One of the perks of being a head coach at an historic SEC program like Tennessee is having a former head coach as the current Athletic Director who has been through the gauntlet of conference play more than once.
Such is the case for first year head coach Jeremy Pruitt, who is still four months away from embarking on his inaugural campaign as the head man in Knoxville.
For now, Pruitt is embarking on one of the other aspects that comes along with job: speaking engagements throughout the Volunteer State.
On Tuesday, Pruitt spoke to an audience at the Knoxville Rotary Club and gave those in attendance an account of what he was told by Phillip Fulmer when they were going through the hiring process back in early December.
Below is the video that was posted on twitter WBIR Knoxville reporter Chierstin Susel:
#Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt says Phillip Fulmer looked him dead in the eye when he was hired and said, "The head coach at Tennessee is going to be judged on three games: Florida, Georgia and Alabama".— Chierstin Susel (@ChierstinSusel) May 1, 2018
A round of applause ensued at the Rotary clubs of Knoxville meeting. pic.twitter.com/B6K1rkx3rO
The pageantry, passion, and tradition that comes along with those three games are something Fulmer understands all too well, because he himself was judged by those games.
After taking over the head coaching duties officially in 1993, Fulmer compiled a 24-23 record against those three teams. While Fulmer had long periods of sustained success against both Georgia and Alabama-winning seven straight versus the Bulldogs between 1993-1999 and the Tide between 1994-2001-he only managed to best Florida four times during his entire tenure.
Every head coach following Fulmer has not faired near as well against the three, as only Butch Jones in 2016 has been the only coach since Fulmer to beat Florida. No coach has been able to beat Alabama since Saban took over in 2007, but Jones and Kiffin did beat Georgia on a few occasions (Kiffin in 2009, and Jones in 2015 and 2016).
Since Fulmer’s firing in 2008, Tennessee is just 4-23 in those games combined.
The Vols inability to beat their rivals has been something fans have struggled to watch year in and year out, but it should be reassuring to know that Pruitt understands that beating them can go a long way in his success at Tennessee.
Pruitt will look to turn the corner beginning with a home match up against the Gators on September 22, which will be followed up by a road trip to Athens to face the defending SEC champs on September 29 before playing host to Alabama for their annual Third Saturday in October showdown.