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Nine candidates who could be Tennessee’s next Athletic Director

Photo Credit: Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee is in need of a new athletic director in the wake of the announcement that Phillip Fulmer would soon be retiring. In conjunction with Jeremy Pruitt being fired after three seasons in charge, Fulmer will step down once his successor is named.

The developments with Fulmer and Pruitt come on the heals of an investigation that discovered multiple Level 1 and Level 2 violations. It didn’t help that Pruitt’s third season on the job resulted in a disappointing 3-7 season. Tennessee lost seven of its last eight games after beginning the season 2-0. Each loss this season was by double-digits and UT lost five home games by an average of 22 points.

Here is our list of names that Tennessee could potentially hire to be the next athletic director:

East Carolina AD Jon Gilbert

Gilbert is the likely leader in the clubhouse at the beginning of Tennessee’s search for a new athletic director. He’s in his third year at ECU after serving as executive senior associate athletics director at Tennessee from 2011-2018. Gilbert worked under former UT AD Dave Hart and was responsible for different facets of day-to-day department of athletics operations. His role included leadership duties across the department from strategic planning and management, to external operations and academic affairs.

Gilbert is extremely close with Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes. They both graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina and Gilbert’s son, Kent, is a walk-on with the basketball team. Barnes was a big fan of Gilbert while he was in Knoxville.

After lettering on the football team at Lenoir-Rhyne, Gilbert earned a master’s degree in sport administration at Eastern Kentucky while working as a graduate assistant football coach. His football background would likely help him hire a new coach at Tennessee. Gilbert did so upon arriving at ECU, as he hired successful FCS head coach Mike Houston from James Madison.

UAB AD Mark Ingram

It would be shocking if Ingram didn’t receive an interview. He was a long-snapper for the Vols in the mid-90’s, playing alongside Peyton Manning before earning his master’s degree from UT in sports administration. He then joined UT’s athletic department, serving as an assistant director of development.

After serving as an Assistant Athletics Director for Development at the University of Georgia for two years and Assistant Athletics Director for Development at the University of Missouri, he returned to Tennessee in 2007 as senior associate athletics director. He was responsible for the planning and strategy of the department’s Capital Campaign that raised $336 million during his tenure.

Ingram’s most impressive work has come during stints at Temple and UAB. At Temple, Ingram was responsible for hiring current Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. He then brought UAB’s football program back from the dead alongside Bill Clark while hiring former Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy to be the Blazers’ basketball coach.

Good luck finding a person with a better resume that fits Tennessee the way Ingram does.

ETSU AD Scott Carter

Carter is yet another great option for Tennessee to consider for athletic director. The former ETSU football standout was named the director of athletics at his alma mater in 2017 and has done a tremendous job during his time in charge. Carter played fullback and was a team captain for the ETSU football team from 1998 to 2002 before going on to spend 10 years working in the athletic department at Tennessee. He then returned to ETSU in the winter of 2014.

Funny enough, Carter was teammates with Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell in college, who played quarterback for the Bucs.

Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart

Barnhart is the most established athletic director that could be considered by the Vols. He has worked in athletic departments for nearly 40 years which included a stop in Knoxville from 1986-1998. He also worked at Oregon State (1998-2002), SMU (1983-86), Oregon (1983) and San Diego State (1982-83).

He became athletic director at Kentucky in 2002 and has done a tremendous job in Lexington. It would be quite the power move if Tennessee could hire Barnhart away from Kentucky, who is widely respected by his peers. The Vols have made runs at him in the past. Would he be willing to deal with all of UT’s drama when he already has it made at Kentucky? Doubtful.

Austin Peay AD Gerald Harrison

Harrison is yet another potential candidate who has deep ties to Tennessee. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UT before serving in the athletic department in various roles for nearly a decade. Harrison was Director of High School Relations under Phillip Fulmer from 2005-07 after he served as the Director of Community Relations from 2001-2004 after graduating.

Harrison eventually moved on from Tennessee to serve in various capacities at Duke. He spent 10 years in Durham and his arrival coincided with David Cutcliffe’s, who has been a big advocate of Harrison’s. Austin Peay hired Harrison on July 30, 2018. His impact has been immediate in Clarksville, as the football team and men’s basketball program has flourished recently.

Tennessee State AD Mikki Allen

Allen is also a current athletic director with ties to Tennessee. He was appointed athletic director at Tennessee State this past summer after 11 years in sports administration at Tennessee. He created a comprehensive development and transitional assistance program for Tennessee football student-athletes to help guide football student-athletes from enrollment through their transition to post-football professional careers.

The Murfreesboro, Tenn. native received his degree from Tennessee in 2001 while lettering for fours years on the football team. Allen was a member of the 1998 National Championship team and played for a short time in the NFL.

Brad Lampley, Partner in Charge, Adams & Reese

Lampley is the first name that comes up when not discussing current athletic directors. He doesn’t have any experience in sports administration, but is well-respected by his peers through his political aspirations and as a member of Tennessee’s Board of Trustees.

He will also likely have Manning in his corner. Manning is rumored to be heavily involved with everything going on and Lampley was roommates with Manning in college while playing football as an offensive lineman. Lampley’s son, Jackson, currently plays along the offensive line on the football team.

It would not at all be surprising to see Lampley emerge as a legitimate candidate. He would be a good hire, too, if Tennessee chose to go that route, as he would be able to bring all of those involved in the dysfunction together.

Former Vol defensive back Charles Davis

Davis is an interesting name to monitor. The former standout defensive back on Tennessee’s 1985 Sugar Bowl team loves his alma mater deeply and has always been willing to help out anyway possible. He is currently one of the best NFL broadcasters CBS has to offer and may ultimately decide to continue to enjoy his current job rather than deal with all of the drama at Tennessee.

Unlike Lampley, Davis does have some experience under his belt dating back to his time at Stanford. He would be able to unite Tennessee the way it needs to be as he is well-respected by all.

Tennessee Deputy Athletics Director Reid Sigmon

Tennessee’s Deputy Athletics Director and Chief Operating Officer may have a sneaky chance of being promoted. Sigmon has been a key piece to UT’s sports administration and likely doesn’t get enough credit for the job he has done behind the scenes. He manages the day-to-day operations of the athletic department and serves as the sport administrator for men’s basketball, while also serving as liaison to the university’s Office of the General Counsel and Senior Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance.

Sigmon came to Tennessee after serving as the College Football Playoff Chief Financial Officer for four years. The North Carolina native previously worked at Kansas State from 2009-13 and also has NFL experience under his belt.

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