When Jeremy Pruitt was assembling his first coaching staff at Tennessee in late 2017, he made fans happy by hiring former Vols defensive back Terry Fair as his secondary coach.
Fair, who played under Phillip Fulmer at UT, was a graduate assistant at Tennessee under Butch Jones in 2013 and 2014, before landing at Colorado State, where he was on staff with Will Friend (a close friend of Pruitt, who was hired as the Vols’ offensive line coach when Fair was hired).
Unfortunately for Fair, his time on Tennessee’s staff didn’t last long. Pruitt parted ways with the former Vol after the 2018 season and hired Derrick Ansley.
At the time, it appeared that Fair was simply fired. While that was technically the case, Fair had already decided he wasn’t coming back to Tennessee in 2019 to work for Pruitt.
This past week, Fair appeared on Fox Sports Knoxville’s “The Drive” to discuss his time at Tennessee under Pruitt and the future of UT football.
(Oddly enough, Fair was set to join Josh Heupel’s staff at UCF in 2017 before joining Pruitt’s staff at Tennessee.)
Here are some of the notable quotes from Fair’s interview (Fair’s comments start at the 24-minute mark).
- “Everything that went on with that program, to me it was was not a surprise what happened. [That was] one of the huge reasons that I made the decision not to stay on board, probably one of the best decisions I made.”
- “I thought coming home was going to be the right thing, but in hindsight, it ended up being the worst thing.”
- “Probably the best decision I made was to leave here and get out from under that Pruitt era because I was miserable as a coach.”
- “I probably did more as a quality control [coach] when I was at UT under Butch Jones and Willie Martinez in my responsibilities and what I was allowed to do than when I came back, which was very disappointing.”
- “There were a lot of great coaches on that staff. If you allow coaches to do what they have to do to be successful you’re going to get the development from players you’re looking for. I think the reason you haven’t seen many players develop (at Tennessee) is because those coaches hadn’t been really able to take players under their wing and do the things they were brought here to do.”
- “You (Pruitt) haven’t allowed me to be myself since I’ve been here whether it’s coaching or on the recruiting trail.”
Fair’s comments leave no doubt that things were a mess at Tennessee from the beginning of the Pruitt era. It seems clear that Pruitt was meddling far too much and not allowing his assistants to do their job.
It’s also apparent that Pruitt ran a “sloppy” program.
Nothing that Fair said was surprising, but it’s certainly interesting to hear the former Vol go on the record about his time working under Pruitt.
After the way things went at Tennessee, I’d be shocked if Pruitt ever gets another chance as a head coach. I’m guessing there was a reason why he never even got a shot as a head coach the high school level.
Fortunately for the Vols, they now have a coach who has experience running a program. And the athletic director who just left a secure job in Orlando thought highly enough of Josh Heupel to essentially bet on his own future at UT by hiring Heupel in Knoxville.
I’d say that bodes well for the future of Tennessee football.
Featured image via John Reed-USA TODAY Sports