Tennessee AD Fulmer rules out return as coach


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer, who led the Vols to a national championship in 1998 as head coach, said Wednesday he has no desire to return to the sideline and that the «coaching chapter of my life is closed.»

Fulmer, 69, made an appearance on the syndicated Vol Calls radio program and also spoke with ESPN.

«We’ve got a good football coach, and I believe in Jeremy Pruitt totally,» Fulmer said. «I have no interest in coaching again and would rather spend that time being a grandfather and doing whatever I can as athletic director in helping Jeremy get this program where we all want it to be. Any talk of me coaching again is just a bunch of rumors.»

The Vols are 1-3 in Pruitt’s second season as coach and are a heavy underdog to No. 3 Georgia at home on Saturday. Tennessee finished 5-7 in Pruitt’s first season.

As the losses have mounted, the chatter that Fulmer might be poised to replace Pruitt has only increased. Fulmer told ESPN he just wanted to set the record straight and that his focus was solely on being the AD at his alma mater and not coaching again.

«I’m way past that point in my life,» Fulmer said. «I love the job I have [as AD] and am committed to seeing this thing through.»

Fulmer was fired as Tennessee’s head coach at the end of the 2008 season following his second losing season in four years, but a year removed from leading the Vols to 10 wins and an SEC championship game appearance.

Since Fulmer’s ouster, Tennessee has had four different head coaches. And if the Vols don’t turn it around this season, they could be looking at their seventh losing season in the last 11 years.

Fulmer, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012, spearheaded the latter part of the coaching search that brought Pruitt to Tennessee in late 2017. Fulmer replaced John Currie as athletic director after Currie was fired following a coaching search that reached unparalleled levels of dysfunction.

Currie tried to hire Greg Schiano, triggering a fan revolt, and the university then backtracked. Numerous other candidates proceeded to turn down the job, and Currie — now the Wake Forest AD — was eventually replaced by Fulmer, who hired Pruitt.

Fulmer said nobody at Tennessee, including Pruitt, was pleased with the Vols’ start this season, but reiterated his «total support» for Pruitt and that nobody expected it to be a quick fix when Pruitt arrived last year.

«Jeremy Pruitt is as bought in as anybody could possibly be bought in at the University of Tennessee,» Fulmer said.

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