Pruitt better win.

A couple of hot takes on the incredible job Phil Fulmer did luring Jeremy Pruitt to Tennessee:

  • Pete Thamel“In the end, Tennessee ended up with an inferior coach, an overmatched athletic director and setting a new standard for a disastrous coaching search. The hires that former athletic director John Currie was on the cusp of making – Greg Schiano and Mike Leach – are exponentially more accomplished and better qualified for the Tennessee job. But Phil Fulmer’s power play ended up with him in control as athletic director and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as coach. Pruitt is just inexperienced enough that Fulmer will be able to keep sticking his nose in the program, which is what he’s wanted since he was run out of the job nearly a decade ago. (The classic clueless Fulmer moment was treating the press conference to dismiss Currie like he’d just been hired as coach again, as his tone – including introducing his family in attendance – showed a stunning lack of self-awareness.) Opposing SEC athletic directors, by the way, are giddy to have Fulmer in charge, as his administrative acumen presents little threat to the rest of the league. Expect Tennessee’s glory to remain faded.”
  • Dan Wolken“Coaching searches are far more art than science, and there are always unique dynamics at each individual school that can complicate matters. But the Tennessee search will be remembered in this industry for years, and not in a good way. Whether Tennessee fans agreed or disagreed with the choice of Greg Schiano after Dan Mullen chose Florida, the idea that a social media fan uprising could essentially spook the school into reneging on a signed agreement is still mind-blowing. Former athletics director John Currie did his due diligence on the search. He knew who was available and who wouldn’t take the job. Right or wrong, he made the determination that Schiano was the best coach he could reasonably hire. And as imperfect as it might have been in the eyes of some fans, he was prepared to make a tough decision and sink or swim with the results on the field. That’s the way it’s supposed to work when you hire people to leadership positions and let them lead.

    At Tennessee, though, the response was different. And for whatever reason, the people who were supposed to have Currie’s back instead decided to sweep him aside and let former coach Phillip Fulmer run the athletics department and complete the coaching search. Maybe the end result may work out for Tennessee — we’ll see — but the process to get to Pruitt was messy. Within college athletics circles, the school’s brand was far more damaged over the last two weeks than Currie’s. He’ll certainly resurface somewhere soon. Whether this fiasco helps make Tennessee a contender again is far more uncertain.”

Sure, Pruitt may work out.  He’s got an impressive work ethic and great recruiting skills on his side.  Then again, Booch’s problems didn’t stem from recruiting.

Tennessee’s decline in football is more than about coaching, though.  The athletic department leadership has been notably substandard going back to the Mike Hamilton regime.  The idea that Phil Fulmer, who’s never been an administrator before, is the guy with the right skills to launch a renaissance, feels like nothing more at this juncture than wishful thinking from a fan base that’s just thrilled to have a real Vol calling the shots.

Even worse, Fulmer’s only got a two-year deal.  If things don’t take off for Tennessee football in that time frame, he’ll sail off into the sunset washing his hands of the affair,  serene in the claim that he did what he believed was best for the program.  Meanwhile, it’ll be up to the next poor sap to deal with a fan base that fervently believes a return to greatness is easier than it is in real life.  For the rest of us, all that’s standing between years of mockery and UT football is Jeremy Pruitt.  And even that may be fleeting if Pruitt sees his time in Knoxville as a stepping stone to a program with more stability at the top.  Enjoy your time there, coach.

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53 Comments

Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, The Glass is Half Fulmer

53 responses to “Pruitt better win.

  1. Uglydawg

    Remember when Currie gave Phil the position of “advisor” or something like that not too long ago? Gave FP a job? Stupid.
    There’s an old fable about a woman who thought a snake was lovely so she took it into her house as a pet. One day it bit her. “How could you bite me after all I’ve done for you?”
    “You knew I was a snake the day you brought me into your house”.
    (I suppose it falls apart at the word “lovely” for the Orange application, huh?)

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  2. The other Doug

    The best case scenario for the Vols is Pruitt cleans things up and the next guy inherits a solid team.

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  3. Mayor

    I agree UT f*cked this up but I think they lucked into a great coach. We’ll see. This is Pruitt’s big chance and I don’t think he’ll blow it.

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    • Got Cowdog

      He may not have a choice with Fulmer looking over his shoulder.

