Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer did in less than a week what suspended University of Tennessee athletics director John Currie stared down for months, yet couldn’t accomplish: find the Volunteers’ next football coach.
UT’s long national nightmare unofficially reached its conclusion Wednesday night when Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt agreed to terms to become the Vols’ next head football coach.
In the end, Pruitt edged out Georgia’s Mel Tucker for the post with Auburn’s Kevin Steele, a defensive coordinator like the other two, as Tennessee’s fallback option.
Pruitt will be introduced in Knoxville Thursday afternoon. He receives, per sources, a minimum five-year deal.
“Working it out,” was the text from an involved source Wednesday evening while another person, familiar with the Fulmer-led Tennessee operations in New York City, said, “Tennessee’s sole focus is on Jeremy Pruitt and who he will bring for his staff. They’re not looking at or considering anyone else.”
Pruitt entered the week as a finalist, but not deemed the top target. However, he impressed Monday during an interview with Fulmer and other UT emissaries in Dallas; this exchange was followed by a phone conversation.
On Wednesday, Pruitt flew to New York to meet with the UT entourage. The detailed interview included Pruitt’s vision for the program’s future, discussions on how Pruitt and his staff would attack recruiting and, of course, Pruitt’s vision for assembling his staff.
Pruitt intends to immediately begin recruiting for the Vols while likewise continuing to coach the Alabama Crimson Tide defense as it prepares for its College Football Playoff showdown in the Sugar Bowl against top-ranked Clemson Jan. 1, 2018, in New Orleans.
Pruitt’s arrival as the Tennessee coach, replacing the fired Butch Jones, comes after the Currie-ignited debacle turned UT into a national sports punchline through much of the past two weeks.
Nonetheless, Pruitt was undeterred.
Where Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was thwarted in the face of a popular uprising due to his alleged ties to the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State scandal and where others, most notably Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm, and N.C. State’s Dave Doeren all told Currie, “No thanks,” the hard-charging Pruitt said “yes.”
Pruitt, his representatives – headed by star college athletics powerbroker Jimmy Sexton – and UT’s ensemble spent the majority of Wednesday ironing out the deal.
(You can follow John Brice on Twitter @JohnDBrice1)
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