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REPORT: Phillip Fulmer to retire in wake of Jeremy Pruitt firing

Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

Athletic director Phillip Fulmer is set to retire in the wake of Jeremy Pruitt being fired for cause after three seasons as Tennessee’s head coach, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported on Monday afternoon.

The Sentinel reported that Fulmer made the decision to step down and his departure is not tied to the investigation. Fulmer will step down after a new AD is hired, so that his successor can make the next football hire.

Fulmer received a two-year contract extension in May that went unreported until Blake Toppmeyer of the Sentinel reported it in November. According to the report, the extension means Fulmer’s contract runs through Dec. 31, 2023. Fulmer’s salary will remain $900,000 while his annual retention bonus has been increased to $150,000 from $100,000. He is eligible for that annual retention bonus if he remains Tennessee’s AD on Dec. 31 each yeah throughout his contract.

“Athletics Director Fulmer and I began discussing a contract extension in late 2019, and we put finalizing the extension on hold while we focused on COVID response,” Chancellor Donde Plowman said in a statement to Knox News at the time.

“Having stable leadership of Tennessee Athletics has been important, especially in these uncertain times. Phillip was the first to voluntarily take a 15 percent salary reduction in response to COVID-related budget constraints in Athletics. I appreciate his dedication to Tennessee Athletics, and the University of Tennessee.”

Fulmer’s contract extension increased his buyout. If Tennessee had fired Fulmer, it would owe him 50% of the salary remaining on his deal.

Former chancellor Beverly Davenport fired John Currie and appointed Fulmer athletic director on Dec. 1, 2017. Davenport was fired in May 2018 before Plowman took over in June 2019.

Six days after taking the reigns of the athletic department at his alma mater, he finalized a deal to make Pruitt the 26th head coach in the storied history of the Tennessee football program.

Fulmer  hired head coaches for volleyball (Eve Rackham), men’s golf (Brennan Webb) and Tennessee’s storied Lady Vols basketball program (Kellie Harper). He also came to terms on new or extended contracts for several other coaches—including 2019 Naismith National Coach of the Year Rick Barnes.

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