Tennessee fires coach Pruitt
The Tennessee football program is starting over yet again, this time after coach Jeremy Pruitt and nine others were fired Monday for cause when an internal investigation found what the university chancellor called “serious violations of NCAA rules.”
Chancellor Donde Plowman said Pruitt was responsible for overseeing the program. Tennessee has been conducting an internal investigation since a tip Nov. 13 about alleged recruiting violations.
Also fired were two assistants and seven members of the recruiting and support staff.
“While the investigation is continuing the information provided to us indicates serious violations of NCAA rules,” Plowman said. “They occurred. These serious infractions warrant immediate action.”
Among those fired Monday were inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer and outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton, four members of the on-campus football recruiting staff, the director and assistant director of football player personnel and a football analyst/ quality control coach.
The Volunteers went 3-7 last season. Pruitt’s firing means Tennessee will be looking for its fifth different coach since the Vols last won the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title in 2007.
Attorneys from Bond, Shoeneck & King from Kansas were retained Nov. 19 to assist the investigation, and they updated
Plowman, President Randy Boyd and athletic director Phillip Fulmer about the investigation Friday.
The chancellor said the potential NCAA issues involved Level I and II violations with a number of people and incidents. Plowman said she did not know how many violations or other specifics. NCAA investigators opened a case in December and became more actively involved within the past 10 days.
This means Tennessee will not be paying Pruitt a $12.6 million buyout after he went 16-19 in three seasons.
Attorney Michael Lyons of Lyons & Simmons in Dallas issued a statement Monday night saying Pruitt
was “extremely disappointed.“Lyons said Pruitt didn’t have a chance to respond and that his termination letter was leaked immediately as part of “an orchestrated effort to renege” on Pruitt’s contract.
The Vols played an SEC-only season in 2020 and each loss was by double digits. Tennessee had been picked to play in the Liberty Bowl but withdrew a day later after a batch of positive COVID-19 results, including Pruitt.
Fulmer, 70, will be retiring, and Tennessee is retaining Parker Executive Search to help hire a new athletic director. Plowman said that athletic director then will hire the new coach.
Kevin Steele, hired last week as a defensive assistant coach, will be the acting coach.
Saints’ Nielsen will be LSU’s DC
New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen has agreed in principle to become LSU’s next defensive coordinator, a person familiar with the situation said.
Nielsen is in line to become LSU’s third defensive coordinator in three seasons. He replaces Bo Pelini, whose defense struggled in the 2020 season. The Tigers ranked 124th nationally in total defense, allowing 492 yards per game.