Tennessee has replaced athletic director John Currie with former football coach Phillip Fulmer in the wake of a search for a new football coach that has led to harsh criticism and ridicule for the athletic department and university.
ESPN reported that Currie met with university officials Friday morning, when the decision was made. The school held a news conference Friday afternoon to introduce Fulmer as his replacement.
"I have taken these steps in the best interest of the university," chancellor Beverly Davenport said in a release. "I am confident that Phillip understands the need to support our student-athletes and our commitment to excellence in all athletic programs. I appreciate his willingness to serve during this critical time."
UT's appointment letter to AD Phillip Fulmer says UT suspended John Currie with pay pending an investigation related to termination for cause under article IX. Fulmer will be paid $575000 annually. His appointment has no "definitive term" according to appointment letter.
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) December 1, 2017
Earlier Friday, college football reporter Brett McMurphy reported that Fulmer, who has been a special advisor to the university president since this summer, "has been sabotaging the search process in hopes to become Tennessee’s AD."
McMurphy reported that Currie appeared ready to hire Washington State's Mike Leach to fill the Vols' coaching vacancy, but university officials stopped the process.
Another source: Tennessee’s own people have been ambushing (John) Currie’s (coaching search). They shoot themselves in the foot, cock the gun & shoot themselves in the other foot. It’s been going on for a week"
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 1, 2017
Tennessee's search for a new head coach to replace the ousted Butch Jones has dominated sports headlines for a week. Reports surfaced last Sunday that the university was set to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, the former head coach of Rutgers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the university abandoned that plan after students and alumni protested because Schiano had been an assistant coach at Penn State in the 1990s during convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky's time on the Nittany Lions' staff.
We're back on campus this morning with reaction after the reported deal in the works with Greg Schiano to be head coach at UT. Live on GMT. The rock has been repainted with #FireCurrie. #WATE pic.twitter.com/F8JCPAlqxz
— Whitney Burks Good (@WhitneyGoodWATE) November 27, 2017
Since then, a number of high-profile coaches have been tied to the Volunteers' open job, and all reportedly either turned down the job, couldn't reach a deal with the school, or refused interview requests. That list includes Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, Duke's David Cutcliffe, N.C. State's Dave Doeren, former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, a Tennessee alumnus.
The Volunteers finished 4-8 this season under Jones and interim coach Brady Hoke (who coached two games), going winless in the SEC for the first time ever.