Tennessee should pay Jeremy Pruitt as soon as possible
I don’t like paying for things that don’t work. Apparently, neither does Tennessee.
Well, too bad.
Tennessee’s athletic department has the reputation of giving out golden parachutes like they’re big orange lollipops at a community bank. It’s a tradition that is almost as prevalent as checkerboard end zones, the song “Rocky Top” or the crippled horse that used to trot around Neyland Stadium.
To be clear, a golden parachute is a substantial payment by one party to another to just get up and leave. That’s what Jeremy Pruitt wants. Give it to him. As a matter of fact, give him a little bit extra if he needs it. Deliver it in pennies out of spite if necessary, but just pay him.
The amount is daunting for us simple folk. Pruitt believes he is owed $12.6 million as part of his contract that he signed when he was acting like a football coach at Tennessee. It’s probably supposed to be paid over annual installments, but this is the time to be generous and let bygones be bygones. Cut the guy a check for an even $13 million, throw it into Butch Jones’ trash can and ship it to New York where Pruitt is an assistant coach for the Giants.
Does Pruitt deserve the cash? Probably not. Tennessee is withholding the agreed upon buyout because Pruitt was supposedly fired for just cause. In other words, he cheated. Tennessee alleges that multiple NCAA violations occurred under Pruitt’s watch. It doesn’t matter. Pay him.
I know this is a bit shocking, but things are going really well for Tennessee’s athletic department right now. Aside from the embarrassing display by some fans on Saturday against Ole Miss, UT athletics is at a decade-long high-water mark. The Vols have stumbled upon a very good coach in Josh Heupel who will undoubtedly win at Tennessee. UT basketball is highly ranked in the preseason polls. The Vols’ baseball team just made it to the College World Series. This isn’t the time for the NCAA to start snooping around. Pay him.
Tennessee has a strong tradition of dodging NCAA bullets. Maybe that makes them cocky when it comes to these matters. Former athletic director Doug Dickey was the pioneer of self-reporting. That maneuver has continued as other athletic directors have come and gone. Remember that whole hostess thing that happened under Lane Kiffin? You might recall those ladies that were kind enough to be a traveling welcome wagon for the Vols. However, the NCAA never seemed to care because the Vols reported it. I’m sure UT thinks they can do the same in this case and not pay this latest buyout, but it’s what the Vols don’t know about Pruitt’s tenure at Tennessee that should scare UT the most.
Tennessee’s position on this is rather odd. Perhaps UT athletic director Danny White isn’t worried about the NCAA since they have marshmallow teeth. That’s quite an assumption and a rather bold move. Yes, the NCAA has been incredibly soft lately, but do you really want to test them? Absolutely not. Pay him.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m certainly not defending Pruitt nor siding with his attorney, who has found an incredibly unique legal niche to profit off. It seems as if it will only be a matter of time until attorney Michael Lyons will be running a billboard campaign with the slogan, “Coaches Caught Lying Call Lyons.” In case you didn’t know, Lyons demanded another buyout at Kansas and settled for millions.
Lyons reportedly gave UT an ultimatum: Pay Pruitt by Oct. 29, or he’ll sue the university, which would lead to the release of information that would “embarrass UT and those associated with it, including its largest boosters, and result in debilitating NCAA sanctions.”
Lyon says he’s not a “bluffer.” I believe him. What does he have to lose by releasing evidence of potential NCAA violations if Tennessee ultimately refuses to pay Pruitt? Nothing. Lyons might even join a potential NCAA investigation if he doesn’t get his cut of a settlement. Pay him.
None of this is Lyons’ fault. None of it is actually Pruitt’s fault. This falls squarely on the shoulders of UT’s athletic department. Sorry to be self-serving for a moment, but I said the Vols should have fired Pruitt 2 years ago, replaced him with then-athletic director Phillip Fulmer mid-season and gotten a head start on finding UT’s next coach in September 2019. I was ridiculed. Now, the joke is on UT and every fan who believed Pruitt deserved more time. Well, he didn’t.
Tennessee’s response to a season that included a loss to Georgia State was to give Pruitt an extension and a raise. If UT didn’t know about NCAA violations at that time, then there’s no reason to think that other things weren’t overlooked or that they’re in the know now. The NCAA could find those other things. Pay him.
Pruitt will eventually get paid. It may not be his full buyout, but it will be enough to live quite comfortably for the rest of his life. However, allowing the debate to become public is also UT’s fault. Tennessee should have announced it wouldn’t pay Pruitt the buyout because he went rogue. Then, UT could have controlled the narrative. Instead, some guy I’ve never heard of is holding Tennessee hostage for about the same amount of money that was stored in the Nakatomi Plaza.
What would you do if you were Pruitt? He has nothing to lose. NCAA violations won’t hurt him in the NFL. Every single person in his scenario would want the money. Pay him.
Tennessee’s stance on this is very un-Volunteer like. The Vols started handing out big buyouts when Jerry Green was coaching basketball at UT and eventually fired. That’s just the first one I remember. Fulmer got a buyout. Derek Dooley got a buyout. Butch Jones got a buyout. Do you really think there weren’t any NCAA violations under any of those coaches? Butch, please.
Don’t think about the amount of the buyout or whether Pruitt deserves it. Neither of those things matter. The Vols can afford it and Pruitt and his attorney have all the leverage. Deserve has nothing to do with it.
Instead of thinking about how much money or how bad of a coach Pruitt was, think about last week. Think about having a realistic chance to beat a ranked team after hammering two straight SEC opponents. Think about what the future could hold. It was wise to push Pruitt out of the plane. Not giving him his golden parachute endangers the entire crew.