Nick Saban kicks the tire on Jeremy Pruitt as Alabama continues to search for the next defensive coordinator

Nick Saban kicks the tire on Jeremy Pruitt as Alabama continues to search for the next defensive coordinator

Alabama coach Nick Saban has reached out to former Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt regarding the Crimson Tide’s vacant defensive coordinator position, sources tell CBS Sports. It is believed that no bid has been made at this time, and Alabama will not address Pruitt’s nomination when contacted for comment.

Sources indicate that Pruitt will face long odds of being hired by the Tide as the subject of an ongoing NCAA investigation. He was fired from Tennessee two years ago as the NCAA imposed allegations of 18 Level I violations on the Volunteers. Level I violations are the most serious on the NCAA’s offense scale.

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. Alabama was not expected to retain Goulding.

Pruitt’s candidacy is questionable as it is unknown if he would have been allowed to accept the job if it had been offered to him.

SEC Regulation requires any SEC school “considering the appointment of an individual … who has engaged in activity that has resulted in, or may result in, a Level I, Level II, Level III, or significant offense” that its principal or counselor consult directly with delegate before offering the job to the individual.”

While that language does not directly exclude Pruitt, Alabama will need to consult SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey before hiring him.

“We have a specific regulation that specifies that there should be consultations,” Sankey told reporters earlier this month. “It’s not an approval process. Our campuses — whatever myths there are — make their own personal decisions. But we provide, for any hiring decision, that’s the background from a compliance standpoint.”

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Auburn hired Liberty head coach Hugh Freese in late November. Freese was a coach at Ole Miss when the program was banned for two years due to what the NCAA called “an uninhibited culture of enhanced participation in football recruiting.”

“Hugh was the result of a wrongdoing case,” Sankey added, explaining how the Freese case differed from others who may be in the midst of the ongoing investigation. “We informed the Auburn University leadership, and they make those decisions. It’s not an approval or a no. It’s actually compliance with the regulation that we created, so there’s transparency, there’s a clear understanding of the track record and there’s an oversight plan, so that we don’t have these problems going forward.”

Pruitt, despite finishing 16-19 in three seasons at Tennessee, is considered one of the best defensive minds in the country. He has extensive SEC experience alongside Saban as he was part of four national championships over the course of eight years with his former boss as Director of Player Development (2007-2009), Defensive Backs Coach (2010-12) and Defense Coordinator (2016-17).

The NCAA alleges that some Tennessee players and their families received nearly $60,000 in cash and gifts given by Pruitt, his wife, and the Vols’ assistant coaches. Pruitt is accused of failing to foster an atmosphere of compliance and monitoring of football staff from 2018-21, and the university is accused of failing to monitor its recruiting. Tennessee has not been found to lack institutional oversight but could still face significant penalties.

Other coaches have been hired recently though the NCAA’s baggage. Auburn’s basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, was hired while under an NCAA exhibition order for alleged infractions while at Tennessee. Xavier hired basketball coach Sean Miller last year while his former program, Arizona, was under NCAA scrutiny for alleged violations dating back to an FBI college basketball investigation that began in 2017. Miller had previously coached Xavier from 2004-09.

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The cause-of-show penalty does not preclude hiring a coach, but it is considered a scarlet letter in the industry. Any school that hires a coach with this designation should go to the NCAA with an explanation as to why.

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