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Volume 26 No. 139
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Tennessee AD Discusses Neyland Stadium Renovation, Alcohol Sales

Tennessee says it has the necessary funds for stadium renovations but has not committed to a start date
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Tennessee says it has the necessary funds for stadium renovations but has not committed to a start date
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Tennessee says it has the necessary funds for stadium renovations but has not committed to a start date
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Univ. of Tennessee AD Phil Fulmer said the school has had "a lot of really productive meetings" regarding the Neyland Stadium renovation project as it looks at "what we really want to do and can do," according to a Q&A with Blake Toppmeyer of the Knoxville NEWS SENTINEL. Fulmer said UT has the money for the project, but it is still looking at when to begin construction and he is "not going to tie myself to a date at this point." He also said there is "still discussion around the Speech and Audiology Department," which is housed in South Stadium Hall, as the athletic department wants to be "good neighbors and good partners with campus." Below are some other highlights from Fulmer's exclusive interview with the News Sentinel, some of which have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: College football attendance is something on a lot of programs’ radar. At UT, what are some ways to address that and try to be proactive on that issue?
Fulmer: The size of stadiums is a big discussion point. Scheduling is a big part of that. Conference discussions have been, I think, very productive as to what does the future look like with home-and-home games? How long will we continue on this path in the SEC of playing lower-division teams? Everybody is looking at those things. The alcohol part of it. The Wi-Fi part of it. The different ways to be creative within the stadium -- standing-room only and beer gardens.

Q: Do you see alcohol sales in general seating areas being something UT could explore?
Fulmer: We already are exploring it, and two schools in our state (Memphis and Middle Tennessee State) are already serving alcohol at games. To what degree and how (it’s implemented), that’s strictly to be determined.

Q: The Vol Pass is new this year. It offers a season-ticket-like experience. Why was that something UT wanted to do?
Fulmer: The (attendance) reasons we just discussed. It worked well in basketball. I give [Senior Associate AD/Strategic Initiatives] Janeen Lalik all the credit for that. We need people in the stadium, and this is a chance for them to afford to be able to do that.

Q: You’ve hired the football coach. You’ve hired the women’s basketball coach. And you were part of retaining the men’s basketball coach. You’ve hired a couple of other coaches, as well. At this point, do you think you have your thumbprint on the athletics department, particularly with your impact in the revenue-generating sports?
Fulmer: I guess so. My whole thing when I came in was my four pillars because I knew what it looked like when I was the coach here -- when it was really, really good. That was great communication and relationships on campus with the board and the president and the chancellor and the athletic director and the coaches all being aligned. We are closer to that than I can remember since the mid-2000s. It’s not the hires, necessarily. It’s the fact that we’re working together much, much better (Knoxville NEWS SENTINEL, 6/6).