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Can Pruitt Buck Recent Trend Among UT Head Coaches?

Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

When it comes to Tennessee’s head football coaches in their first SEC games as UT’s head coach, very few have been able to come away with a win. In fact, Jeremy Pruitt will be looking to become only the fourth head coach in school history to win his first SEC game as Tennessee’s head coach since the Vols joined the conference back in 1933.

Since UT became a member of the SEC nearly nine decades ago, the Vols have had 14 different head coaches counting Pruitt. Tennessee entered the SEC with General Neyland as their head coach, and they’ve had 13 full-time head coaches since him.

And only three of those previous 13 head coaches before Pruitt have won their debut SEC game with Tennessee.

Neyland was one of the three Tennessee head coaches to win his first SEC game with the Vols. He lead UT to a 20-0 victory over Mississippi State in 1933, giving the Vols their first ever SEC win. W.H. Britton, the man who took over for Neyland for one season in 1935, also won his first SEC game as head coach when the Vols downed Auburn 13-6.

Then every other head coach after that lost their first game in the SEC as Tennessee’s head coach until 1992.

Phillip Fulmer is the only other Tennessee head coach aside from Neyland and Britton to win his first SEC game as head coach. He helped lead the Vols to a 34-31 victory over No. 14 Georgia in 1992 while he was filling in for Johnny Majors to start that season. Every coach between him and Britton and every coach since Fulmer has failed to get a win in their first SEC game at Tennessee, however.

Tennessee’s head coaches have lost three times to Florida in their first SEC game, four times to Auburn, twice to Mississippi State, and once to Alabama. UT’s head coaches have faced a ranked SEC team in their first conference game seven times, and the other seven (counting this season) have come against unranked conference foes.

Not only will Saturday’s game against Florida be Pruitt’s first SEC game as Tennessee’s head coach, but it will mark his first SEC game as a head coach period. Pruitt has coached in dozens of SEC games in the past, but all of them have been as an assistant or coordinator.

Can Pruitt become the first Tennessee coach since Phillip Fulmer to win his first SEC game as UT’s head football coach? If he does, he’ll be only the fourth UT coach all-time to accomplish that feat.

Here’s how every Tennessee head coach has fared in their first SEC game as UT’s head coach since Tennessee joined the conference in 1933:

Butch Jones: Lost 31-17 to No. 19 UF (2013)
Derek Dooley: Lost 31-17 to No.10 UF (2010)
Lane Kiffin: Lost 23-13 to No. 1 UF (2009)
Phillip Fulmer: Won 34-31 to No. 14 UGA (1992)
Johnny Majors: Lost 14-12 to Auburn (1977)
Bill Battle: Lost 36-23 to No. 17 Auburn (1970)
Doug Dickey: Lost 3-0 to No. 8 Auburn (1964)
Jim McDonald: Lost 23-19 to Auburn (1963)
Bowden Wyatt: Lost 13-7 to Mississippi State (1955)
Harvey Robinson: Lost 26-0 to Mississippi State (1953)
John Barnhill: Lost 9-2 to No. 4 Alabama (1941)
W.H. Britton: Won 13-6 to Auburn (1935)
Robert Neyland: Won 20-0 to Mississippi State (1933)

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