Dan Fleser: UT Football Has Some Bright News, But Only Briefly

Monday, January 11, 2021 - by Dan Fleser
Hendon Hooker
Hendon Hooker

For one day, the Tennessee football news was good for a change. Make that part of a day.

 

The Vols announced last Friday that they were adding a quarterback with experience and a history of productivity. Hendon Hooker, who played 25 games at Virginia Tech and had 15 starts, was joining the program as a grad transfer.

 

For his career, the 6-foot-4 Hooker has passed for 2,894 yards and 22 touchdowns. He set a Tech record by throwing 124 consecutive passes without an interception to start his career.

 

Along with the passing, he’s rushed for 1,033 yards and 15 more TDs.

 

 “We look forward to Hendon joining the Tennessee football family this semester,” UT coach Jeremy Pruitt said in a university release announcing the addition of Hooker.

“Hendon is a very talented and dynamic quarterback with multiple years of Power Five experience. He will be a great addition to our quarterback room and make a positive impact with two years of eligibility remaining.”

 

The announcement was encouraging and Pruitt’s comment spoke to UT’s football future.

 

On the same day, however, the Knoxville News Sentinel detailed the steep costs of UT’s internal investigation into allegations of recruiting violations and impermissible benefits within the football program.

 

Lawyer Mike Glazier, who was hired by the university to assist with its investigation, will be paid $500 per hour for his services. Colleague Kyle Skillman will be paid $375 an hour. The lawyers are based in Overland Park, Kansas, and work for the firm Bond, Schoeneck & King.

 

Per an engagement letter, provided to the News Sentinel via a public records request, the university might incur more hourly fees for paralegals and other professionals who assist the lawyers in their work. On top of all that, there could be related expenses.

Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

 

Glazier has a history with Tennessee and investigations. In 2011, he assisted UT in a probe that led to the firing of men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

 

A day earlier, ESPN reported that UT hasn’t extended the contracts of assistant football coaches and paused any hiring for the two vacancies on Pruitt’s staff. Some assistants’ deals expire at month’s end. It’s like the program is stuck in limbo for the time being.

 

The investigation, which first was reported by Fox Sports Knoxville’s Trey Wallace during Tennessee’s game against Texas A&M on Dec. 19, has cast a long, dark shadow over Pruitt’s future. He’s under contract through the 2025 season. His buyout currently stands at $12.64 million – unless UT fires him for cause or negotiates a different figure.

 

The first possibility has fueled many social media posts since season’s end, along with speculation about possible successors.

 

The competition Hooker will face in an SEC football game won’t be much stiffer than competing for space in this program’s news cycle, which seemingly can’t avoid circling back to this sort of drama.

 

At least Hooker will find space in the quarterback room to which Pruitt referenced. Fellow QBs J.T. Shrout and Jarrett Guarantano have transferred since season’s end.

            

* * *

 

Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com.


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