After establishing a culture of toughness, a bowl appearance following a six-game winning streak and a top-10 recruiting class in just two seasons at the helm of the Tennessee football program, head coach Jeremy Pruitt has agreed to a contract extension through the 2025 season, Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer announced Thursday.
The extension terms include compensation of $3.8 million in 2020, with an increase 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. “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.
“Jeremy and I were close to finalizing his extension early this year. But once the pandemic hit and we learned more and more about its potential impact on the department, 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. His selflessness and concern for the greater good has been neat to observe through all of this.”
Tennessee’s quick turnaround under Pruitt comes as no surprise as he has found success at every stop of his career. During his collegiate career as an assistant coach and head coach, Pruitt’s teams have produced a 109-25 record, including a 13-12 mark in his two seasons with the Vols.
“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.”
Introduced as the 26th head coach in Tennessee football history on Dec. 7, 2017, Pruitt took the helm of the Vols after collecting five national championships as an assistant and cementing himself as the nation’s top defensive coordinator during stints at Alabama (2016-17, 2007-12), Georgia (2014-15) and Florida State (2013).
Pruitt’s recruiting prowess was evident during his time as an assistant and it’s continued during his tenure as a head coach. The Vols signed a top-10 recruiting class in the spring of 2020 and have built momentum toward an elite class for 2021.
Pruitt’s Vols authored one of the most impressive in-season turnarounds in the country in 2019, finishing the year with six consecutive victories and seven wins in their last eight games. After starting the season 1-4, Pruitt and Tennessee never blinked en route to an 8-5 overall mark and a 5-3 record in the Southeastern Conference. The Vols capped the season with a remarkable comeback to defeat Indiana, 23-22, in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, becoming the only team in the country to overcome a 13-point deficit in the final five minutes during the 2019 season.
In total, Pruitt has coached 59 NFL Draft selections, including 16 first-round picks and 22 All-Americans. He guided the nation’s No. 1 defense in 2017, 2016 and 2013. Additionally, he was named the 2012 National Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports and was a two-time finalist for the Broyles Award (2016, ’13), given to the nation’s top assistant coach each year.
Pruitt’s program has been equally impressive in the classroom. A school-record and Power-5 best four Tennessee football student-athletes collected CoSIDA Academic All-District honors in 2019 and 12 Vols graduated in December 2019, including a pair of players with master’s degrees.
Since the spring of 2018, Tennessee has produced 77 SEC Academic Honor Roll accolades, including a school-record 37 in the fall of 2019. Pruitt’s Vols also tallied a 3.21 grade point average in the spring of 2020, representing the program’s highest mark since 2007. Under his watch, Tennessee launched “VFlight,” a comprehensive VFL educational and development program geared toward the success of student-athletes beyond the playing field.
Pruitt’s third season begins at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday when the 16th-ranked Vols face South Carolina in Columbia. The contest will be carried live on SEC Network and the Vol Network.