The Tennessee Vols‘ football program was on the brink of irreversible disaster in late 2017.
After the worst season in program history (finishing 4-8), the Vols embarked on a coaching search that turned out to be a comedy of errors.
It was a search led by then-athletic director John Currie that was shrouded in secrecy. There was a fan revolt (the attempted hiring of Greg Schiano), a very public courting of Mike Gundy, a secret California meeting with Mike Leach, and the ghosting of a potential candidate (NC State’s Dave Doeren). Those events eventually led to Currie losing his job.
And all of that happened a full week before the Vols actually made a hire.
There’s a key event that happened in the week between the firing of Currie and the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt as Tennessee’s head coach.
And it’s an event that SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum feels saved the Vols’ football program.
UT hired Phillip Fulmer to lead the athletic department.
“Phillip Fulmer I think saved that program,” said Finebaum recently to 247Sports’ Brandon Marcello.
It’s not often that I say this, but Finebaum is spot-on with this comment.
Fulmer knows what it takes to have success at Tennessee. He knows what a good football coach looks like (which is why he hired Pruitt, instead of some of the other candidates). And he knows what kind of resources a football coach needs to be successful.
Pruitt gets what he needs from Fulmer — the money for one of the best staffs in college football, a recruiting budget that’s the third-highest in the nation, and plenty of support.
The Vols haven’t had much success since Fulmer left Rocky Top in late 2008.
It’s no coincidence that his re-arrival at Tennessee is concurrent with the upward trajectory of the program.
Featured image via Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports/Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports