Jeremy Pruitt is at least understanding that Tennessee fans have some high expectations of him.
The new Vols coach said Tuesday at a Rotary Club of Knoxville meeting that he didn’t come to the program to finish .500.
“We didn’t come here to win six games, to win seven games. We came here to build a program and put Tennessee back on the map of being the best football program in the United States. That’s why we’re here.”
To be fair, pretty much every coach says that at his new job and that type of phrase is standard chum for home fan waters. And to also be fair, six or seven wins in Pruitt’s quote should probably be replaced with eight or nine given the level of expectation at Tennessee.
While Tennessee was 4-8 in 2017, the team had nine wins in each of the previous two seasons. Those 9-4 records for previous coach Butch Jones were seen as underwhelming by many Tennessee fans because the Volunteers didn’t win the SEC East.
Jones was fired as the team was 4-6 and Brady Hoke was the team’s interim coach for the final two losses of the season.
For Pruitt’s sake, we hope his words don’t end up in the same category of perennial 7-9 coach Jeff Fisher, who infamously told his Rams team in 2016 that he wasn’t “going [expletive] 7-9.”
(Warning adult language in the video)
Fisher’s 2016 Los Angeles Rams team had … you guessed it, nine losses before he was fired with three games to go in the season.
Tennessee hasn’t won 10 games in a season since 2007. That’s a lot of time in college football years. Yet the high expectations still exist. Per Pruitt, athletic director Phil Fulmer — the coach of that 10-win Tennessee team in 2007 — told him a Tennessee coach is judged on his results against Alabama (where Pruitt came from), Georgia and Florida.
The last time Tennessee beat all three of those teams in the same season? 2004, when Alabama was 6-6 and coached by Mike Shula. With Kirby Smart’s Georgia team doing a hell of a job emulating Nick Saban’s Alabama and underrated SEC coach Dan Mullen now at Florida, Pruitt’s got his work cut out for him.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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