Running backs coach Robert Gillespie and Tennessee parted ways on Tuesday, and it was a move that sent shock waves through Vol nation. Fans didn’t expect the move to be made just days after National Signing Day wrapped up, and the change seemingly came from nowhere.
But now that the dust has settled, it appears that the move had been brewing behind the scenes for a little bit. And Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee’s Athletics Director, weighed in on how it all went down.
Fulmer spoke at the Big Orange Tipoff Club on Wednesday, and he discussed Gillespie’s sudden departure.
“This is a big boy’s business,” Fulmer stated. “(Gillespie) understood. He was very professional. We talked yesterday. It was simply a matter of coach Pruitt doing what he thought was right for his program and Robert.”
Gillespie was the lone holdover from Butch Jones’ on-field staff after Pruitt took over as head coach. Tennessee officially announced Pruitt’s coaching staff last week, and Gillespie was officially listed as one of the 10 on-field coaches. But on Tuesday, the decision was made for Tennessee to move on from Gillespie and for Pruitt to find another running backs coach.
“Robert was fine,” Fulmer added. “Robert is okay. He didn’t like it, I’m not saying that. But he’s okay. He understood. It’s a big boy business.”
Gillespie will be owed a buyout for his early termination. He was set to make $515,000 this season and was the fifth-highest paid coach on Pruitt’s staff.
Butch Jones hired Gillespie to be the running backs coach in February of 2013 after Jay Graham departed from Jones’ staff shortly after National Signing Day. Gillespie coached running backs all five years at Tennessee, and he was also given the title of recruiting coordinator starting in 2015.
Pruitt is already searching for Gillespie’s replacement, and we have a list of the most likely candidates.