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      • Otto

        I would take Fulmer looking over his shoulder than constantly fighting what in UGA terms would be an Adams appointee. The program likely fails less than it would have had Fulmer not replaced Currie who was backed by the owner of the Cleveland Browns and their Chancellor.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Got Cowdog

          Strictly speaking on hearsay and unfounded suspicion, someone as stubborn, outspoken, and combative as Pruitt was rumored to be may have a problem working for a micromanaging egomaniac.
          Bear in mind my only source of info is this blog and its commentariat. 😎

          Liked by 1 person

  4. W Cobb Dawg

    I think both writers are full of ship. Anyone paying attention saw the past two utk HC searches were fiascos also. Plain and simple, the recruit base makes this a very tough job. And the out-of-world expectations of the hillbillies makes it worse. Although I hate the jerk, I’ll give fulmer a little credit for saving them some money when it was all over, in relation to what Currie was offering Schiano and others.

    “Opposing SEC athletic directors, by the way, are giddy…” Yep, sure. The guy writing that doesn’t appear to know anything about sec A.D.s.

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    • Stoopnagle

      Well, they do still have to pay severance to Currie and there’s the matter of potential litigation w/r/t to the MOU with Schiano. So, maybe?

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  5. gastr1

    Am I wrong to think that a big part of the reason they didn’t want Schiano is because he’s a regional outsider? Tone and style-wise he and Pruitt seem pretty analogous–both defensive coordinators with a rep for being difficult to work with– except one’s from Alabama and the other is clearly not. Do UT people really care that much about what happened at Penn State? I’m surprised they even knew he was at Penn State.

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  6. tbia

    I think Pruitt is a great coach who knows football and can recruit. Beyond that, I am skeptical he will be successful as a head man. I don’t think he can be the coach to keep a staff and team united. The smoke at both FSU and Georgia tell me there was some fire there. Saban won’t even let you have matches, so not an issue at Bama.

    The other way UT is screwed is that you can bet your bottom dollar that if he is successful at Tennessee, he is headed to Bama when Darth Saban hangs it up.

    As for the future of Tennessee, their only hope to truly become relevant again is to hang on for 15-20 years until Nashville grows to the point it can be their Atlanta. And then they have to own it, not an easy task.

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    • Stoopnagle

      Pruitt can be successful if he can keep his ego in check. There’s a reason he’s worked at a different program every other year (practically speaking). Saban is alpha enough he can handle him; is Fulmer? I just don’t see someone with Pruitt’s background handling Fulmer looking over his shoulder for very long. And I especially don’t see it when the losses start to pile up by mid-season next year or if the Vols aren’t winning a lot in ’19. We’ll see obviously, but I think this is going to make the soap opera of our ’15 season look mild.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Argondawg

        and if they give him enough time. He is operating at a pretty substantial talent deficit. There last two recruiting classes were ranked in the 15 area and they have had some serious attrition of real talent. This class is going to be hard to salvage.if he is under 500 in the conference in two years do they cut their losses?

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      • Erk's Forehead

        Not just his ego. Pruitt lacks self control (angry drunk at UGA, affair at FSU). I do agree with Saban keeping him check. Now his lack of self-control is in charge. This could end poorly for UT.

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  7. Bright Idea

    Fulmer ain’t gonna do near as much ADing as meddling in football. How long and to what extent will Pruitt humor him is the question.

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  8. paul

    I’d call Fulmer a dumpster fire except that he’s more of a landfill tire fire, complete with the accompanying noxious, poisonous gas being released into the atmosphere. He fancies himself a savior yet it’s far more likely he makes things worse. Pruitt is a good coach who may not yet be quite ready to head up a program. That remains to be seen. But he does not tolerate fools gladly. And Fulmer is quite a fool. This may be a lot of fun to watch.

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  9. 3rdandGrantham

    As I stated when Pruitt was only in contention for the job…this is not going to end well. At all. Whereas with Smart, the admin wanted to set their native son up for success as much as possible, UT will (unintentionally or otherwise), set the stranger from Alabama for utter failure.

    The fact that Fulmer would hold a PC to let everyone know Currie has been fired and he’s the guy in charge – oh and give thanks to his beautiful wife and all that nonsense – tells me everything I need to know about how this is all going to work out. No wonder Currie was fired before he could hire a proven coach like Leach; Fulmer wanted absolutely no part of such a move.

