Paul Finebaum offers opinion on Phillip Fulmer's job future, how he should evaluate Jeremy Pruitt
One of the running conversations about the Tennessee program is how former coach Phillip Fulmer sees his position in the once-storied program. Should he continue as athletics director, or will he replace Jeremy Pruitt with himself, as some have rumored and even fans suggest could happen.
Each week Tennessee loses a game, the discussion receives new energy, and that was the case after the Vols 34-3 loss at Florida on Saturday. Finebaum, in his regular appearance on “The Roundtable” on Birmingham-based JOX 94.5 radio station, said Tennessee must do some “serious soul searching” as a program when it considers the future.
“Just an opinion, but I do not believe that Phil Fulmer wants to be the coach at Tennessee,” Finebaum said. “He hears it, and maybe there’s always that itch, but I think it’s been, what, 11 years now and I think Phillip is determined to right that ship from an administrative standpoint. He has goodwill. He is popular in Knoxville and would he like the adulation of being a coach, I mean everyone likes that. But I think he’s smart enough to know that is the wrong road to go down.”
If that is the case, how he manages Pruitt and the program overall is vital for its future.
“He has to be very careful here with Jeremy Pruitt and what I mean by that I don’t think this is an easy decision,” Finebaum said. “I think what you have to evaluate at some point this year, is whether or not it looks like Jeremy Pruitt has a clue. Right now, I think most people don’t think he does. If he can weather the storm and push the rock up the hill so to speak, then you have to stay with him. That’s Phillip Fulmer’s decision, but if Phillip Fulmer shirks the decision of being the athletic director to become the head coach, what is accomplished and then who is in charge of the program?”
Tennessee is off this week and returns to action on Oct. 5 with a home game against Georgia.
Asked if this was the bottom, Finebaum said the loss to Florida doesn’t feel like the bottom, unless it’s the stationary bottom.
“Two years in a row just get literally taken apart by Florida, which forget its ranking, is not in my mind national championship elite team,” Finebaum said. “They’re good. They’ve pulled a few games out of the fire, but they’re not on the same level as Alabama, LSU and maybe Auburn, we’ll find out in two weeks. So I don’t know where that program goes. They have to do some serious soul searching and to whether they like, don’t laugh, the trajectory. Or just kind of hold their breath and hope that Jeremy Pruitt can recruit against an avalanche of criticism and negativity.”