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With Tennessee’s search for a new athletic director continuing to trudge along, a new name has emerged as a potential candidate.
Well, the name is certainly not new in the world of Tennessee athletics at all. In fact, it’s very familiar.
According to ESPN and USA Today, none other than Phillip Fulmer, the Vols’ longtime football coach, is in the running to replace Dave Hart, who announced his retirement back in August. ESPN’s Chris Low reported Monday that Fulmer is a “prime candidate” for the position.
Fulmer spent 17 years as UT’s head coach and won a national title in 1998. The 66-year-old also played offensive line for the Vols and was an assistant from 1980 to 1992 before landing the head-coaching gig. He had a 152-52 record at Tennessee, but was forced out in 2008 after a 5-7 season. Since then, the Vols have had three different head coaches and haven’t reached the SEC title game a single time.
When reached by Low, Fulmer said he “wants what’s best” for Tennessee.
When contacted Monday by ESPN.com, Fulmer would not address specifically the Tennessee athletic director’s job, but he also wouldn’t rule out that he could be a candidate.
“Since I was 18 years old, UT’s best interests have always been my interest,” Fulmer told ESPN.com. “I want what is best for UT. Dr. [Beverly] Davenport [UT’s newly named chancellor] has laid out a clear process, and we have to respect the time and her vision to complete that process.”
According to USA Today, Fulmer is the choice of a group of “several influential boosters.”
Fulmer has grown close to Tennessee President Joe DiPietro and a group of influential boosters have been working behind the scenes to help install him as Dave Hart’s replacement, according to people close to the situation.
Tennessee’s process to find a new athletics director has been described as murky at best and highly political, with multiple search firms involved at various points. The chaos has provided an opening for Fulmer to return to the school and restore order, as some supporters in Knoxville believe the program drifted too far from its roots during Hart’s reign.
In addition to Fulmer, who currently serves as special assistant to the athletic director at East Tennessee State, Tennessee Chattanooga AD David Blackburn has been connected to the opening. Blackburn worked in the UT-Knoxville athletic department for more than 20 years.
The contract of Hart, who landed the UT job in 2011, expires on June 30.
For more Tennessee news, visit VolQuest.com.
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