Did Jeremy Pruitt Go Too Far?

Pruitt is an intense coach. But why is he criticizing Tennessee fans for not going to their spring football practice when they appeared in such large numbers?

Marky Billson, Host of Tri-Cities Sports NOW

New Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt called out Volunteers fans for not attending the program’s spring football game in enough numbers. Pruitt somehow believes having tens of thousands of fans at a meaningless scrimmage isn’t good enough.

Frighteningly, there is a segment of the Vols fan base that is encouraged by this Pruitt comment. Never mind ETSU fans once crucified Murry Bartow for complaining about fans who got out of their seats with 45 seconds left and the Buccaneers down by five points.

We can discuss if ETSU and UT fans are one and the same, but they do come from the same region. So at least the region is employing a double standard.

My question is where does Pruitt get off suggesting the crowd, reported at 65,000 (debatable, but few argue the crowd wasn’t large ) to see a team coming off a 4–8 season was poor?

How is it Pruitt’s place to make such a comment?

New Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt

Though I realize the Orange and White Game was free to the public, there’s still the matter of gasoline and time expenses to attend such an event. Who is Pruitt to tell Vols fans how to spend their time and money?

Who does a fan even root for in an intrasquad scrimmage?

A fan complimenting a coach that criticizes such a crowd is a fan in plebe mode.

“Thank you sir! May I have another?”

But it follows a pattern for Vols fans and perhaps most sports fans in general.

Heap vast amounts of praise on the new coach, even when he is unproven, if he is replacing an unpopular coach.

When Lane Kiffin replaced Phil Fulmer, Big Orange Country was excited that a brash young coach was replacing a stuffy old Mustache Pete.

When Kiffin left for Southern California, then he was too brash, so who better to hire than a member of the Dooley family, which is pure class?

When Derek Dooley couldn’t win, then continue to follow the trends with a winner from Cincinnati! Hey, it worked for Notre Dame, right?

When the quotes of Butch Jones viewed with so much favor when he won (“That’s why you come to Tennessee”) became so hollow when he lost (“five star hearts”), well, now Pruitt’s silent way is best.

The most recent victim of Tennessee’s “Savior to Shunned” coaching pathway

The problem is that in every instance above people are doubled down on praising these new coaches before so much as a game was played instead of developing a healthier “wait-and-see” attitude.

Pruitt has been notoriously close lipped during his first spring practice, once going four days without mentioning a player’s name to the media.

One of the heaps of early praise to the new coach from members of the media with less-than-journalistic intentions is that no players have been reported injured in practice!

It’s a “kick him while he’s down” criticism of Butch Jones, though a valid one. But isn’t running a practice without broken legs and concussions to be expected?

And considering the first team defense didn’t have the services of linebackers Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Daniel Bituli in the spring game because of injury, how accurate is it in the first place? Besides, with the lack of information coming from the coach, can we say for sure nobody has sprained an ankle or pulled a hamstring?

The closed practices and failure to disclose injuries properly likely led to many players going down at Tennessee the past two seasons. Do we really want this to continue?

Jones didn’t say a whole lot in press conferences, either. He just used a lot of words to say nothing.

And calling out Vols fans for not attending a lousy spring football game when in fact they reportedly arrived in greater numbers than all but four other football programs’ spring games to date is disturbingly close to Jones’ “what do we want from our media?” comments of the past.

Marky Billson hosts Tri-Cities Sports NOW on 1420 NBC Sports Radio Tri-Cities 12–2 p.m. weekdays ET. Watch archives here and here.

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