Phillip Fulmer never needed to be the Athletic Director at the University of Tennessee.
It was a pipe dream for Fulmer and a large portion of Tennessee fans.
“It was made clear to me, from the very beginning, that I did not fit the criteria,” Fulmer said in a press conference Tuesday.
At that press conference, Fulmer was named a “special advisor to UT President Dr. Joe DiPietro for community, athletics, and university relations”.
Per the University’s press release, the job will be to “serve as an ambassador for the University system at community and athletics events, support the intercollegiate athletic programs at UT campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin, and work with UT government relations and alumni affairs leadership to advocate for the statewide system with elected officials and UT alumni.”
It’s the perfect fit. Absolutely perfect.
Tennessee didn’t need to give Phillip Fulmer the title and office of the Athletic Director for him to benefit his university. Coach Fulmer is one of the greatest ambassadors for the University of Tennessee, and having him back in a capacity to use his experience, charisma and connection to the fan base will only bring more people together.
Right now, the Tennessee family needs to be unified. The Volunteer fan base has been split for nearly 10 years. Back in 2008, Fulmer “resigned” as UT’s football coach. Football has just now gotten back to what looks like stable ground. Except Butch Jones lost two inexcusable games last season to South Carolina and Vanderbilt. And the grounds seem unstable again.
Including Fulmer’s awkward exit as head coach, there have been a total of three football coaching changes and two athletic director changes. That doesn’t count the three other coaching changes in men’s basketball and difficulties in baseball, during the same time period.
“We all must continue to come together for the greater good of our university, our system and out athletics program,” Fulmer said. “Even when everyone is pulling together, it’s really hard to be the best. And, I had that privilege as a coach at UT for a long time to be around the best. I also know it’s impossible if everyone is not pulling together.”
Fans needed to know that Coach Fulmer was okay with the results of him not getting the AD job. They needed to know that he has a good, in progress, relationship with brand new AD John Currie – who had a hand in Fulmer’s departure as Vols’ head coach back in 2008.
“I have absolutely no animosity for not being named the athletic director. I simply felt compelled to try that position because of my love and passion for the University.”
Fulmer continued: “Since (Currie’s) appointment as the athletic director, we’ve had two or three opportunities to share and discuss. And, I see John has really grown and matured as an athletic director. He has been very respectful with my time, my position in life as a former coach, and our past successes on the field.”
Coach Phillip Fulmer might have not fit the criteria Tennessee wanted in an athletic director, but he checks every box for his new position.
He has the ability to be a council to any of the head coaches on UT’s campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin (with the emphasis on Knoxville, and an emphasis on football).
Current football coach Butch Jones will now be able to call on Fulmer for advice, in any situation, without feeling like he’s taking up a retired coach’s time with family. Fulmer will be getting paid for that advice – with a base salary of $100,000 per year (according to Jimmy Hyams).
“Butch and I have a great relationship and have had for a long time. I would expect that to even grow,” Fulmer said.
Coaching football is what Phillip Fulmer used to do best. Now, he’s best at fundraising for his beloved University of Tennessee. He and Peyton Manning are basically the only two figures Vols’ boosters and alumni can’t say “no” to, when it comes to donations.
Phil Fulmer can bring the Tennessee family back together in this new “special advisor” position. And frankly, he wouldn’t have been able to do that at a polarizing position like athletic director. Tennessee didn’t need Phil Fulmer to be the AD. Tennessee needed Phillip Fulmer to be… Coach Fulmer.
They got their man.