Tennessee AD Phil Fulmer Backs Jeremy Pruitt as HC, Has 'No Interest' in Return

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2019

New Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt, right, receives a personalized jersey from athletic director Phillip Fulmer during his introductory news conference Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Steve Megargee)
Steve Megargee/Associated Press

Tennessee Volunteers football coach Jeremy Pruitt received a vote of confidence from athletic director Phillip Fulmer on Wednesday.  

Fulmer not only expressed his support for Pruitt, but he also made it clear that he does not plan on returning to the sideline, via Vol Calls (h/t ESPN's Chris Low):

"We've got a good football coach, and I believe in Jeremy Pruitt totally. I have no interest in coaching again and would rather spend that time being a grandfather and doing whatever I can as athletic director in helping Jeremy get this program where we all want it to be. Any talk of me coaching again is just a bunch of rumors."

He continued, per Rick Russo of WVLT:

Rick Russo @wvltrick

During tonight's Vol Calls program it was @CoachJPruitt receiving a vote of confidence from his boss, A-D and former UT head coach @phillipfulmer @wvltrick @ZackRickensTV @Volquest_Rivals @ClowESPN https://t.co/r1lLZK559m

This comes as Pruitt has been heavily scrutinized following a disappointing start to his tenure in Knoxville.

Pruitt led Tennessee to a 5-7 record during his first year on the job in 2018, which included a 2-6 mark in SEC play. The Volunteers have dropped three of their first four contests in 2019, including home losses to Georgia State and BYU to open their schedule.

Their lone victory this season came against FCS program Chattanooga. 

Of note, two of Tennessee's next three games come against top-three teams in No. 3 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama.

Zack Rickens @ZackRickensTV

#Vols Athletic Director @phillipfulmer shares his thoughts on the football season so far during tonight's Vol Calls. @wvltrick @wvltCaleb @Volquest_Rivals @ClowESPN https://t.co/zYkUyLdzGX

At this point, the AD doesn't envision a coaching change.

"Jeremy Pruitt is as bought in as anybody could possibly be bought in at the University of Tennessee," Fulmer said.

Zack Rickens @ZackRickensTV

@phillipfulmer @wvltrick @wvltCaleb @Volquest_Rivals @ClowESPN "You can bet Jeremy Pruitt is as bought-in as anybody could possibly be bought-in to the University of Tennessee." - #Vols AD Phillip Fulmer https://t.co/SdiAzoNxML

Losing is not something Fulmer is overly familiar with in regards to Tennessee football. He spent 16-plus years as the head coach, recording a total of two losing seasons during his tenure. He went 151-52-1, winning one national championship (1998) en route to the College Football Hall of Fame. 

Now, though, the program is in danger of suffering a third consecutive losing season. 

But at 69 years old, Fulmer prefers being the AD—a role he has held since December 2017—to being the head football coach.

"I'm way past that point in my life," Fulmer said, via Low. "I love the job I have [as AD] and am committed to seeing this thing through."