Tennessee’s offseason to this point has been downright weird. Jeremy Pruitt remains in place after a disappointing 3-7 season, but his job status remains in limbo thanks to an investigation into some potential recruiting violations.
There’s been a mass exodus from Knoxville with several key players now sitting in the NCAA transfer portal. There’s also been no movement to fill the vacancies at offensive line coach and defensive line coach.
Now we know why. Tennessee has imposed a hiring freeze as they continue to navigate their investigation. The University has hired outside attorneys to assist with the investigation, who interviews football players about the situation this week.
News from @Mark_Schlabach: #Tennessee is not extending contracts of football assistants and imposed a hiring freeze as it investigates possible recruiting violations within Jeremy Pruitt's program #Volshttps://t.co/R4V7w1e0IO— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) January 7, 2021
One of the most plugged in guys to the Tennessee football program over the years has been ESPN’s Chris Low — and now he’s saying that it will be “difficult” for Pruitt to keep his job.
Will Jeremy Pruitt make it? @ClowESPN tells #3HL: "looking at it from where we are right now, talking to some people, I think its going to be difficult... you never say never... it will be difficult for him to be the Head Football coach." Listen: https://t.co/E1fgY721Ob— 3HL (@3HL1045) January 7, 2021
Jeremy Pruitt was extended before the 2020 season after going 8-5 in year two. The new deal boosted his annual salary to $4.2 million, which increased his buyout number to $12.8 million. Given how drawn out this process has been, Tennessee may be trying to find a way to fire him with cause.
“The way this has all gone down, the way this has dragged out, it will be difficult for him to be the head football coach,” Low said on 104.5 The Zone Wednesday. “I don’t know if Tennessee is trying to get its ducks in order to fire him with cause, to get him to take a settlement, I think those are all possibilities.”
So while it may be later than we all anticipated, we may just see a coaching search this year in Knoxville after all.