Outside Linebackers Coach,
Title: Defensive Ends and Outside Linebackers Coach
Birthplace: Chatham, VA
Undergraduate Degree: Social Work, Alabama A&M University
Graduate Degree: N/A
Life Before Coaching: Prunty is a huge internet mystery. Most coaches have a wikipedia page, or even a more detailed profile page with their university, but not Robert Prunty. Prunty's profile page with Texas Tech is fairly sparse. It's tough to tell what Prunty did before coaching. We don't even know his birthday. In any event, what we do know is that Prunty is from Chatham, Virginia, graduated from Hargrave Military Academy in 1983 and earned a degree in social work from Alabama A&M University. If Prunty graduated from Hargrave at age 19, then he should be about 46 years old.
Prior Coaching Stops: It's also tough to find out what Prunty did prior to being at Hargrave. His Texas Tech bio mentions that Prunty spent time at Gretna High School in Virginia where he turned around a program that had lost 44 games in a row from 1991 through 1995, and in Prunty's final year as head coach of Gretna HS in 2001, he went 11-1. This article mentions that Prunty had been coaching for 14 years in 2007, which means that Prunty got into coaching in or around 1993 and also states that he was in charge of the Hargrave post-graduate football team for 6 years. It appears that from being the head coach Gretna HS, Prunty became the head coach at Hargrave Military Academy and has been there since 2001. As an aside, after Prunty left, where he apparently helped build the program into a powerhouse, where Gretna won four state championships from 2003 through 2008.
There are a handful of stories out there about Prunty's tenure at Hargrave and how he affected the players that he was in charge of coaching. Not only was Prunty a successful football coach, but he was known for putting players in the NFL. DMN's Rick Gosselin wrote a story about Hargrave and Prunty before this year's NFL Draft (if you haven't read this article, you should, it gives you a good idea about what it's like to play and be a student at Hargrave):
"Hargrave lost a really good one in Coach Prunty," said defensive end Willie Young, one of the Hargrave seven invited to Indianapolis for the NFL's annual job fair.
Hargrave is a prep school – an interim step for students in between high school and college. It's a place for football players to improve their academic and athletic skills.
More on Prunty and Hargrave, after the jump.
Of course, there is this one Washington Post article about how some schools would advise students to go to a preparatory school in order gain a better scholarship offer, and in some cases, intentionally fail a class in order better your senior year's GPA:
Athletes who fail to meet eligibility standards after graduating from high school typically attend a community college for two years and then transfer to a four-year college, often losing two years of playing eligibility. They also can enroll in a post-graduate prep school program and re-take the SAT in hopes of raising their score. But by failing to graduate, an athlete can try to improve his grades and his test score, making it easier to play at a four-year school a year later without a loss of playing eligibility. The one-year delay also can provide an athlete another year to mature physically.
"I think [intentionally failing is] a new phenomenon out there that hasn't been brought to [the NCAA's] attention," said Atlantic Coast Conference associate commissioner Shane Lyons, who is in charge of governance and compliance for the league. "I've heard it more and more over the last couple years."
Said Murray Sperber, professor emeritus at Indiana University and a vocal critic of big-time college athletics, "I guess the message it sends is athletics have priority and academics are secondary and your academic career comes far below in importance than your athletic career.
"Essentially what athletic departments are saying is, 'Don't worry about flunking your senior year, they'll let you in if we tell them.' Normally, this would be a huge red flag in admissions. It would disqualify you from admission to most colleges. It becomes an interesting symbol in how an athletic department rules the admissions process for athletes."
I get the feeling that this is the exception to the rule and for the most part, you'll find a handful of articles about how students improve themselves, both from a personal, academic and athletic standpoint. Prunty even talked about his experience at Hargrave where his experience was similar to the students that he coached:
Robert Prunty, Hargrave’s postgraduate head coach, graduated from the academy’s high school.
"The first day, I called my mother on the phone and asked her, ‘How in the world could you do me like this?’" he said. "When I first got here, I was the same as those guys. I didn’t like it here, but as I matured, I learned to appreciate it."
And this doesn't appear to be a situation where Prunty just waited for students to show up at Hargrave, he had to go out and recruit players in order to remain a top-notch football school:
For most of its 101 years, Hargrave was a middling football school. But in the early 1990s, after the NCAA raised admissions standards for incoming freshman athletes, places like Hargrave and Virginia's Fork Union Military Acacemy (Eddie George's alma mater) became popular football factories. Often, top-notch seniors are recommended to these schools by their college suitors. One postgraduate year of getting grades up gives players four years of NCAA eligibility. "Now we have 20 or so kids in the ACC and 20 or so kids in the SEC," says Hargrave's coach, Robert Prunty. "I think we recruit harder than colleges do now."
Two dozen of the school's 53 players are post-grads, including defensive end Justin Mincey (committed to Florida State) and defensive tackle Jerrel Powe (Ole Miss). And since talent follows talent, another two dozen Division 1 prospects transferred as underclassmen. That, more than anything, is why a kid from Staten Island left his friends and family for small-town Virginia. "Every one of our DBs is going D1, so I knew that would make me get better," says Hazelton, who has committed to USC. "Working against that competition, how can you not?"
Arrival at Texas Tech: When Prunty left Hargrave, it was readily apparent that his leadership was going to be missed:
Director of Communications at Hargrave, William Wiebking , said, "This is a big deal for us at Hargrave. I would like to add that Coach Robert Prunty as been instrumental in getting a lot of young men into college. While he is a true fan of football, his real gift was the volume of young men who were accepted to a school under his guidance. Many of those with some level of scholarship. Further, Coach Prunty has a gift for finding players that ... four years later ... might be in the NFL. Hargrave experienced an explosion of these types of players during his tenure and Hargrave will certainly reap the benefits of his time here for years to come."
There have only been a hanful of articles even mentioning Prunty at the LAJ, but there was no real formal announcement at Texas Tech, rather that the initial reaction by the Hargrave folks was surprise:
"We lost a good guy," said William Wiebking, the academy's director of communications. "They just came and plucked him away. We're all stunned."
Wiebking quoted Prunty as saying the Tech offer was "too good to refuse."
And Prunty's hire at Texas Tech culminated in one commitment in LB Terrell Hartsfield and TE Bo Whitney. When Hartsfield committed, he credited his commitment to Texas Tech to his relationship with Prunty:
"I’ve known coach Prunty, and I trust him," Hartsfield told Scout.com. "He’s going to be my position coach at Texas Tech, and that’s why I committed to them."
And the same thing could be said for Whitney:
Former Laurens and Union quarterback Bo Whitney (6-4, 230) is heading to Texas Tech in June to play tight end. Whitney attended Hargrave (Va.) Prep last fall and played tight end. He was going to walk on at Clemson until former Hargrave coach Robert Prunty offered him a full scholarship to return and play quarterback. Then Prunty went to Texas Tech, and new Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville contacted Whitney about joining his program as a tight end. Whitney said he will pay his own way his first semester with a chance to get a scholarship in January.
"I just can't turn this opportunity down," Whitney said.
Previous Coaching Profiles:
Defensive Coordinator, James Willis
Running Backs Coach, Chad Scott
Defensive Line Coach, Sam McElroy
Offensive Coordinator, Neal Brown