And on the 25th day, they rested.
On Nov. 12, Tennessee fired Butch Jones, much to the delight of Vols fans far and wide. Following a coaching search that took nearly a month — one which featured an athletic department coup as part of myriad twists and turns that included several reported snubs on the part of potential candidates — UT officially has its man as it confirmed reports from overnight that Jeremy Pruitt is its new head football coach.
The fact that newly-minted athletic director Phillip Fulmer, a Tennessean who is a walking embodiment of a Vol-For-Lifer, hired a man born in the state of Alabama… played his college football for hated rival Alabama… and comes to Knoxville after spending the past two seasons in Tuscaloosa as Nick Saban‘s defensive coordinator is the perfect resolution to one of the wildest coaching searches in recent memory.
“Six days ago, I mentioned several attributes that I sought to find in the next leader of our football program, and Coach Pruitt meets all criteria” Fulmer said. “I’m certain he appreciates the unique opportunity to lead a program of Tennessee’s caliber. He’s driven to win at the highest level. He will honor our university’s values, operate with integrity and be a role model for our student-athletes.”
Pruitt will be officially introduced at a 6:05 p.m. ET press conference Thursday evening.
In addition to his time at ‘Bama, which included a stint with the Crimson Tide from 2007-12, the 43-year-old Pruitt also served as the coordinator at Georgia (2014-15) and Florida State (2013). His initial tour with the Tide was his first at the FBS level, outside of a graduate assistant position in 1997… at ‘Bama.
This will mark the first head-coaching position for the 43-year-old Pruitt at any level.
“I know Coach Pruitt will hit the ground running and go to work restoring our program to a championship level,” Fulmer added.
Pruitt will head into this Rocky Top rebuild armed with a six-year contract. The long-time coordinator will also embark on his head-coaching career with a schedule that features matchups against Florida, at Georgia, at Auburn and, you guessed it, Alabama serving as his first four SEC games.
Just as Kirby Smart did when he accepted the head-coaching job at Georgia two years ago, Pruitt is expected remain at Alabama for however long this playoff run lasts before giving his full and undivided attention to taking over a Tennessee team that just capped the storied football program’s first-ever winless SEC campaign.
With Pruitt’s hiring, three former Saban defensive coordinators are now head coaches in the SEC East — Pruitt, Smart and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp. Additionally, with Pruitt onboard, six of the seven coaches in the division, Florida’s Dan Mullen being the lone exception, are former defensive coordinators.
Finally, as noted by USA Today‘s Dan Wolken, 11 of the 14 head coaches in the conference are currently represented by one man — super-agent Jimmy Sexton.