Tennessee on Friday announced that athletic director John Currie had been placed on paid leave, capping a remarkable and tumultuous week at the university as it struggles to find a new football coach.
Former Volunteers football coach Phillip Fulmer was named acting athletic director by Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport.
“Tennessee has a very engaged and passionate fan base,” Davenport said, per the Knoxville News Sentinel. “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.
“I am committed to a process that will result in the best person to support our student-athletes and lead the football program.”
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Fulmer, who coached Tennessee to the BCS National Championship in 1998 and SEC titles in 1997 and 1998, will be in charge of the search to find a new football coach.
Five days ago, the school was poised to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano as head football coach, but fans and boosters revolted because of his alleged ties to Penn State’s child sex-abuse scandal. The offer was pulled.
Currie, who in February left as Kansas State’s athletic director for the Tennessee job, also was rebuffed after offers to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren. Purdue’s Jeff Brohm and Duke’s David Cutcliffe also were pursued.
It seems that Currie was fighting an uphill battle at Tennessee.
According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, Currie was prepared to hire Washington State’s Mike Leach, but university officials wouldn’t allow him. Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer has been sabotaging search process in hopes to become the school’s athletic director, McMurphy reported.
Braden Gall of 102.5 FM in Nashville tweeted that McMurphy “told us that people inside the Tennessee program were calling coaches who Currie was trying to hire and tell them not to come and that it is toxic.”
Currie left behind a fascinating legacy at K-State, where he worked from 2009 until early this year.
He helped guide the athletic department to previously unimagined fundraising levels and transformed K-State’s facilities with $210 million in upgrades, including major enhancements at the football stadium. But he was also unpopular with fans, and some coaches.
Many blamed him when popular basketball coach Frank Martin left for South Carolina, and he had a reputation as a micro manager. He failed to build a good relationship with K-State football coach Bill Snyder and fans still haven’t embraced Bruce Weber as basketball coach.
K-State administrators thanked Currie for his years of work and wished him well as he left Manhattan, but fans seemed content to bring in a new face.K-State replaced Currie with current athletic director Gene Taylor in April.
Alex Kirshner of SB Nation noted that Currie has a $5.5 million buyout at Tennessee, while Butch Jones, who was fired last month as the Volunteers’ coach, has an $8.3 million buyout.
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett