"Let's go have fun winning championships!" Phillip Fulmer named UT's athletic director

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - Note: The University of Tennessee's initial press release said Fulmer had been named acting director of athletics, but later issued a correction saying he is simply director of athletics.

Former UT head coach Phillip Fulmer has been named the University of Tennessee  athletic director.

"Phillip Fulmer will begin serving as athletic director effective immediately," said Chancellor Beverly Davenport. "I have taken these steps in the best interest of the university."

Read More: Full transcript of Friday's press conference

The university held a press conference Friday afternoon, where Fulmer was introduced as athletic director. 

"I am confident that Phillip understands the need to support our student-athletes and our commitment to excellence in all athletic programs. I appreciate his willingness to serve during this critical time," continued Davenport.

Davenport said Fulmer will serve in that role for the foreseeable future. Fulmer's appointment letter says he will be paid $575,000 per year, plus other benefits. His appointment has no definite term and is at-will.

More online: Read Fulmer's appointment letter [PDF]

Fans and students on UT's campus were excited about the announcement, holding signs reading such things as "Welcome home Phil" and "Philly Philly."

 

 

University of Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics John Currie was placed on leave with pay Friday morning after eight months on the job.

Davenport said she called Currie back to Knoxville on Thursday afternoon, which had nothing to do with any specific coach.

"Challenges require tough decisions. Today required one of those decisions," she said.

Fulmer's appointment letter said the university is seeking to terminate Currie for cause under Article IX of his employment agreement.

READ MORE: Gov. Haslam comments on turmoil at Tennessee

Davenport said Fulmer would have full authority to lead the search for the next head football coach.

"We are here to day to begin a new era and a new opportunity to move our university forward," she said.

"This is an important time in our history. We all agree on the objective and urgency of achieving our objective. It's time we all pull together to be part of the solution," said Fulmer. 

Fulmer said this first job is to turn around the football program, which he said will not be easy and will take time.

"Let's go have fun winning championships!" he said.

Fulmer said he would not serve as an interim football coach, saying his time as a football coach is done.

A source close to the UT athletics department told WATE 6 On Your Side, "There's just too much in-fighting and it seems five different parties with their own agenda on the Hill, instead of a unified and more consolidated orchestrated  approach to this. My phone has blown up from donors calls. And John Currie isn't answering me."

College football reporter Brett McMurphy said on Twitter on Friday that Currie was prepared to hire Washington State head football coach Mike Leach, but university officials wouldn't allow him to do so.

The Volunteers are in the midst of a search for a head coach for the football team after Currie fired Butch Jones on Nov. 12. 

READ MORE: Vol Twitter reacts to Currie's firing

Phillip Fulmer

Fulmer, a native of Winchester, Tenn. and gradute of Franklin County High School, played football at UT from 1968-1971. He was the head coach of the Vols from 1992 until 2008. The coach led the team to the 1998 national championship, finishing the season a perfect 13-0. 

Fulmer was fired in the middle of the 2008 season, after the Vols fell to Wyoming as 26-point favorites. He continued coaching the team for the remainder of the year before he was replaced by Lane Kiffin.

In June, Fulmer was named as a special adviser to UT president Joe DiPietro, working with the community, athletics and university relations.

Currie was hired by UT in February and started his duties in April. He was the former director of athletics at Kansas State, where he began working in 2009.

Currie's Contract

A memorandum of understanding released in March by the university says Currie's contract would run from April 1, 2017, through June 30, 2022 and includes a $75,000 signing bonus. His base pay will be $300,000 a year with an increase of $25,000 per year beginning on July 1, 2018.

READ MORE: Fans chant 'Fire Currie' at UT basketball game

Currie is also eligible for anywhere from $90,000 to $300,000 in incentive pay based on the graduation rate and academic performance of UT's athletes.

If Currie is terminated for cause, the university will not owe him any buyout, but if he is terminated without cause, the university will owe Currie $100,000 times the number of months remaining on his contract paid in monthly installments. That means the university would owe Currie $5.5 million if he was fired without cause. 

The Coaching Search

Currie received criticism from fans after the university almost hired Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. Since then, fans have used the hashtag "#FireCurrie." 

Tennessee was turned down by Duke's David Cutcliffe, Purdue's Jeff Brohm, N.C. State's Dave Doeren and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy. 

Accolades

Currie served as the chair of the Big 12 ADs in 2013-2014, and was awarded the 2013 Bobby Dodd AD and 2013 Under Armour AD of the Year awards. He is a member of the NCAA Division I Administrative Cabinet. He was one of two athletic directors to be on the 2011 Sports Business Journal's 'Forty Under 40' list.

From 1997-2008 Currie was the executive associate athletics director at the University of Tennessee. He earned a bachelor's degree in history from Wake Forest in 1993 before a master's degree in sports management from Tennessee in 2003.


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