Tennessee football postgame: Jeremy Pruitt on NCAA probe, job status

Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt walks on the field before a game between Tennessee and Texas A&M in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.
Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt walks on the field before a game between Tennessee and Texas A&M in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020. /

The Tennessee football Volunteers lost to the Texas A&M Aggies as news of an NCAA investigation broke.

Senior Day for Tennessee football ended with the seventh loss in eight games for the Vols, a 34-13 embarrassment at home against the No. 5 ranked Texas A&M Aggies. UT finished its regular season with a 3-7 record, while A&M improved to 8-1 on the year.

Amidst the loss and Senior Day, though, plenty of other news was already surrounding the program. Just before the game started, UT beat writer Trey Wallace reported that the Vols were under investigation by its own compliance department and the NCAA.

Wallace reported that sources said the investigation deals with impermissible benefits within the Tennessee football program. Players, administrators and even assistant coaches have been interviewed, according to the story.

After the game, this became a story. Pruitt addressed it in his postgame press conference. You can see his press conferences and press conferences by Brandon Kennedy, Alontae Taylor and Cedric Tillman by clicking here.

Anyway, Pruitt was somewhat dismissive of the topic, refusing to answer a question about why Eric Gray didn’t play in the game one that implied Gray’s absence may have been tied to the investigation. Pruitt said he already answered that despite the implication that it was tied to the investigation. Here’s what his answer was.

"“I hadn’t seen no article or anything like that. Any time in college football or college athletics, you have typical compliance stuff. That is all I know.”"

Not only did Gray not play in the game, but Brian Maurer was also out. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley wasn’t on the sideline either. Of course, these could be COVID related issues, but we don’t know for sure.

This investigation could be another storyline in Pruitt’s job security, though, and he also addressed that in the postgame. Brad Crawford of 247Sports, quoting Bruce Feldman, reported that Pruitt’s job was safe unless the Texas A&M game turned into a blowout loss.

Pruitt said he “absolutely” expects to remain Tennessee football’s head coach after this year in the postgame press conference as well. He then broke down not being prepared for a COVID season and address navigating that while rebuilding the program.

"“If you look over the first two years we were here, right, where we were at when we got here, I’ve said it before, from personnel, culture, what we’re building, OK, and I get it, 3-7 is not where we want to be, right? But there’s one thing I can say: I can lay my head down on my pillow every night and know that I’ve done everything that I could possibly do to make sure that we protected everybody in our program.”"

Other bits of evidence Pruitt pointed to were last year’s six-game winning streak to end the season and the fact that a lot of guys are coming back. He does have a point, but the consistent blowout losses are concerning.

Next. Five takeaways from Vols' 34-13 loss to Aggies. dark

What happens going forward is anybody’s guess, but it’s clear that Tennessee football has some issues that need to be addressed. Those issues go far beyond a blowout loss to one of the best teams in the nation.