When Tennessee hired Jeremy Pruitt as football coach in December 2017, university leaders wanted to stop cycling through coaches every few years.

Tennessee showed faith in Pruitt by awarding him a contract extension in September that included a bonus and a raise beginning in 2021.

But the Vols have regressed in Pruitt’s third season.

Tennessee (2-4) is on a four-game losing streak entering a game against No. 21 Auburn (4-2) on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). With a loss Saturday, the Vols would have their longest losing streak since starting the 1988 season 0-6.

Firing Pruitt and his coaching staff would be a costly move at a bad time, with the athletic department cash-strapped because of the pandemic.

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Pruitt, thanks to his recent extension, is under contract until Jan. 31, 2026. That’s five more seasons. If Tennessee fired him on, say, Dec.