On Wednesday night, word began to spread throughout Big Orange Country that Tennessee had finally made an offer to a new head football coach. That offer was accepted by Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and after three and a half weeks since Butch Jones was fired the Volunteers had their man. The entire process wasn't quite that simple. It took national embarrassment, being turned down numerous times by coaches all over the country and the dismissal of an athletic director to get the job done.
That process came under fire from NCAA President Mark Emmert who spoke of the collapse of communication between U.T. administrators and athletic department personnel. The man spoke the truth.
Former head football coach Phillip Fulmer came to the rescue and hired a coach in five days; the way it was supposed to be done. Jeremy Pruitt is a good quality hire for the Vols, though he may not be the "sexy" hire some Tennessee fans wanted. Pruitt has guided the Crimson Tide defense for two seasons since Kirby Smart left for Georgia. He has a reputation for helping to develop players who are extremely physical and very well disciplined. All you have to do is look at Alabama and see the results.
Pruitt is well respected in the coaching community. He is an outstanding recruiter and a tireless worker. He's the guy that impressed Coach Fulmer more than any other and my advice to Tennessee fans who wanted Jon Gruden or Mike Leach , is to get behind Coach Pruitt and support him 100%.
Tennessee is allowing Pruitt to stay on at Alabama and coach the team's defense in the College Football Playoffs on January 1st, though he will be pulling double duty as he puts together a staff and heads recruiting efforts for the Vols. That recruiting effort has been a hot topic for several weeks as the Vols have dropped from a top five class for 2018, to somewhere in the mid thirties. They have had a bunch of decommitments and now that they had head coach in place there is a possibility they could return a few of them into the fold. Only time will tell.
This is not going to be a quick fix for the Vols. There is some talent in Knoxville but it's going to take a couple of years before Tennessee can be expected to compete for an SEC East title. There is also the "toxicity" within the athletic department to deal with. Fulmer now can settle into the day-to-day running of the athletic department, but his staff is currently filled with John Currie's people. It remains to be seen how loyal they will be to Coach Fulmer or how long they will stay in their current positions.
This process, the one that caused such embarrassment and discord within Tennessee's athletic structure will also prove to be quite costly. They could owe Greg Schiano a great deal of money after that hiring fiasco almost two weeks ago. They also owe former coach Butch Jones and his staff a big buyout, and they will likely owe John Currie money as well.
Things are not good in Big Orange Country. They are a bit better this morning as new head coach Jeremy Pruitt will be introduced later today , but there is still much work to be done. To quote legendary former coach Johnny Majors, "We're one foot away from hell. But we're headed in the right direction."
Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for 30 years. He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga television for more than a quarter-century. In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith. They have five grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, Mattingly, DellaMae, and CoraLee.