Tennessee's Hire Of Phillip Fulmer As New AD Raises Questions About School's Leadership
Newly appointed Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer "will receive an annual salary of $575,000 among other perks" usually reserved for a permanent coach or AD, according to a letter from UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport sent to Fulmer and obtained by Patrick Brown of 247SPORTS.com. Fulmer's "annual salary in his previous role" as a special advisor to UT President Joe DiPietro "was $100,000." Davenport's letter "confirmed Tennessee suspended" AD John Currie with pay "pending an investigation or decision relating to termination of his Employment Agreement for cause." If UT is "unable to fire Currie for cause, he would be owed a full buyout" of $5.5M -- $100,000 times the amount of months left on his contract -- for "being fired in the first year of an original deal that paid him $900,000 and ran through the end" of June '22 (247SPORTS.com, 12/2). In Knoxville, John Adams wrote some fans were "absolutely giddy that a Vol for Life is in charge of the athletic department." The fact Fulmer "has no experience as an athletic director, which Davenport stated was so important when she hired Currie, won't trouble fans" (Knoxville NEWS SENTINEL, 12/2).
WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE? In Nashville, Joe Rexrode wrote this entire situation is a "symptomatic of one of the biggest fears for ADs -- boosters using the people in charge as pawns in a power game rather than trusting them to do their jobs." Getting rid of Currie is like "taking care of the pesky hangnail on a foot infected with gangrene" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 12/2). Rexrode also wrote it "doesn’t matter who leads the Tennessee Booster Power Rankings" now that Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam is UT fans’ "villain of choice." The Haslams are "still going to be important and the Vols are still going to suffer until all these wealthy people put Tennessee first and let university and athletics leaders do their jobs." The entire past week "has been an exercise in anonymous, mixed messages." The answer is simply to "get the best possible coach and win, and then we won’t talk so much" about Haslam, UT BOT member Charlie Anderson and Co. (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 12/3). ESPN's Paul Finebaum said, "It's just absolutely malpractice in terms of how you run an athletic department and at this point, John Currie was made to be the fall guy. I'm not sure he deserves all the blame" ("The Paul Finebaum Show," ESPN Radio, 12/1). In Seattle, Larry Stone wrote the "30 for 30" documentary that "will one day be produced on all this will be riveting" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/2).
MOVING FORWARD: SI.com's Andy Staples wrote UT's leaders "haven’t sung from the same hymnal in years." No one "has seemed capable of getting on the same page." It is "time for the warring factions at Tennessee to set aside their differences and act in the best interest of the program" (SI.com, 12/1). YAHOO SPORTS' Pat Forde wrote Vol Nation has an "unrealistic view of its present condition." The "one man in town who personifies much" of the school's past success, Fulmer, has "not been a productive part of the situation." Many people "believe he actively undercut Currie during this search" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/1). THE RINGER's Rodger Sherman wrote, "I’ve never seen a school burn to the extent that Tennessee is burning now, with its failures and scuffles laid bare for all to see" (THERINGER.com, 12/1). CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd said, "You can say what you want about John Currie, but Tennessee right now football-wise is as worse off as it has been maybe in its history" ("This Week in SEC Football," CBS Sports Network, 12/1). CBS Sports Network's Adam Schein: "Tennessee deserves to look foolish after they let a Twitter mob stain Greg Schiano's reputation in a disgraceful, uncalled for fashion. Now the AD is out, nobody wants the job, the old coach is back in charge. It is a laughingstock and Tennessee earned it" ("Time To Schein," CBSSN, 12/1).