The Tennessee Vols’ shocking loss to the Georgia State Panthers in week one was the first major red flag for UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
There are simply no excuses for that loss.
However, Pruitt is still a young head coach learning how to navigate being the CEO of a program. Every successful head coach has made mistakes along the way (I detailed several on Monday). It’s how they learn from those mistakes that truly matters.
For now, I don’t think Pruitt’s job is in jeopardy. It’s simply too early to make an accurate judgement on Pruitt as a head coach. Maybe the loss to Georgia State will make him a better head coach. Or maybe the Vols will rebound from the loss and go on a tear the rest of the season.
A lot of fight left. pic.twitter.com/zq3VA7EwLc
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) September 3, 2019
But while I don’t think Pruitt is necessarily on the hot seat, there are several scenarios where I think that could change. And there are scenarios where I think Pruitt shouldn’t be brought back for year three.
Now, this isn’t a road the Vols want to go down. If you think the program is in bad shape now, then wait until Tennessee is searching for their sixth head coach in 12 years. That’s not ideal.
So, even if Pruitt fails to improve much from last season, meaning the team finishes 5-7 again, he should still return as Tennessee’s head coach in 2020. That’s not a scenario UT fans would be thrilled about, but sometimes it’s smart to stick with a coach and give him a chance. It worked out for Clemson when they stuck with Dabo Swinney a decade ago.
But if things start to rapidly deteriorate, meaning the Vols finish 4-8 or worse, then it would probably be a good idea to show Pruitt the door and engage in yet another coaching search.
A three or four win season is a realistic possibility after opening the season with a loss to Georgia State. I expect the Vols to bounce back from the loss, but there are no guaranteed wins on the schedule at this point.
If Tennessee reaches a new historic low in a season where they were suppose to show major improvement, then I think it’s safe to assume that Pruitt isn’t the guy. At least not right now.
So what’s the move if Pruitt gets canned?
Well, I think at that point there are only two options for the Vols.
Tennessee, who would already be in a financial pickle because of another buyout, would have to go straight to Urban Meyer and/or Bob Stoops and beg them to return to coaching. And show them a LOT of money. I’m talking highest paid college coach ever type money.
Even then, there’s not a very good chance either of those guys are coming out of retirement to coach Tennessee (though money talks and I think both guys still have a lot of coaching left in them, Meyer is 55 and Stoops is 58). Plus, I’m not sure UT would be able to make the financial end work.
If both of those coaches, the only two who could 100 percent turn the Vols around, said no, then Tennessee would once again be in a position where they have to take a chance on an unknown. And that hasn’t worked out very well for them in the last ten years.
That’s why fans should be rooting for Pruitt’s success moving forward. The loss on Saturday was one of the lowest moments in program history. But if Pruitt doesn’t succeed, it can get worse. Much worse.
The matchup against BYU this weekend should gives us better insight into who Pruitt really is as a head coach. How his team responds after a gut wrenching loss will tell us if Pruitt is capable of handling adversity, something he hasn’t really had to face so far during his coaching career.
It’s a long season. Let’s see how it plays out before we determine Pruitt’s fate.
Featured image via Randy Sartin/USA Today