Nick Saban kicks tires on Jeremy Pruitt as Alabama continues search for next defensive coordinator

Alabama coach Nick Saban has reached out to former Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt regarding the vacancy of the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator position, CBS Sports sources report. No offer is believed to have been made at this time, and Alabama would not comment on Pruitt’s candidacy when approached for comment.

Sources indicate that Pruitt has a strong chance of being hired by the Tide as the subject of an ongoing NCAA investigation. He was fired in Tennessee two years ago when the NCAA made allegations of 18 Level I violations against the volunteers. Level I violations are the most serious on the NCAA scale of violations.

There was widespread speculation that Pruitt would be involved in Saban’s search to replace Pete Golding, who left for the same position at Ole Miss earlier this month. Golding was not expected to be retained by Alabama.

Pruitt’s candidacy is in question as it is unknown if he would be able to accept the job if offered.

SEC Rule requires that any SEC school that is “considering hiring an individual … who has participated in activities that resulted in a Level I, Level II, Level III, or Major violation or could lead’, their President or Chancellor must ‘consult’ directly with the Commissioner before offering the person a job.”

Although this language does not directly disqualify Pruitt, Alabama would need to consult with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey before hiring.

“We have a special charter that states there has to be a consultation,” Sankey told reporters earlier this month. “It’s not an approval process. Despite all mythologies, our universities make their own personnel decisions. But we provide the background from a compliance perspective for every hiring decision here.”

Auburn hired Liberty coach Hugh Freeze in late November. Freeze was a coach at Ole Miss when the program was granted a two-year bowl ban for what the NCAA described as “an unrestricted culture of booster involvement in football recruitment.”

“Hugh had a finding on a violation case,” Sankey added, clarifying how Freeze’s case might differ from others that may be in the midst of ongoing investigations. “We have informed Auburn University leadership and they are making these decisions. It’s not approval or rejection. It’s actually compliance with the charter that we have set out, so there’s transparency, there’s a clear understanding of the track record and there’s an oversight plan so we don’t have those issues in the future.”

Despite finishing 16-19 in three seasons in Tennessee, Pruitt is considered one of the best defensive heads in the country. He has extensive experience both in the SEC and alongside Saban, where he spent eight years with his former boss as director of player development (2007-09), defensive backs coach (2010-12), and defensive coordinator (2016). participated in four national championships -17).

The NCAA alleges some Tennessee players and their families received approximately $60,000 in cash and gifts from Pruitt, his wife and Vols’ assistant coaches. Pruitt is accused of failing to foster an atmosphere of compliance and not overseeing football staff from 2018-21, and the university is accused of failing to oversee their recruitment. Tennessee was not found to lack institutional scrutiny, but it could still face significant penalties.

Other coaches have recently been hired despite NCAA baggage. Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl was hired on behalf of the NCAA for alleged misconduct in Tennessee. Xavier hired basketball coach Sean Miller last year while his former program, Arizona, remains under investigation by the NCAA for alleged violations dating back to the FBI investigation into college basketball, which began in 2017. Miller had previously coached Xavier from 2004 to 2009.

While a show-cause penalty doesn’t prohibit hiring a coach, it’s a scarlet letter in the industry. Any school that hires a coach with such a designation must go before the NCAA to explain why.

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