Tennessee Vols head football coach Jeremy Pruitt recently made a plea for UT fans to pack Neyland Stadium for the program’s annual Orange and White game on April 13.
The request seemed innocent enough, but the reaction among fans and media members was mixed.
Some fans/analysts wouldn’t expect any less from Pruitt, while others think he’s asking too much of the fan base.
It’s not fair to ask for 102K to watch practice after any type of season https://t.co/wjzmeQLwF6
— J.R. Lind (@jrlind) April 4, 2019
Pruitt is obviously asking for an abundance of fans to attend the spring game for recruiting purposes.
Pruitt is making another plea for spring game attendance. “The more people we have in Neyland, the better selling point it is for our program. … We need our stadium full.”
— David Ubben (@davidubben) April 2, 2019
The Vols need to excel in recruiting, so it makes sense for Pruitt to want to create an atmosphere that leaves a lasting impression on recruits.
I think it’s smart for Pruitt to plead with the fan base to shove up in droves on April 13, but I also don’t think it’s realistic. Nor do I think the fans should feel required to show up.
Pruitt has to understand that Tennessee’s fan base has been through the ringer over the last decade. It’s been the same cycle since late 2008. New coach, excitement, bad results, fire coach, repeat. This isn’t the first rodeo for the Vol fan base — so you can excuse them for being hesitant to get too excited.
To ask UT fans to pack out Neyland Stadium after a 5-7 season isn’t reasonable. And I don’t think it’s really all that important, either.
Sure, a great spring atmosphere will likely leave an impression on recruits. And some of them might even commit shortly after. But the memories of a glorified practice in April will soon fade if the Vols don’t improve on their record in 2019.
The best recruiting tool Pruitt has is to ensure Tennessee shows marked improvement in his second season. If the Vols win eight games next season, it will do more to help recruiting than a spring game attendance number ever could.
Pruitt’s right to want to do as much as possible to help recruiting, but he’s wrong to expect Vol fans, who have more than proved their loyalty time and time again, to shoulder the load.
Win games and close recruitments and the fans will show up.
Until then, Pruitt should temper his expectations when it comes to the attendance of a spring game.
Featured image via Caitie McMekin-USA TODAY Sports