    But hey, their continued failures and horrible decision making is our success, so by all means please keep Fulmer in charge for the next 20 years or so.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Go Dawgs!

    I sat in Neyland Stadium back in September and I was borderline shocked by how pedestrian Tennessee’s football team has become. There’s no doubt, I saw some talented football players. But as a whole, they have fallen so damn far and the cupboard would seem to be pretty bare for Jeremy Pruitt’s incoming staff. He’d better have some big recruiting wins early, because the coming fall is going to be a rough one in Knoxville. With the embarrassments they’ve suffered in this coaching search, I’m not sure how long the honeymoon for a former Alabama player and Nick Saban assistant will be up there if the losing stretches beyond 2018. I tend to think that Pruitt could be a successful head coach in the right situation, because I was impressed with the passion he inspired in his players at Georgia and also the way he seemingly bent the administration to his will when Coach Richt couldn’t on the IPF and facilities front. Of course, that makes us all think there will be back room wars with Fulmer, which would be fun. And I don’t know that the fan base will stay united when Alabama beats them by three or four touchdowns again this fall. Not sure this is the right job for Pruitt, but I’m damn sure glad they took him instead of Mel Tucker.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Go Dawgs!

      Also, the Vols shouldn’t fool themselves. Jeremy Pruitt will work tirelessly to advance the Tennessee cause while he’s there, but this job is his effort to present himself as the man to take over when Saban retires. Dabo Swinney is the obvious candidate to come home when momma calls, but if for some reason he decides he’d rather have a statue outside of Death Valley, Pruitt wants to go home to Alabama yet again. I guarantee he won’t stay at Tennessee if the opportunity ever presents itself.

      Of course, if Pruitt is a good enough candidate for Alabama to hire it would mean he’s done a hell of a job at Tennessee and I’m sure the Vols would take that.

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      • Erk's Forehead

        I was travelling through K-ville the night CBJ was fired. Local talk radio was talking excitedly about who the next coach could be. Then I heard this jewel from the host:

        “Georgia will be down next year after losing their senior RB’s. The east will be wide open and with the players we have, whoever takes the job should be contending for the east immediately looking at possibly 9 wins”

        I nearly drove off the road in laughter.

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        • Go Dawgs!

          And there you have it. That’s the kind of lack of reality you’re dealing with at Tennessee. At least get it right… Georgia’s concerns next year will be replacing defensive talent. The offense is going to be just fine.

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    • SOD was a truly shitty recruiter. Booch had to dig out from a deep, deep hole.

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      • Biggus Rickus

        Yes, but he was five years in. The lack of talent at this point is all on him.

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        • Argondawg

          I agree. the guy seemed like his (Booch) seat was warm the whole time he was there and the last two recruiting classes were nothing to write home about for sure and then this year………damn how do you salvage that mess with a week til early signing day and another full time gig. More kids have de committed than committed in the last week. They are literally staring at a lost year and with the hard cap of 25 that is not going to be easy to make up in coming years. Pay me $4.5 million a year and Id give it my best though.

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          • DoubleDawg1318

            They currently rank 46! One below GT, although GT has 17 commits compared to UT’s 11. Still when you’re in the company of GT when it comes to recruiting, you know things are going poorly.

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      • gastr1

        He was the absoute drop-dead best at teaching shower technique, however, so there’s that.

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  11. Senator I respectfully think you are falling in a trap here. Imagine if UGA was in the same situation. Adams/Leeburn controlled AD goes out and gets an Adams/Leeburn picked coach. Fans say they wont support it and force out the AD in exchange for someone like Matt Stinchcomb or Billy Payne.

    These national media types are just upset that their inside man at UT got canned. The Schiano disaster was 100% on Currie and 100% merited him getting fired.

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  12. CPark58

    Something tells me Pruitt is being underestimated by many. The guy is apparently an asshole and a terrible employee to have on staff but he knows what he wants and is a winner. The guy will win or die trying. No bullshit catch phrases, no political dancing, no apologies, no excuses.

