent Liberty Flames relevant out of the Group of 5. Tennessee would be a bit of a dream job for Freeze, but he will need the assurance that the athletic department will give him enough time to turn this program around.
As for Chadwell, he recently inked a multi-year extension with the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Chadwell is coming off the greatest season in Coastal Carolina history. While he had been a candidate for a few jobs, he has opted to stay in Conway, South Carolina. However, he is an East Tennessee native. The opportunity to lead the Vols on fall Saturdays may be too good to pass up.
Simply put, Tennessee will not have a robust pool of candidates replace Pruitt this late into the offseason cycle. However, if the university feels it has to make a move, not just for performance reasons, but for the overall state of the program, then Tennessee may end up trying its luck to see if Freeze will leave Liberty or Chadwell will leave Coastal Carolina for them. Tennessee is a mess.
If Finebaum thinks the end is nigh for Pruitt in Knoxville, then that should be news to the world.