You know how you know your team’s head coach’s tenure has been a fustercluck thus far? When your 69-year-old athletic director has to deny he has any intention of returning to the sidelines while simultaneously giving the current coach the dreaded in-season vote of confidence.
Tennessee football, y’all!
To say that the Jeremy Pruitt era at Tennessee has gotten off to a rocky start would be an understatement. Coming off a 5-7 first season on Rocky Top, Pruitt’s second campaign has seen one of the worst upset losses in the history of college football as well as an embarrassing beatdown at the hands of rival Florida.
All of that has led to tremendous heat underneath Pruitt’s seat. So hot, in fact, that there has been speculation — probably more wishful, wistful thinking, but whatever — that UT athletic director Phillip Fulmer would come out of retirement to rescue the flailing football program.
During a radio interview Wednesday night, Fulmer, who was the head coach of the Vols from 1992-2008, burst the bubble of those hoping a return to coaching was in the cards…
The other thing that keeps coming up, and I can tell you I want to just address it: The coaching chapter of my life is long closed, OK?” Fulmer said. “I love doing what I’m doing at UT, but I love more being with my family and my grandchildren. And I’m still the assistant to the assistant pee-wee baseball coach, and I’m the flag football coach. And you can’t do those things and ever coach.
… while also very publicly backing his first major coaching hire as his alma mater’s AD.
I mean, Jeremy would tell you himself: We had every opportunity to be 3-1 or better. That’s the discouraging part of it,” Fulmer said during the radio appearance. “But I’m going to tell you this: I totally believe in Coach Pruitt and the job that he’s doing. He’s a leader. He’s a recruiter. He’s a hard worker. He’s tough-minded. He confronts the issues that we have.
“We came in and I was telling everybody — and I don’t think they listened very well — we had a long way to go. We had lots of issues to deal with. And we have a really outstanding, good-looking freshman class. We have seven seniors that are busting their butt, and a lot of other kids on the team, as well.
“We have work to do. But there are some real opportunities out there. If we don’t turn the ball over, we’re a decent football team. But you can’t turn it over against anybody like we have done and expect to be successful.
At 1-3, the Viols are off to their worst start since… Fulmer’s final season in 2008.
And for those curious? UT would owe Pruitt just north of $9 million if they were to let him go following the 2019 season. That’s very likely not to happen, but there’s the number. Just in case.