KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Alabama has won 11 straight football games against Tennessee, dating back to a 16-13 Vols’ victory in 2006 when Philip Fulmer was still the head coach.
Fulmer, now the athletic director at Tennessee, is ready to make this unique new chapter of the “Third Saturday in October” rivalry competitive again by hiring Alabama’s Jeremy Pruitt to be the new head coach of the Vols.
“It is interesting,” Fulmer said Sunday night on ‘The Nation’ Vol Network show, when asked about the irony of him hiring a former Crimson Tide player and current Nick Saban assistant. “I was looking for the best person, wherever they were in the country, and it narrowed itself down as we grinded through it.
“I think there’s a pretty good respect from a lot of people in Alabama of what we’ve done here at Tennessee in the past,” Fulmer said. “I hope we can make them sweat again, once the Big Orange rolls out there again the Third Saturday of October.
“There’s not better day than that. My goal is to be competitive in that game, and then we’ll be competitive in most all of them.”
Fulmer was 10-5-1 against Alabama — 12-4 officially, with the Tide having to forfeit the tie in 1993 and a win in 2005, on account of sanctions from NCAA violations.
Alabama has obviously turned the tables in the rivalry, and that led to Fulmer making a hire outside of his own Tennessee coaching tree.
Fulmer admitted Pruitt won him over during the interview process, asking the Vols’ AD how he used to go about recruiting back in the day, and agreeing with Fulmer on key facets of coaching.
“The interview process went so well, we connected, and he believes in the things that I know are important in this conference,” Fulmer said. “In the end, he won the day with his energy and enthusiasm.”
Fulmer said he called around to get feedback on Pruitt, who in addition to coaching at Alabama, also had stops at Florida State and Georgia.
“I have a lot of friends still in the business and around, including Nick [Saban], and they all said the same thing, that he’s intense and he pushes the kids, but he knows how to hug their necks as well,” Fulmer said.
“What we need right now is leadership and toughness and great recruiting.”
Pruitt will work on the recruiting trail until Dec. 17, when he’ll return to his duties as the defensive coordinator with the Crimson Tide.
Saban said Pruitt must finish out the season with Alabama, and Fulmer agreed to that stipulation.