Jeremy Pruitt Fired as Tennessee CFB HC Amid Possible NCAA Violations

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2021

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt, right, talks with offensive lineman Cooper Mays (63) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Wade Payne/Associated Press

The Tennessee Volunteers announced Monday they have fired football head coach Jeremy Pruitt for cause.

Tennessee also fired assistants Shelton Felton and Brian Niedermeyer. In its termination letter to Pruitt, the school said, "The NCAA will likely find that you failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program."

"Your failures are likely to lead to significant penalties to the University and has jeopardized the eligibility of our student-athletes," the school wrote to Pruitt.

Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports first reported Pruitt's exit and shared full details of the exits within the program and the findings announced by the university:

Pete Thamel @PeteThamel

Here's the documents from Tennessee. Here's who else got cleared out. (Below) https://t.co/ud2RK5kC7m https://t.co/TBTVUBTfMD

Brett McMurphy of Stadium passed along a statement from attorney Michael Lyons, who is representing Pruitt:

Brett McMurphy @Brett_McMurphy

Statement provided to @Stadium from attorney Michael Lyons representing former Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt https://t.co/mAgCsaOC6S

Kevin Steele will serve as the interim head coach.

In the wake of the move, athletic director Phillip Fulmer will step down from his role, and his replacement will hire Pruitt's successor.

Pruitt, 46, went 16-19 in his three seasons at Tennessee and 3-7 this past season in an all-SEC schedule. The Volunteers had one winning season under Pruitt, going 8-5 in 2019, and reached just one bowl game under his watch. The school had signed him to a contract extension in 2020 that kept him under contract through the 2025 season, though his deal reportedly included "more than 30 fire-for-cause provisions."

Fulmer, 70, has served as the school's athletic director since Dec. 2017. He's a legend within the football program, compiling a 151-52-1 record as the school's head coach between 1992-08, leading the team to a national championship in 1998.

Tennessee has struggled to replace him. Lane Kiffin lasted one season (2009), going 7-6. Derek Dooley (2010-12) coached just three, going 16-21. Butch Jones (2013-17) made it through five campaigns, going 34-27. Pruitt followed Jones, though did not reach even that modest level of success.

As for Pruitt's successor, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported, "Vols legend Peyton Manning will have a big role in the search process and great influence on who Tennessee's next head coach will be."