Tennessee Vols should keep Phillip Fulmer until Jeremy Pruitt’s value is known

Tennessee Vols Athletic Director Philip Fulmer should stay on until the jury is in on Volunteers football head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

The initial reports when Phillip Fulmer replaced John Currie as Tennessee Vols athletic director were that it’s a two-year deal. That’s what sources told ESPN at the time.

However, a two-year deal for athletic director is always a bad move. The program desperately needs stability now more than ever. As a result, Phillip Fulmer needs to be in that role much longer if things are going to turn around.

Fulmer echoed as much speaking to Jimmy Hyams. According to Hyams on WNML, although he doesn’t plan to be around for 20 years, he is looking at longer than two years. And he noted that it wouldn’t be fair to Jeremy Pruitt to be there only that long.  So right now, it looks like five to six years is where he’s looking.

But here’s the best way to look at it: Fulmer should remain athletic director until the world knows how good or bad of a coach Jeremy Pruitt will be. It usually takes three to four years for the jury to be in on a guy. Butch Jones took five years.

That’s the timeframe for how long Fulmer should be athletic director. Changes AD’s in the middle of a coach’s tenure could sabotage what he’s trying to do. If that coach is not the athletic director’s hire, then the athletic director isn’t as willing to front the resources for the coach to help him succeed.

Now, that wasn’t the case with Butch Jones. He just failed miserably. But it might have been the case with Derek Dooley.

Dave Hart came in during Dooley’s second year on the job. Dooley was still in the midst of fixing a mess of a program, and in the process his quarterback and receiver went down early in the year. They went 5-7 and lost to the Kentucky Wildcats.

Seeing how bad the team was and knowing Dooley wasn’t his investment, Hart went public about not renewing staff contracts. As a result, the Tennessee Vols lost seven staff members, most notably defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. Dooley then wasn’t in a position to hire a well-known replacement, which is why he hired Sal Sunseri.

That hire alone is the only reason Dooley got fired. Any decent defensive coordinator hire would have worked for him. But Sunseri turned into a disaster.

For Fulmer, Pruitt is the guy. He’s going to be invested in Pruitt and do everything he can to support him. If you replace him while Pruitt is trying to rebuild Tennessee football, another athletic director could sabotage him.

As a result, he should stat on as athletic director until we know how good Pruitt is. And Fulmer might need to extend his tenure if he makes another coaching change.

Rick Barnes is probably safe. But Holly Warlick could definitely be on the hot seat soon. So the Tennessee Vols should hope to keep Fulmer as long as possible. Another change at the top could be disastrous.