Fulmer to serve as athletics director 'effective immediately'

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Former coach and college football hall of famer Phillip Fulmer will serve as the UT athletics director.

"I'm asking all of our fans, our alumni, student athletes and coaches: Let's go have fun winning championships," Fulmer said at a news conference today with Chancellor Beverly Davenport. "It's my mission to lead our entire athletic department in a way that honors our legacy."

Davenport said Fulmer will start his new position "effective immediately." She said at Friday's news conference that some challenges arise that require tough decisions, "and today required one of those decisions."

"It's been a difficult week, it's not been an easy process for any of us. I regret deeply any hurt this has caused," Davenport said. "Our supporters have been passionate, vocal, and steadfast in reminding us what makes this university and athletics an exceptional program — it's the people, and I appreciate that."

In a news release on Friday, Davenport said she asked Fulmer to take the reins of the athletics department because "no one better understands the storied history of Vol athletics and its deep connection to alumni and fans."

Davenport added that, "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."

At a news conference Friday, Fulmer says he will not serve as an interim coach, but will lead the search to find a new coach.

"I've done my duty and enjoyed it very much," Fulmer said of his time as Tennessee's head coach, adding that might do some little league coaching.

"Our football program has the facilities, the history and the resources to play with anyone at anytime," Fulmer said. "That's what we're going to do again. This is an important time in our history."

Fulmer said in the news conference that UT has to find a coach who wants to be here, and who "honors our values and will be a role model for our students and athletes."

"It's my mission to lead our entire athletic department in a way that honors our legacy," Fulmer said.

He added that the search for a new head coach won't be easy and will time time, "but we will succeed." Fulmer said that he has no timetable for the search yet because "this has all happened so fast." He went on to say that he "definitely thinks" there will be people interested in the job, based on the football program's rich history.

As far as current recruits go, Fulmer said the university is going to work hard to keep them.

"Recruiting wise, it's the backbone of what we do," Fulmer said. "We have some really good commitments and we're going to work to make sure we keep them until the coach gets here."

Local 8 Sports Director Rick Russo was first to learn that UT ousted John Currie from his position as Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics. After nearly a week of coaching search misfires, Local 8 News crews waited outside as Currie met with Chancellor Davenport on Friday morning.

Chancellor Davenport later announced that Currie was placed on leave with pay and that she has appointed Phillip Fulmer to the role as athletics director.

RELATED: Sources: Tennessee fires A.D. John Currie

Currie's reported suspension comes after tension and uncertainty mounted for fans and the athletic department during the search to replace former head coach Butch Jones. Since Sunday's fiasco concerning the potential hire of Greg Schiano, a running list of candidates who have reportedly turned down the coaching position has expanded to include John Gruden of ESPN's Monday Night Football, David Cutcliffe of Duke, Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State University, Jeff Brohm of Purdue, Dan Mullen, who took the position at Florida, Chad Morris of Southern Methodist University and Dave Doeren of N.C. State.

Chancellor Davenport has a message for fans.

“Tennessee has a very engaged and passionate fan base. I appreciate and respect all of our supporters, alumni, fans, and student-athletes, and I deeply regret what we have gone through this past week,” Davenport said. “I am committed to a process that will result in the best person to support our student-athletes and lead the football program.”

Fulmer has been affiliated with the university for over 40 years. Fulmer's name initially surfaced as a leading candidate for UT's search to replace AD Dave Hart, but Currie ended up filling the spot.

Fulmer first came to UT Knoxville in 1968 as an offensive guard for the Volunteers before graduating in 1972. He was an assistant football coach in 1980 and was named UT's head football coach in 1992. In his 17 years coaching, he led teams to a national championship, two conference championships and seven division titles. He also holds a place in the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.

Fulmer was hired back to UT as special advisor to the president for community, athletics and university relations on June 20. In that role, Fulmer served as an ambassador for the university system at community and athletics events, supported UT's intercollegiate athletic programs, and advocated for UT's statewide system to elected officials and alumni.

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