KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer has said all along that his appointment as athletic director at his alma mater wasn’t a mere short-term arrangement.
Now he has the contract to back it up.
Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport announced Thursday that Fulmer has signed a contract that runs through Dec. 31, 2021. The move comes less than five months after Fulmer took over as athletic director amid a tumultuous football coaching search.
“To me, the stability we’re trying to build and the timeliness of everything, it would have been really hard to do in just a couple of years,” Fulmer said.
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Fulmer will receive $300,000 in annual base compensation plus $600,000 supplemental pay for personal appearances and media services as well as a $40,000 expense allowance. He also gets a $100,000 retention bonus each year the contract remains in effect through the end of the deal, which could enable him to end up making about $1 million annually.
The 67-year-old Fulmer said earlier this year that “I’ve committed to these coaches to be here a while, and I’m certainly going to honor that commitment.”
“I think anybody that knows me reasonably well can tell I’m excited about doing this,” Fulmer said Thursday. “I was excited about doing it before. I have to balance things. I don’t want to be here 18 hours a day like I did coaching. I don’t have to be, either, (because) we have good people around. But I’m going to spend the time and effort to get it where I want it to be. I’m committed to that.”
Fulmer says his top priority is making sure Tennessee’s football program bounces back. The Vols haven’t won a Southeastern Conference title since their 1998 national championship, which came during Fulmer’s coaching tenure. They’re coming off a 4-8 season in which they set a school record for losses and failed to win an SEC game.
Fulmer took over as Tennessee’s athletic director Dec. 1 and hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as the Vols’ football coach six days later. Fulmer says he likes what he’s seen from Pruitt.
“Four months into it, I’m more sure now that we’ve got the right guy than I was in the interview, and I was really happy then,” Fulmer said. “We’re headed in a good direction.”
The Dec. 1 letter announcing Fulmer’s hiring said he would make $575,000 annually and that his appointment had “no definite term.” This contract boosts Fulmer’s pay while also specifying the length of his deal.
Fulmer is a Tennessee alum and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
His notable moves as athletic director thus far have included bringing Pruitt aboard, hiring former North Carolina assistant Eve Rackham as women’s volleyball coach and signing women’s soccer coach Brian Pensky to an extension.
“Phillip has been connected to the University of Tennessee and its athletics program for more than 40 years and he understands the expectations we have for our athletics department,” Davenport said in a statement. “He is surrounded by a very knowledgeable staff that is deeply committed to the success of our student-athletes. I look forward to our continued partnership.”
Fulmer replaced John Currie, who was suspended and placed on paid leave as Tennessee’s football coaching search went awry. Currie reached a $2.5 million settlement with Tennessee last month.
Documents obtained last month through a public records request showed Davenport and other school officials couldn’t reach Currie for about six hours on Nov. 30 and were unaware that he was in California meeting with Washington State’s Mike Leach about Tennessee’s coaching vacancy. That happened less than a week after Currie and Greg Schiano signed a memorandum of understanding to make the Ohio State defensive coordinator the new Volunteers football coach before the deal fell apart amid a public backlash .
Currie was removed the day after his meeting with Leach. Currie, who lasted only eight months as Tennessee’s athletic director, had a contract paying him at least $900,000 annually with opportunities for raises and bonuses.
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