Phillip Fulmer returns to UT as special adviser to the president [video]

KNOXVILLE - Phillip Fulmer talked to his family and some former players and former assistants.

He also consulted University of Tennessee trustees, both past and present.

Then there were his peers - former college football coaches Steve Spurrier, Bill Battle and R.C. Slocum - who have taken on similar roles at universities where they once coached.

Fulmer even traveled to play golf with 84-year-old former Tennessee football coach and athletic director Doug Dickey before making the commitment.

In the end, with UT system president Joe DiPietro envisioning a new way for Fulmer to help the university, "it was kind of a no-brainer," the College Football Hall of Fame coach said.

DiPietro announced Tuesday the hiring of Fulmer as special adviser to the president for community, athletics and university relations.

For a university plagued with tumult since Fulmer's firing as football coach in 2008, the move serves as a public display of unity after the administration passed him over in choosing John Currie as athletic director earlier this year.

"I have absolutely no animosity for not being named athletic director," Fulmer said at a news conference to announce his new role. "I simply felt compelled to try that position because of my love and passion for the university."

That same love and passion for UT led the Winchester, Tenn., native to accept the part-time advisory job. Fulmer will be paid $100,000 annually to serve as an ambassador for the university under DiPietro's direction.

The role could mean representing the university to the Tennessee General Assembly, working on fundraising projects or consulting with athletic programs in the university system. Whatever the job winds up entailing, Fulmer wants to help the university leadership and community unite.

"We've had such dysfunctional things happen to us in the last few years with coaches and all those things," Fulmer said. "(Football coach) Butch (Jones) has got us close, but that's not just about Butch. It's about being the best in all sports and the best of all the universities in all departments that we can possibly be. It's been difficult. Everyone has to pull in the same direction. I can help that."

Fulmer, 66, began serving on the President's Council last year and formed a relationship with DiPietro there. A growing respect between the two hatched the possibility of Fulmer returning to the university in an advisory capacity.

"Through that year, I really got to observe and know Coach a lot better," DiPietro said. "He had a deep, abiding love for the University of Tennessee collectively."

Discussions of a position for Fulmer were put on hold during the search for a new athletic director. Fulmer's name came up as a possibility for the job, though he said it was made clear that he did not fit the criteria.

"I had good interviews, and everyone heard my thoughts," Fulmer said. "John Currie had familiarity with UT and fit that criteria. He is certainly working hard, and there is much he has to do. Since his appointment as athletic director, we have had two or three opportunities to share and discuss. I see John has really grown and matured as an athletic director."

Fulmer, asked about Currie's strengths as an athletic director, said to "ask me again in a year."

"I haven't been around him that much," Fulmer said. "He was an assistant when he was here, and he's got a pretty good development and fundraising reputation. He's a good communicator. Those are two good places to start."

Currie worked for former athletic director Mike Hamilton when Hamilton fired Fulmer in 2008. Fulmer did not attend Currie's introduction as AD.

Currie did not elaborate when asked Tuesday if there awkward moments as the two became reacquainted in recent months. But he had plenty of praise for Fulmer, saying the former coach hosted Currie at his home "a couple times."

"Coach Fulmer never stopped trying to help the University of Tennessee," Currie said. "He's always cared and loved and sacrificed for the university. This furthers the example of leadership he provides for the athletics program and the university and the state.

"I was excited when Dr. DiPietro told me had initiated those conversations," Currie said. "I was anxious to make sure Coach Fulmer understood that I would love for him to be in this kind of position."

Fulmer said the role will allow him to continue spending time with his family and devoting time to other projects he has started after his coaching career - helping coach his grandchildren's youth baseball team among them.

As for all the feedback he received from those he went to for advice, Fulmer said, "Everyone was supportive, encouraging and said it was a natural progression for the good of all concerned."

Contact David Cobb at