Photo: UT Coach Jeremy Pruitt
Published January 19, 2021
The University of Tennessee’s football coach, Jeremy Pruitt, has been fired after an internal investigation alleged he violated NCAA guidelines. Pruitt did have tenure at the University of Tennessee, but since he was fired for cause, he will not receive a buyout.
The coach who only spent three seasons at the university will not receive the $200,000 he was set to be paid in February and he loses out on $12.6 million from his buyout. The entire program is under investigation after being accused of recruiting violations.
Phillip Fulmer, the athletics director at the university is also stepping down, but his retirement is not tied to the investigation. Fulmer said he is leaving it up to his successor to chose the next football coach.
The contract that Pruitt was under had over 30 provisions allowing him to be fired for cause. Some of those causes were engaging in conduct leading to NCAA violations of either level one or level two offenses. He could have also been fired for not maintaining and promoting an atmosphere of compliance.
Pruitt was criticized while coach for the numerous losses Tennessee faced. This includes when they lost 0-9 to Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The team also lost to Kentucky in October, coming in at 34-7 after four turnovers and two interceptions.
However, The Vols were able to end their 2019 season by beating Indiana with 23-22 at the Gator Bowl. At the beginning of the 2020 season, the university announced the extension to Pruitt’s contract.
At the time, Fulmer had said, “I’m excited that this extension gives Jeremy the runway to continue to build on the momentum and energy we have around our football program coming out of last season. He has made excellent progress entering just his third year and clearly realizes there is much work still to be done. This extension secures him to continue his efforts to return our program to a championship level and shows our commitment to him, his staff, this team and the future of the Tennessee Volunteers.”
His contract extension included a raise to start at the beginning of 2021, as well as an increase in his tenure buyout. The contract wasn’t set to expire until January 21, 2026.
Mike Glazier and Kyle Skillman are the two lawyers that UT has retained to handle the investigation. The duo from Kansas has experience dealing with university athletic program investigations.
While Pruitt was able to bring The Vols to some victory, he is considered to have one of the worst overall winning percentages of UT coaches. Pruitt’s record ending the 2020 season was 16-19 with a 3-7 markup. W.H. Britton and Derek Dooley are the only two that saw a worse record.
Since Fulmer moved to AD, Butch Jones had been the only Vols coach able to make it past three seasons. Lane Kiffin left for Southern California and Dooley was fired during his third season. Jones made it to his fifth season but was fired before it ended.