KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Phillip Fulmer is genuinely interested in becoming Tennessee’s next athletic director, and David Blackburn has yet to be formally contacted.
Fulmer, a first-ballot College Football Hall of Fame head coach for the Vols from 1992-2008, is a Tennessee man through and through who has always jumped at opportunities to serve his school.
Fulmer confirmed to SEC Country late Monday night that he is indeed interested, and he wants to do whatever “is right” and will help the school.
Fulmer played at Tennessee from 1968-1971 before serving as an assistant coach from 1980 until being hired to replace Johnny Majors, a transition that had its own fair share of drama.
The direction back in that era was clear, however, with College Football Hall of Famer Doug Dickey running the athletic department and celebrated university president Joe Johnson in charge.
Currently, the University of Tennessee administration is as mess, where the athletics department organization is concerned.
Blackburn, currently the athletic director at Chattanooga, served Tennessee in a multitude of administrative roles during the Dickey administration and right on through the hiring of current athletic director Dave Hart.
Blackburn, a 1990 University of Tennessee graduate, grew up and played his high school football 30 miles southwest of Neyland Stadium in Loudon. Blackburn has a feel for the school and its relationship with the community like few others.
Blackburn told SECcountry.com on Monday night that his focus is on leading his program at Chattanooga, but for the record, he has not been contacted about interviewing for the UT athletic director position.
Fulmer and Blackburn have long been allies and remain so, both genuine in their love and respect for the University of Tennessee. There is no maneuvering or power struggle going on between the men, who continue to voice mutual respect and admiration for one another.
The uncertainty and inactivity to fill the athletic director role, however, has led to speculation and now outside scrutiny as to how the University of Tennessee conducts its business.
Tennessee president Joe DiPietro has been mum on the issue, and speculation on the goings on has run rampant with new chancellor Beverly Davenport not assigned to start duties until Feb. 15, and outgoing athletic director Dave Hart serving as little more than a figurehead.
Here are 3 things about the most recent rumors about Fulmer being a candidate for the position
1) Fulmer is capable of doing the job
The former Vols head coach was never given his fair due as the great leader that he was, despite his impressive track record on the field and lack of any major violations off of it during a time of strict NCAA compliance enforcement.
Fulmer purposely came off as vanilla and sometimes bland in interviews, always mindful of wanting to represent the state — as well as his football program — in a professional manner.
Fulmer has been working in the financial sector since his forced retirement from his football position in 2008 and serving the community in various roles.
2) Blackburn should be interviewed
Blackburn is certainly the most qualified candidate on paper and seemed to be a shoo-in hire when Hart announced in August that he would be retiring far off into the future, this June.
Even if Fulmer is the top candidate for the athletic director position, it would serve the university well to do its due diligence in the search and interview Blackburn, a rising star in the athletic administration ranks.
3) UT should take inventory
The public mishandling of the transition of power and roles in the school’s athletic administration has sent red flags up all around.
Who is in charge? Is it the president? The board of trustees? Is there a power booster behind the scenes?
It’s not a good look for Tennessee, and someone needs to clean things up quickly and at least present an appearance of order.