For a certain period of time in 2019 it looked like Jeremy Pruitt’s tenure at Tennessee would be an extremely brief one. Then the Vols strung together some wins and finished the year 8-5, including a TaxSlayer Gator Bowl win over Indiana.
Suddenly, there was optimism.
In 2020, everything reverted back to the norm. Tennessee struggled mightily, finishing up 3-7 – good for fifth place in the SEC East.
This week, athletic director Phillip Fulmer suggested that Pruitt’s performance was good enough to warrant keeping him around.
“I’m thrilled about our football program’s opportunity to compete in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against a great opponent like West Virginia,” he said in a press release.
“First, it’s an opportunity to connect with our many fans throughout West Tennessee and expand upon the rich historical links between the Memphis area and UT.
“We have so much Tennessee family in and around Memphis—especially our medical school and fantastic alumni. And secondly, it’s a tremendous development opportunity for our team and should serve as a primer to spring practice for Coach Pruitt and our returners.
“We all know Memphis loves the Tennessee Vols, and it’s an important stronghold for all of our athletic and academic programs.”
After his team’s loss to Texas A&M to close out the regular season, Pruitt was asked if he believed he’d return in 2021.
“Yeah, I think absolutely,” Pruitt said.
“If you look over the first two years we were here, right? Where we were at when we got here. I’ve said it before from personnel, culture, to what we’re building. I get it. 3-7 is not where we want to be, but there’s one thing I can say.
“I can lay my head down on my pillow every night and know that I’ve done everything I could possibly do to make sure we protected everybody in our program. Wasn’t looking for a competitive edge,” he continued.
“There’s lots of things that we didn’t know about. If we were going to have another COVID season again, I would probably be more prepared to handle it. I get the business. I understand it.”
Based on everything that has been said up to this point, it’s hard to argue with Pruitt’s assessment of the situation.