I have no idea whether or not the Tennessee Vols will fire head coach Jeremy Pruitt after the 2020 season.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made easy decisions (like firing a coach after a disastrous third season) a bit more difficult.
Firing Pruitt won’t be cheap, thanks to the extension he received just before the start of the 2020 season. And Tennessee, like most athletic departments around the nation, is dealing with diminished funds because of the lack of revenue this fall from football.
But that didn’t stop South Carolina from firing Will Muschamp (which wasn’t cheap) or Vanderbilt from firing Derek Mason (salary/buyout info is unknown for Mason).
The Vols need to follow the same path as the Gamecocks and the Commodores. And it’s because they have a legitimate chance to land Hugh Freeze as their next head coach.
Look, I get that Tennessee fans have been down this road many times before. The 2012 and 2017 coaching searches were filled with rumors of Jon Gruden to UT. Vol fans always set their sights high, only to settle for a Derek Dooley, Butch Jones, or Jeremy Pruitt.
This time, however, could be different.
And it’s because Freeze, who is currently the head coach at Liberty, actually wants the Tennessee job. There was an ESPN report earlier this month that said UT is Freeze’s “preferred landing spot”.
The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman added to the speculation on Monday by noting in a column that Freeze grew up wanting the job at Tennessee.
(There’s even a story from 2014 where Freeze detailed stopping by Neyland Stadium and sneaking in with his wife on their honeymoon.)
Freeze is one of the few coaches that’s had success against Nick Saban. He’s one of the few coaches that could actually turn Tennessee into a contender in a relatively short amount of time.
If the Vols don’t make a run at Freeze after 2020, someone else will. Does Tennessee really want to see Freeze land at another SEC program? Do they want to miss on their chance to finally make the program relevant again?
I know there are plenty of folks who don’t want to give up on Pruitt yet. And I get it — coaching searches are exhausting.
But the Vols have a chance to get this right. Freeze is the guy that could be Tennessee’s Saban, Mullen, or Smart. They shouldn’t let this opportunity pass them by, or they’ll end up deeply regretting it.
Featured image via Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports