Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer announced on Thursday that Tennessee has reached an agreement with head coach Jeremy Pruitt on a contract extension through the 2025 season. The extension will bump Pruitt’s yearly earnings from $3.8 million in 2020, to $4.2 million starting in 2021.
“I’m excited that this extension gives Jeremy the runway to continue to build on the momentum and energy we have around our football program coming out of last season,” Fulmer said in the article released by Tennessee. “He has made excellent progress entering just his third year and clearly realizes there is much work still to be done. This extension secures him to continue his efforts to return our program to a championship level and shows our commitment to him, his staff, this team and the future of the Tennessee Volunteers. I am very grateful to Chancellor Plowman, our administration and Board of Trustees for their confidence and support as well as their leadership and attentiveness to the future of our overall athletics program.”
Fulmer also goes on to mention that he and Pruitt were “close to finalizing his extension early this year,” but the start of the pandemic pushed those talks back as both men had other priorities to focus on.
Pruitt also decided not to accept the $400,000 raise to his salary this season, and instead decided to use that money to continue to help everyone involved in the program during these unprecedented times.
“Jeremy informed me that he preferred not to accept a raise for this year. His focus quickly shifted to his players and supporting them through a period of interruption and uncertainty,” Fulmer said. “His selflessness and concern for the greater good has been neat to observe through all of this.” Ever since Pruitt accepted the head coaching position back in December of 2017, it has been clear to everyone that Pruitt is someone who will put his players, fellow coaches and staff members first.
“My family and I are grateful for the unwavering commitment the University of Tennessee has made to us,” Pruitt said. “We have worked hard to build our program the right way in a short amount of time, and there is still much work to be done. It’s a privilege to coach and mentor the outstanding young men who represent the Tennessee Volunteers. We are excited about the future and will continue to build a program Tennessee fans can be proud of.”
Pruitt currently holds a 13-12 record as the Vols’ head coach, having finished 5-7 in his first year and then 8-5 last season with a win in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl to round out his second season. Pruitt took over when Tennessee was at its lowest point in arguably its entire existence, and since then the Vols have been headed in the right direction.
Last season saw the Vols go on an incredible run to finish out the 2019 season, winning six consecutive games and seven of the last eight. Most people would like to forget the start to that season, but Pruitt never lost faith in his team and help lead one of the more impressive turnarounds to a season.
While success on the field, Pruitt and the Vols have had success on the recruiting trail as well. Pruitt has always been known as an elite recruiter and nothing has changed as he has helped bring a slew of talent to Knoxville. According to 247Sports, the Vols ranked 21st in 2018, 13th in 2019, and 10th in 2020 and currently sit 6th in the country in the 2021 class rankings. The ability to get elite-level talent and develop that talent into elite-level players who move on to the NFL separates Pruitt from other coaches who can recruit well but can’t do anything with the players once they arrive on campus.
Pruitt has coached a total of 59 NFL Draft selections, including 16 first-rounders. Tennessee had 3 players drafted in the 2018 draft, 0 in 2019, and 2 players selected in 2020 with a few players signing with teams as undrafted free-agents. If Tennessee is going to get back to competing for championships, Pruitt and his staff are going to need to change these numbers and they are on the right track to do just that when you look at all of the talent brought in on the recruiting trail.
Tennessee will kick off their 2020 season this Saturday evening as Pruitt and the Vols will look to get year number three of the Pruitt era started with a bang as they take on South Carolina at 7:30 on SEC Network.