KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Phillip Fulmer is back in charge of the Vols’ football program, and the Tennessee Hall of Famer wasted no time in his attempt to rally the troops as the athletic director.
“We have been supported by the most passionate fan base in the country, and they deserve teams that will make them proud,” said Fulmer, who was 152-52 as the Vols’ head coach from 1992-2008 and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
“Our football program has the history and tradition and resources to play with anyone, any time, and that’s what we’re going to do again,” the 67-year old Fulmer said. “We need energy, we need passion and focus from every Vol fan, alumni coach and athlete. Let’s be so enthusiastic that we even win over the naysayers.”
Fulmer will make $575,000 annually, a raise from the $100,000 he was receiving since June, when he was hired as a special adviser to the president.
Fulmer ruled himself out of the running for any coaching duties at Tennessee, saying “I’ve done my duty in that way.”
UT president Joe DiPietro got Fulmer involved in the Vols’ coaching search after last Sunday’s backlash, when word leaked that former AD John Currie was negotiating to hire controversial Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano as head coach.
Chancellor Beverly Davenport declined to get into specifics as to why Currie was relieved from his duties and subsequently suspended.
The application of the suspended terminology — as opposed to saying “terminated” — is an indication Tennessee likely is looking to fire Currie for cause. If Currie is fired for cause, it would negate his $5.5 million buyout.
Currie, who was hired as AD in February and began his duties on April 1, had exhibited a careful, thorough nature in his first months leading the program. That made last Sunday’s Schiano debacle all the more surprising.
“It’s been a tough week for us,” Davenport said when asked about what led to Currie being removed from office. “There’s been a series of events — there’s not a single event. Many of you have reported on it.”
Tennessee has been turned down by numerous coaches since Sunday’s debacle, including Duke’s David Cutcliffe, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm and North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren.
Davenport said Currie “was given full authority to find a new coach for Tennessee,” and the former Vols AD chose not to use a search firm.
Instead, Currie was at the point of the search with booster Jimmy Haslam, with Tennessee icon Peyton Manning consulted as an adviser.
“I want you to know John Currie has worked tirelessly in his position, and I respect him for his commitment and contributions to the University of Tennessee,” Davenport said at Friday’s news conference at the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio.
“This process was not satisfactory.”
Former Tennessee quarterback and current Southern Cal offensive coordinator Tee Martin surely will be one of Fulmer’s first phone calls after the Trojans’ Pac-12 Championship Game against Stanford on Friday night.
Martin had not been contacted by Tennessee as of Thursday — an oversight by Currie during the coaching search that upset several former players.
Fulmer didn’t mention any coaches by name Friday, but he seemed to leave the door open for the Vols to hire a coach from a coordinator position — referencing his promotion in 1993 from offensive coordinator.
“I’ve been charged with finding the right coach for this circumstance,” Fulmer said. “I wasn’t a head coach when I started …. more times than not, you like experience, but we’ll see where that goes.
“I haven’t established a timetable to this point because this has happened so fast. I think with the background we have here, as well as we’ve done, the facilities, tradition and the leadership, I believe there will be people who are interested.”
Tennessee news conference video
(press conference begins at 27:33 mark)
Tennessee press conference announcing Phillip Fulmer as AD
Posted by Mike Griffith on Friday, December 1, 2017