Jeremy Pruitt, the ousted University of Tennessee head coach, was this week briefly a subject of conversation in relation to the defensive coordinator vacancy at the University of Texas, sources tell Longhorns Country at SI.
What ended the conversation of adding Pruitt to new Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff?
A Volunteers-fueled punishment that some believe is three times more harsh than might be deserved.
The three phases of that punishment:
One, following a self-investigation into potential recruiting violations within the Volunteers program, Tennessee notified Pruitt of his termination.
Two, Tennessee is claiming the firing is “with cause” - though the school may find itself at the business end of a lawsuit there because while the accusations are sordid ("McDonald’s bags full of money” for recruits), they are at this point legally only accusations - as is Tennessee’s assertion in its letter to Pruitt that alleged violations are “the result of either your material neglect or lack of reasonable preventive compliance measures."
But those accusations - which the coach’s side denies - are the basis for Tennessee’s plan to void the remaining $12.6 million on Pruitt’s contract.
Three - and this is where the Longhorns come in: Very quickly after Texas power-brokers raised the idea of Pruitt - once upon a time Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama - as a UT candidate, someone pointed out that it is against Texas guidelines to hire any coach involved in an active investigation.
So, no Texas job for Jeremy Pruitt.
Meaning, if Tennessee gets its way, he is out of a job, stiffed on his contract, and unable to freely and fully get his next job.
Texas’ logic here is sound; why hire a coach who may be on the verge of trouble, which could lead to the school eventually losing the coach, a pile of money, and credibility?
Tennessee’s logic? “What's astonishing,” alleged that school’s chancellor, Donde Plowman, “is the number of violations and their efforts to conceal the wrongdoing."
If Plowman is correct, Tennessee will righteously prove its case. (The burden, it seems, is on the school to establish that the coach is directly responsible for a lack of compliance and absence of monitoring.) But it’s worth noting that the law firm backing the school here, Bond, Schoeneck & King, was involved in a similar case in which it worked for the University of Kansas in its attempt to fire and punish coach David Beaty.
And what happened in the Beaty case? His side argued in a "with-cause'' lawsuit that KU "unabashedly raised the need to 'find something' on coach Beaty such as finding a 'dead hooker in (his) closet.'"
Beaty was contractually owed $3 million that KU did not want to pay. Kansas eventually agreed to a $2.55 million financial settlement.
This script, it seems, is about to look familiar.
Also worth noting, because at most schools, the NCAA compliance department is hand-in-glove with the football program’s goings-on: Would Tennessee be doing any of this had Pruitt’s Vols in 2020 finished 7-3 instead of 3-7?
How much did Volunteers powers-that-be object to the alleged irregularities ... in comparison to how much did they object to paying the promised $12.6 million to a 3-7 coach?
In the end, the Longhorns have moved on to hire defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski from Washington. And the Volunteers will move on and excitedly sign a deal with a new coach (who may need to watch his contractual back lest he ever go 3-7).
And Jeremy Pruitt? He’ll move on, too. (Maybe back to ‘Bama.) But he will not move to a new place like Texas, where the hard-and-fast guidelines clash with a place like Tennessee and its triple-punishment accusations.
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