Alabama coach Nick Saban has contacted former Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt regarding Crimson Tide’s vacant defensive coordinator position, sources tell CBS Sports. No offers are believed to have been made at this time, and Alabama would not speak to Pruitt’s candidacy when contacted for comment.
Sources say Pruitt has a high chance of being hired by the Tide as the subject of an ongoing NCAA investigation. He was fired in Tennessee two years ago as the NCAA charged the Volunteers with 18 Level I violations. Level I violations are the most serious on the NCAA’s offense scale.
There has been widespread speculation that Pruitt is involved in the search for Saban to replace Pete Golding, who left for the same role at Ole Miss earlier this month. Golding was not to be retained by Alabama.
Pruitt’s candidacy is questionable as it is unclear if he would be allowed to take the job if offered.
SEC Rule 220.127.116.11 requires any SEC school that “considers hiring a person…who has engaged in activity that has or may result in a Level I, Level II, Level III or major” must instruct its President or Chancellor to “consult directly with the Commissioner before offering employment to the person.”
While that language doesn’t directly disqualify Pruitt, Alabama should consult with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey before proceeding with the hiring.
“We have a specific rule that defines there must be consultation,” Sankey told reporters earlier this month. “It’s not an approval process. Our campuses – whatever mythology there is – make their own personnel decisions. But we provide, for any hiring decision, here’s the context from the point of view compliance.”
Auburn hired Liberty coach Hugh Freeze in late November. Freeze was coaching at Ole Miss when the program was handed a two-year bowl ban for what the NCAA called “an unconstrained culture of booster involvement in football recruiting.”
“Hugh had the result of an infraction case,” Sankey added in a clarification of how Freeze’s case may differ from others who may be in the midst of ongoing investigations. “We briefed management at Auburn University, and they make those decisions. It’s not approval or disapproval. It’s actually compliance with the regulations that we have established, so there are transparency, there’s a clear understanding of the track record and there’s an oversight plan, so we don’t have those issues going forward.”
Pruitt, despite finishing 16-19 in three seasons at Tennessee, is considered one of the best defensive minds in the country. He has extensive experience both in the SEC and alongside Saban where he appeared in four national championships in eight years with his former boss as director of player development (2007-09), defensive backs coach ( 2010-12) and defensive coordinator (2016). -17).
The NCAA alleges that some Tennessee players and their families received approximately $60,000 in cash and gifts donated by Pruitt, his wife and the Vols’ assistant coaches. Pruitt is accused of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitoring football staff from 2018-21, and the university is accused of failing to monitor its recruitment. Tennessee was not found to lack institutional control, but it could still face major penalties.
Other coaches have been hired recently despite NCAA baggage. Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl was hired while on a show cause order from the NCAA for alleged wrongdoing while at Tennessee. Xavier hired basketball coach Sean Miller last year while his former program, Arizona, remains under NCAA scrutiny for alleged violations dating back to the FBI’s basketball investigation. college that started in 2017. Miller previously coached Xavier from 2004 to 2009.
A justification penalty does not prohibit a coach from being hired, but it is considered a scarlet letter in the industry. Any school that hires a coach with such a designation must come before the NCAA to explain why.