Tennessee's message? We're all in
If it wasn't clear already, the message is very evident now: Tennessee is all in on football.
On Friday, Jeremy Pruitt parted ways with Terry Fair and landed Derrick Ansley. In a vacuum, the move isn’t a stunner. Pruitt and Ansley have worked together extensively. They've been good friends for years and have spoken regularly throughout Pruitt's first season at Tennessee.
So the story isn’t that Pruitt convinced his friend and former co-worker to return to Rocky Top.
The story is that Tennessee is paying for Ansley to return to Tennessee. Ansley was reportedly on Georgia’s radar when Mel Tucker left. He was reportedly on Nick Saban’s radar to return him, too. He was reportedly at the top of Kentucky’s wish list for its open DC spot. He was one of the highest if not the highest paid secondary coaches in the NFL and he chose Tennessee.
The story is that financially, Tennessee, once again itself into that conversation.
The story is the Vols are paying big money for offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
The story of the offseason for Jeremy Pruitt isn’t just the moves his made, it’s the investment being made to make those moves.
I have long said the price for doing business or winning in the SEC is at an all-time high. The cost rises yearly. Clearly, Tennessee has accepted that.
Athletics director Phillip Fulmer acknowledges it and is certainly all in for his head coach.
Fulmer knows what it takes to win at Tennessee. In his words, he knows what it’s supposed to look like.
In today’s football world, it’s expensive to make it look that way. But instead of going on the cheap, or signing two and three stars to coach, Tennessee has invested for the bigger names. The Vols are banking on 5-stars if you will to return them to prominence.
Just like on Wednesday when the Vols beat out their SEC brethren for Darnell Wright and Henry To'oto'o, they've done it on the coaching front this offseason, too.
The Vols outbid Georgia for Jim Chaney. They offered a better deal. Yes, Chaney likes Jeremy Pruitt. He loves East Tennessee, but he wasn’t coming for warm and fuzzier. He came because Tennessee, with Phillip Fulmer’s approval, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse as the highest-paid OC in the country.
Tee Martin likes his alma mater. He wanted the opportunity to coach at Tennessee. He knew if he passed on the Vols this time, another opportunity to coach on Rocky Top might not come. Still, Martin has other opportunities in the SEC and he chose Tennessee because of the package put together for him.
For years Tennessee has been perceived by many as being cheap when it came to coaching hires. That narrative no longer exists.
Coming off a 5-7 season, the narrative this offseason is that Tennessee is on the move. The Vols finished the highest of any non-bowl team in the Rivals rankings at No. 12 nationally and with spring practice less than a month away, Tennessee is far and away the offseason winner in staff changes with upgrades across the board.
Led by Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee’s investment into football can only and simply be described as all-in.
One wonders if Pruitt and Fulmer are done making moves? And of course the biggest question is when and how big of a return on the investment will the university and it’s big orange faithful get?