All eyes are on the Tennessee Vols and Jeremy Pruitt right now.
There’s an ongoing internal investigation at Tennessee and Pruitt’s future as the Vols’ head coach will be determined by the outcome of the investigation.
It appears that some at UT — mainly athletic director Phillip Fulmer — want Pruitt to return in 2021.
But I’m not sure if Pruitt will be able to survive the investigation at Tennessee. At the very least, he’s going to need to replace a large portion of his staff (the Vols currently have two openings, plus two expiring contracts in Tee Martin and Brian Niedermeyer).
Pruitt isn’t being allowed to make hires according to various reports, which isn’t a good sign for his future. However, Pruitt has been interviewing potential offensive line coaches this week, so he’s at least planning on being around next season.
Rivals analysts Mike Farrell and Adam Gorney gave their opinion this week on Pruitt’s future and neither of them believes he’ll return as Tennessee’s head coach in 2021.
“The season was a disaster, the program has gone backward, recruiting is taking a hit and now this public black eye,” wrote Farrell. “I say he’s fired by the first Wednesday of February.”
Gorney isn’t optimistic that Pruitt returns, either.
This situation does not look good for Pruitt at all. There are investigations into the recruitment of Amarius Mims. Eric Gray sat out the season finale and sources told ESPN it was because of this probe. Lawyers are being brought in. And for what? Pruitt is 16-19 overall and the Vols have finished worse than third in the SEC East in two of his three seasons. Tennessee lost seven of its last eight games by double digits this season. It’s not as if Pruitt is some football savant that the school will go to the mattresses over. It looks like this debacle will end soon.
If not for this investigation I think Pruitt would definitely be back in 2021. And I think the goal is still to bring him back (if he doesn’t return, the roster could fall apart).
But Tennessee has to make sure they don’t risk future issues with the NCAA if they keep Pruitt. If he’s clear, he’ll return. If he’s even remotely linked to anything shady, it’s unlikely he’s back next season.
Because as Gorney wrote, how hard can a program fight for a coach that is 16-19 in three seasons and lost seven games by double digits in 2020?
Tennessee is as far away from success right now as it’s ever been. They need to choose their next moves very carefully.
Featured image via Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK