KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport sent waves through Vol nation Friday when she decided to make a change at athletic director.
Dr. Davenport named Hall of Fame coach Phillip Fulmer acting athletic director eight months after originally giving the role to John Currie.
“Early yesterday afternoon I asked John Currie to return to Knoxville before going forward with the search,” Dr. Davenport said. “That request had nothing to do with any specific coach. When there are high expectations about a great place, those high expectations come with challenges and challenges require tough decisions.
“This morning I decided to make a change in leadership in our athletics department. The decision I fell was in the best interest of our university. John Currie has been suspended and Phillip Fulmer has agreed to step in as the athletic director.”
Currie being suspended and not fired seems to signal Tennessee will try and get out from under some of his buyout in his contract. Tennessee would owe Currie 5.5 million dollars if he is fired without cause, according to a report by Scott Gleeson of USA Today.
The financials hadn’t been worked out as of Friday afternoon, so Tennessee might be searching for some type of cause.
“We don’t have all of the financial details worked out,” Dr. Davenport said.
Tennessee will pay Jones around $8.2 million to former coach Butch Jones in buyout money. It makes sense the school will look for a possible way to lower its payment towards Currie.
Currie received the reigns of the coaching search on Nov. 12. The search began slowly before picking up steam on Sunday when reportedly Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was close to taking the job. The blowback was immediate and ultimately nixed the deal which led to a week of the Vols getting publically turned down by candidates.
“It’s been a tough week for us,” Dr. Davenport said. “It’s been a series of events. It hasn’t been a single event.
“Several weeks ago, I asked him to lead a coaching search. He was given full authority to find the best coach for Tennessee.”
Thursday reports began to surface Currie had begun pursuing Washington State coach Mike Leach.
Dr. Davenport had a chance to comment on not allowing Currie to close the deal with Leach but chose to focus on the athletic director change.
“I want to be clear that today we are here to talk about the change in the leadership of the athletics department,” Dr. Davenport said. “I’m not going to talk about any other coaches at any other places.”
One of Currie’s last projects he worked on before the coaching search was the $340 million renovations plan on Neyland Stadium. Tennessee will continue moving forward with the plans despite Currie no longer leading the athletic department.
“Absolutely, we plan to proceed with the Neyland Stadium renovation project,” Dr. Davenport said. “We would have never brought forward a project we didn’t feel was needed.”
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