Phillip Fulmer signs 4-year athletic director contract with UT

Tennessee Athletics Director and former Tennessee head football coach Phillip Fulmer introduces new Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Calvin Mattheis)

KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee has given athletic director Phillip Fulmer a four-year contract worth $900,000 per year.

Fulmer, who has been serving as AD since December, began his tenure making $575,000 annually under an agreement that did not have a defined length. Under the new contract announced Thursday, Fulmer will receive back pay for the difference between his initial salary and the new salary.

photo Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer congratulates the Tennessee mens basketball team after defeating Georgia 66-61 for a share of the SEC Championship during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Crystal LoGiudice)

Since Fulmer's appointment to the position, the university announced a $2.5 million settlement with former AD John Currie, who was also making $900,000 annually.

Fulmer will receive an additional $100,000 retention bonus for each year of his contract that he remains in place.

"I appreciate Chancellor (Beverley) Davenport's support in that, because to me, the stability of what we're trying to build and the timeliness of everything would have been really hard to do in just a couple of years," Fulmer said Thursday.

Davenport appointed Fulmer after Currie made an unapproved trip to the West Coast to discuss Tennessee's football head coaching position with Washington State's Mike Leach. The visit to Leach came in the wake of other failed attempts to hire a replacement for Butch Jones. Currie tried to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano before the deal was nixed amid backlash from fans and other university stakeholders.

A week after his appointment, Fulmer hired Jeremy Pruitt, who will coach the Volunteers in Saturday's 2 p.m. spring game at Neyland Stadium. Fulmer, who coached the Vols to a national championship in the 1998 season, had been serving as a special adviser to university president Joe DiPietro before being named athletic director.

Fulmer has been a regular on the sideline at football practices this spring and was also with the men's basketball team in Dallas during its NCAA tournament appearance.

"I think anybody that knows me reasonably well can tell I'm excited about doing this," Fulmer said. "I was excited about doing it before. I have to balance that. I don't want to be here 18 hours a day like I did coaching. There's good people around. But I'm going to spend the time and the effort to get it where I want it to be. I'm committed to that."

Among the items next on Fulmer's agenda could be the announcement of revamped contracts for men's basketball coach Rick Barnes and women's basketball coach Holly Warlick. Barnes, 63, was the SEC coach of the year. Warlick, 59, has come under fire from fans the past few seasons. The Lady Vols lost a home game in the second round of the NCAA tournament to end their 2017-18 season.

"I'm not one of those that are going to play that out in the newspaper," Fulmer said. "We'll let you know when it's finalized, and we'll get that done."

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