Jeremy Pruitt was fired for cause by the Tennessee Volunteers on Monday. But based on the statement released by his lawyer hours after, the third-year head coach isn’t going down without a fight.
Michael Lyons, Pruitt’s attorney, came out swinging. He denied any wrongdoings by his client, and claims this was an “orchestrated effort” by the higher ups in Knoxville. The reason? To get out of any contractual obligation with Pruitt.
Here is that statement from Lyons, which Brett McMurphy with Stadium tweeted late Monday evening:
“This afternoon, Coach Pruitt learned that Tennessee was terminating his employment for cause. He is extremely disappointed with the decision, the public announcement of which was made prior to any substantive opportunity to respond before the appropriate decision makers. We believe the decision to be the culmination of an orchestrated effort to renege on contractual promises made to Coach Pruitt upon his hiring in 2017 and reiterated less than five months ago.
“While the limited portions of the University’s self-initiated investigation shared with Coach Pruitt provide some evidence of violations committed by off-field staff, Chancellor Donde Plowman personally confirmed during an in-person meeting with Coach Pruitt this morning that: (1) the University’s investigation had yet to have been completed; (2) the Chancellor had not yet read Coach Pruitt’s NCAA interview transcript; and (3) there was no other evidence that Coach Pruitt was either actively involved in any alleged violations or knew they were occurring. She further confirmed to Coach Pruitt that no employment decision had been made. Less than three hours later, however, Coach Pruitt was e-mailed a five-page, single-spaced letter of termination — the contents of which were immediately leaks to the public.
“The timing of the University’s actions and decision appear to be preordained and more about financial convenience and expediency than a fair and complete factual determination by the University. Moreover, it seems clear the recent leaks to the press are indicative of an interest to steer the narrative in a way that is desirable to the University to justify a decision likely made weeks ago.
“Coach Pruitt and I look forward to defending any allegation that he has engaged in any NCAA wrongdoing, as well as examining the University’s intent to disparage and destroy Coach Pruitt’s reputation in an effort to avoid paying his contractual liquidated damages.
“Despite the apparent outcome-oriented nature of this investigation and the absence of any reliable evidence suggesting any preventable failure by Coach Pruitt in the oversight of his program, Coach Pruitt and his family are thankful for and will always cherish their time with the University. In addition to having made lifelong friends in Knoxville, Coach Pruitt is most thankful for and appreciate of the outstanding young men he was able to coach and mentor. He wishes those student-athletes and the remarkable fans that support them nothing but success.”
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 19, 2021
Whew, that’s a lot to chew off. It sounds like Pruitt and his attorney are ready to go to war over the situation. And to be clear, they should — as long as what they’re saying in true.
Everyone had to see this coming following the decision. After watching Gus Malzahn, Will Muschamp and other big-name coaches get paid millions to go away, Pruitt isn’t going to sit back and just accept the lost financial security.
Stay tuned, folks. It’s about to be a bumpy ride.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.