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Why Tennessee might be ‘better situation’ now than three years ago

With Tennessee searching for a new head coach, some have wondered about how attractive the job is these days. According to FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman, some of the responses he got surprised him.

After the firing of head coach Jeremy Pruitt due to multiple NCAA violations in recruiting, the expectation is that Tennessee’s football program will face sanctions in the near future. Because of that, Feldman said on ‘The Paul Finebaum Show’ that some people he’s spoken to think the head coaching position in Knoxville is as attractive as it was a few years ago. However, Feldman also noted that a couple of key factors have others believing the Volunteers might be in a better place now than when Pruitt originally took the job.

For starters, the hiring of Danny White as athletic director immediately made Tennessee a more appealing job for potential candidates. The other thing Feldman listed as a reason why the Volunteers would be able to attract a quality candidate is that former athletic director Philip Fulmer has stepped down. Feldman told Finebaum that living under the shadow of Fulmer wasn’t a terribly appealing idea.

“Is this a lot worse job than three years ago when Jeremy Pruitt got it because of the sanctions issues, the scandal, and whatnot. I was surprised that a couple people I talked to — both yesterday and this morning — that actually think it’s a better situation that it was three years ago,” Feldman said. “I was a little surprised. The people who said that pointed out, not just that they have a legitimate athletic director in charge, but it’s because Philip [Fulmer] is out. The quote was, ‘He is Mr. Tennessee, and he keeps getting in the way. Now, you don’t have to worry about that shadow.’

“If you’re a head coach, you’re going to have to buy into an AD’s vision. Now you have somebody who has credibility in those circles who does have relationships. It’s way different than it was with Philip Fulmer coming in trying to take over and save the day. In the end, it worked out the opposite.”

After being introduced as the athletic director, White talked about what his process would be in finding the Volunteers’ next head coach.

“Ideally, in the age of social media and everything, it starts and it ends with the student-athletes. I’ve been able to accomplish that in all three of my football searches,” White said. “I want to hear from them first, and I want them to be the first ones to find out who their new coach is. What happens in between – there is a whole lot going on there. I’m going to do a lot of homework. I’ve spent a lot of time researching and calling. I’m fortunate to have a pretty significant network in intercollegiate athletics, and I realize it is probably because of the way I grew up. I can get a candidate’s opinion from folks, and really understand who they are from a character standpoint.

“I don’t want to even be interviewing someone if I have questions about that. We need to make sure the person we’re bringing in to run our program is going to do it the right way, is going to do right by these kids, and is going to have an aggressive vision to get us highly competitive. So, I don’t know if I can offer any more detail than that because it’s a pretty fluid situation.”

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