It appears Alabama fans have had time to process developments. It does take a while.
Supposedly, there are some who believe Phillip Fulmer realized he was on mission impossible, gave up and joined up.
Since his side may never catch their side, he chose the best assistant coach in Tuscaloosa that money could buy and gave him an extra $35,000 in moving expenses. The idea was to copy as much of Nick Saban as possible.
Others in Alabama supposedly see it differently, that Fulmer, being an evil genius, is preparing for some kind of treacherous warfare, something like Auburn might do if nobody was looking. Tide fans can’t imagine why the old Tennessee coach and new athletic director would choose an all-Alabama man like Jeremy Pruitt to lead a sneak attack.
Alabama fans, by nature, are a wee dab suspicious of Phillip Fulmer. They don’t particularly like him. What’s more, they thought they were finished with him but here he is again, very much alive and almost as big as before.
They were totally confused when he said he was just looking for the best person to coach the Volunteers, and that he was pleased to find him, and it didn’t really matter if he happened to be from Alabama.
Got to watch that Fulmer fellow. Alabama would never do such a thing, give the keys to a former Volunteer. No way.
Some still wonder why Tennessee chose Bill Battle a generation ago. They and I wonder why UT hired Dave Hart. Are there no homegrown leaders in Big Orange Country? How strange.
Phillip Fulmer comes with other caution lights. He is in the minority of former players and coaches with a winning record against Alabama. Can you believe that under his leadership, the Volunteers once won nine of 10 against the Tide?
Alabama vividly recalls that Fulmer was the last Tennessee coach to defeat Alabama. That was long, long ago, in 2006. Bobby Bowden was still in business. Miley Cyrus was 14. It was before iPhones were invented.
Alabama fans, before that, feared Fulmer might be a public enemy, possibly No. 1, the leading witness in the arrest and conviction of the Crimson Tide for cheating in recruiting. NCAA punishment was severe. Pain persists. I’m not sure the Tide ever repented.
My two favorite Alabama friends, Cousin Edwin and Kirk McNair, grudgingly concede that Fulmer brought sanity to the maddening Tennessee search for a coach. They admit he did pretty well in sorting out available talent and making the correct choice. They think Pruitt will do OK.
I don’t think Pruitt’s Volunteers are likely to reverse Alabama domination any time soon but I don’t see how they can make it much worse. Eleven losses in a row are rather convincing. The last was a joke. The best part of that Saturday in October was the airplane banner dedicated to Butch.
It said your mom still loves you.
Being in Alabama, “you” was misspelled.
Pruitt has surprised me. He told Fulmer he could assemble a smart staff in a matter of hours. He exceeded expectations. Jeremy had done prep work, just in case he got the job.
These assistants were not retrieved from the scrapheap. Men who had good jobs chose to join Pruitt. That is more than a message of faith. That is complete confidence. And money.
Here’s another encouraging word: Bill Battle says Tennessee is going to really like Jeremy Pruitt. We’ll think he is our kind of guy.
And, one more: Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans says the Vols “are getting an amazing coach and to be honest, I’m kind of mad they stole him.”
I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective. Alas and alas, critics continue to complain that Pruitt has never been what he now is.
(Marvin West invites reader reaction. His address is firstname.lastname@example.org)