Alabama administrator provided Tennessee exclusive data to aid Vols football coach search

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee-Alabama football rivalry certainly isn’t what it used to be on or off the field.

Documents obtained by SEC Country through an open records request reveal that Alabama AD Greg Byrne provided Tennessee with exclusive coaching data to aid in the Vols’ coaching search.

Less than a month later, former Tennessee football coach and current AD Phillip Fulmer said he spoke with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, receiving a recommendation to hire Jeremy Pruitt.

RELATED: Nick Saban groomed Jeremy Pruitt, excited for his Tennessee opportunity

Jimmy Sexton, a Tennessee graduate and the agent who represents Saban and Pruitt, convinced Fulmer to allow Pruitt to finish the College Football Playoff and help Alabama win another national championship.

Pruitt, who opened spring drills with the Vols on Tuesday, has said he’ll continue to seek advice and direction from Saban in addition to hall of famer Fulmer.

Just when it seemed like the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry couldn’t get more chummy, Saban hired former Vols coach Butch Jones as an off-field offensive analyst.

RELATED: Alabama legend Gene Stallings advises Jeremy Pruitt to lean on Phillip Fulmer

The bitterness once associated with the Third Saturday in October appears to have just about bled out, perhaps a byproduct of a Crimson Tide win streak that’s created an 11-year open wound in the Volunteer State.

Fulmer, who once testified against Alabama during a 1990s recruiting scandal in Memphis, said he plans to make Tennessee competitive in the rivalry again.

RELATED: Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer aims to make Tide ‘sweat again’ 

But the release of thousands of text messages and hundreds of emails on Thursday night revealed Byrne’s friendly relationship with former Vols AD John Currie.

Currie reached a $2.5 million settlement with UT on Thursday, likely clearing the way for UT to fulfill open records requests filed by several media.

Alabama assistant AD for strategic planning Kyle Vasey reached out to Currie in an email dated Nov. 13, 2017, as directed by Bryne, to provide data an assistance in the Tennessee coaching search.

“Greg Byrne asked me to send you some analysis we performed on head coaches recently,” Vasey wrote. “You’ll find an excel spreadsheet which ranks head coaches based on a metric we created called: coaching efficiency.”

Vasey explained how the scores or the coaches are weighted based on titles, AP rankings and win percentage.

“I’m happy to answer any questions you might have on the data,” Vasey said.

The rankings included dozens of coaches and dated back to 2000.

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