Tennessee has named Hall of Fame head coach Phillip Fulmer director of athletics, replacing John Currie, who was fired on Friday morning. Fulmer will be moving to the position after serving as special advisor to University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro since June of this year.
“Our football program has the history, the facilities, the tradition and the resources to play with anyone, any time, and that is what we’re going to do again,” Fulmer said during Friday’s press conference on campus. “This is an important time in our athletic history. We all agree on the objective. We all agree on the urgency of achieving our objective. It’s time that we all pull together to be part of the solution.”
In what University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport described as a decision that was in the best interest of the University, she asked Fulmer to lead the athletic department for the foreseeable future following Currie’s eight-month tenure.
“This morning, I decided to make a change in leadership in our athletics department,” Davenport said. “John Currie has been suspended, and Phillip Fulmer has agreed to step in as our athletic director.”
Following the decision, Fulmer will take full reins of the search for Tennessee’s next head football coach.
Fulmer is a Tennessee legend, serving as head football coach for 17-years and guiding the Vols to a National Championship in 1998. Over the course of his 17-years as coach, Fulmer was 152-52, which marks the most successful era in program history.
In 2008, Fulmer was fired as head coach of the Vols, but at the time, no active coach with at least a decade of experience in Division I football had a better winning percentage (.744).
Before his time as head coach, the Winchester, Tennessee native was an All-SEC offensive guard for the Vols from 1969-1971. Fulmer played under Doug Dickey and helped lead Tennessee to a 30-5 record during his playing career.
Following his playing career, Fulmer served as an assistant coach to the Vols for 13 years beginning in 1980. Fulmer served in various roles such as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach before taking over as head coach in 1992.
Fulmer acknowledged on Friday that he has seen and been a part of Tennessee’s athletic program when it’s been at its best. His experiences are something that he plans on using to his advantage as he begins the work to bring Tennessee football back.
“I have seen what honest communication, trust and hard work achieve,” Fulmer said. “It is my mission to lead our entire athletic department in a way that honors our university’s legacy and insists on excellence. Turning our situation around will require team work.
The hiring of Fulmer comes on the cusp of quite the fallout between Currie and the University.
Last Sunday, when reports surfaced that Tennessee would be hiring Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, Tennessee fans revolted due to Schiano’s potential involvement in the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.
Currie’s handling of the coaching search brought on the ire of national media members all over the country, as his actions painted the University in a bad light as tension began to rise.
On Wednesday, tension continued to rise after Currie targeted NC State head coach Dave Doeren. The Wolfpack would later give Doeren an extension, much to the delight of Vol fans as they were unhappy with the potential hire.
Currie had also drawn a lot of negativity from former players for not reaching out to USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin. In 1998, Martin led Tennessee to a National Championship as the team’s star quarterback. Despite being one of the best assistant coaches in all of college football, Martin has not been contacted as of yet in relation to the Vols vacant head coach position.
On Friday morning at 9:47 a.m., Chynna Greene of WVLT Local 8 took to twitter to break the news that Currie had been fired as athletic director.
Following the news of Currie’s termination, Tennessee announced that they would hold a press conference at 4 p.m. to discuss the change in director of athletics.
Davenport began the press conference expressing that she deeply regrets any hurt that was caused over the past week. “It’s been a difficult road at times to get to where we are,” Chancellor Davenport said. “I have come to understand and appreciate the love that so many people have for Tennessee athletics.”
According to the Universities chancellor, the decision to terminate Currie was made yesterday afternoon. “I asked John Currie to return to Knoxville before going forward with the search,” Davenport said. “When there are high expectations about a great place, those high expectations come with challenges and challenges require tough decisions. Today required one of those decisions.”
Moving forward, Fulmer is very familiar with the energy, passion and focus from Vol fans, alumni, coaches and athletes. It’s something that the legendary Tennessean will use to win over the naysayers.
“I’m asking all of our fans, our alumni, our student-athletes and coaches: Let’s go have some fun winning championships.”
Feature image courtesy of Brad Matthews
Edited by Seth Raborn