    As a once prominent program who has wondered through the desert with a cocky, smart ass young coach who left you after a year, the son of a legend lawyer who over-sold his name and played the politics only to dig the crater deeper, and an all-talk insecure snake oil salesman, one would think the plain talking, win or die dickhead with the big time pedigree trying to make a name as a head coach would have to be refreshing at this point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a nice story. It also leaves out the part about a meddling AD who’s got his own agenda.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Argondawg

        Not to mention every job Pruitt walked into had excellent to pretty good talent. Now he has to build it on his own and he better hurry because his rivals are getting stronger. This is by far the deepest hole he has been in talent wise

        Liked by 1 person

      • CPark58

        I guess we’ll just have to see. I seem to remember having a conversation a while ago about how he should be a candidate but was told no one would want to hire him because of his personality.

        I hope he fails miserably because it’s Tennessee but he hasn’t shown that to be his M.O. on any previous stops.

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  13. CB

    If Clay Travis (UT alum and resident asshole) is to be believed, nobody in the Athletic Dept wanted Currie in the first place, and it was Haslam power move/back room deal that got Currie the job. Apparently the Athletic offices at UT were like a funeral after Fulmer wasn’t hired, so all they needed in order to turn on Currie was an excuse. That doesn’t mean Fulmer is the man for the job. Obviously Currie had the better professional resume.

    Apparently Fulmer had nothing to do with sabotaging Currie either. I’m skeptical of that and any evidence to the contrary would be welcomed because I can’t find any.

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  14. Scott

    Perhaps in 2018 both Pruitt and Fulmer will be getting their feet underneath them, and out-performing 2017 with 6 or more wins will keep the natives at bay. 2018 will be a honeymoon year for the two rookies. 2019 will be the real story as Fulmer works to have his contract renewed and expectations rise for Pruitt. 2019 will be the pressure year at Rocky Top. If they win 8-9 or more things will be fine, if not it might get messy between the two.

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  15. Tommy

    Count me among those who think UT backed into a great hire, and the Fulmer thing doesn’t really bother me. Fulmer’s got all his eggs in the Pruitt basket. If he wants to continue as AD beyond 2 years, he’ll give Pruitt what he needs.

    I think three issues are being conflated, so I’m going to separate them out:
    1. Currie’s coaching search: rudderless disaster
    2. Fulmer’s backstabbing: bad look, but Fulmer’s gonna Fulmer.
    3. Fulmer hiring Pruitt: What they should’ve been doing all along. No successful P5 head coach was ever going to take the career risk of going to UT. The addressable market was only ever successful coordinators and Mike Leach. And Pruitt knows as well as Fulmer what it takes to win in this region — successfully recruiting talented linemen from the South.

    Will Fulmer and Pruitt butt heads? Sure. But time is on Pruitt’s side, and he was a little more patient with Butts-Mehre than he gets credit for (he left when the guy who hired him was fired, and he did get B-M to bend on the IPF). I think Pruitt can wait Fulmer out for two years. And if Pruitt is around at the end of Year 3, it’ll be because things are going well enough that he’ll have leverage with either Fulmer or his replacement.

    If Georgia were weak, I’d say Pruitt could be a deadly hire for UT, because he could recruit Georgia freely the way Fulmer did in the ’90s. As it is, he’ll get them to 8-9 wins by 2020. If you’re blowing people off the ball, it doesn’t matter what scheme you run. It’s pretty obvious, but UT has spent the past decade coached by people who never understood that. That’ll change with Pruitt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Otto

      It wasn’t just Fulmer back stabbing Currie, a large part of the Alumni had enough of Hamilton and his succession of academics running the UT Athletic Department into the ground. In a way I admire them, as it would have been nice to see UGA organize to get Adams and his line booted from Athens.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. 69Dawg

    UT’s problems are and have been the administration. The UT rabid fans are good ole boys and the hire of a preppy SOD and an Ohio Yankee who looked to the north for his recruits never set well with them. The administration could have had Cutcliff when Fulmer was let go but would not let him bring his assistances with him. So they screwed that up they then panicked, they do that a lot. CJP maybe an Alabama man but he talks like the fans and he is a no nonsense coach that as we have seen will either get the best out the players or runs them off. He not CMR so none of the players he runs will end up in the SEC beating him. Like most everyone has said the real unknown is whether Phil is just making another Machiavellian plot to get back to HC. If it is all a plot it will be a real treat to watch.

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  17. Aladawg

    Feinbaum loves him and Fulmer. Little does he really know or understand about Phat Phil and the Tennessee faithful. 2 years and they will be having the veritable lynching of the donut. There’s no room for any improvement right now at that dumpster fire/ toxic waste dump.

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