Firing John Currie likely adds to mounting cost of Tennessee coaching search

Firing John Currie likely adds to mounting cost of Tennessee coaching search

Reports: John Currie fired as Tennessee athletic director

December 1st, 2017 by David Cobb in Breaking News

University of Tennessee Athletic Director, John Currie speaks during a press conference announcing the firing of head football coach, Butch Jones, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Knoxville, Tenn. (Wade Payne/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

Photo by Wade Payne

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UPDATE: KNOXVILLE — Firing athletic director John Currie could add to the University of Tennessee's growing tab to execute a football coaching search.

Currie, fired Friday, is owed $100,000 per month for the remaining time on his contract. 

There are roughly 51 months remaining on Currie's contract, which means Tennessee would owe Currie $5.1 million, unless the school fired him with cause. University of Tennessee-Knoxville chancellor Beverly Davenport, who hired Currie less than a year ago, is scheduled to meet with media on the UT campus at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon.

A potential Currie buyout comes as fired football coach Butch Jones and his staff is owed a buyout of around $13 million. The amount owed to Jones and his staff will reduced by the salaries they receive at their next jobs. But to this point, Jones' name has not publicly surfaced in connection with other college football coaching vacancies. 

Then there is the possibly that Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano could pursue litigation against the university after he nearly became Tennessee's football coach this past Sunday.

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Schiano was never introduced as coach after Tennessee backed out amid outrage from fans and other university stakeholders. But Currie did reportedly sign a memorandum of understanding with Schiano.

That document was never signed by Davenport, according to her spokesperson.

A 2017 analysis by the Wall Street Journal ranked Tennessee as the nation's ninth-most valuable college football program, while a similar piece published in May by Penn Live ranked Tennessee as the second-richest football program in the country.

The athletic department appeared financially stable as Jones' job security came into question, and Currie received Board of Trustees approval last month for phase one of a $340 million Neyland Stadium renovation this week.

During a presentation to the trustees, Currie expressed that fundraising for the project was ahead of schedule. 

But with the university now seemingly in turmoil and Currie out just eight months into his tenure, that project, and the task of raising funds for it, will be left to someone else.

Football ticket sales account for 21.7 percent of the athletic department's $134 million budget, according to an overview of the 2017-18 budget. Those tickets are the department's second-largest source of income behind SEC/NCAA distributions, a category that includes money from television-rights deals and comprises 29.9 percent of the department's budget. Gifts to the Tennessee Fund are the third-largest category at 21.2 percent

Gifts to the Tennessee Fund could be a category that suffers if fans and boosters decide the program's direction is unsatisfactory.

Reports from media outlets on Friday indicated Currie's firing came after he was prepared to offer Washington State head coach Mike Leach the football coaching position at Tennessee. Associated Press sources confirmed that Currie met with Leach in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The meeting with Leech came after Dave Doeren elected to stay at North Carolina State instead of coming to Tennessee on Thursday.

Tennessee's interest in Doeren came after the Volunteers talks with Purdue's Jeff Brohm fell through on Wednesday. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy rejected Tennessee on Tuesday. Duke's David Cutcliffe also told Tennessee he was not interested, according to an ESPN report.

The wave of rejections followed a Sunday fiasco in which Tennessee athletic director John Currie attempted to hire Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, a decision that was met with intense fan backlash.

Currie never fired or hired a football coach in his eight-plus years as athletic director at Kansas State.

In his eighth month at Tennessee, he tried to hire several. Instead, he got fired.

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or follow him on Twitter at @DavidWCobb.

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ORIGINAL STORY: KNOXVILLE — Tennessee athletic director John Currie was fired on Friday morning, according to multiple reports.

Local 8 News in Knoxville first reported Currie's firing on Friday morning. ESPN's Chris Low also reported that Currie had been fired.

Currie started as Tennessee's athletic director on April 1. The university is in the midst of a football coaching search that has been tumultuous

This is a developing story.


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