(UT Athletic Department release) University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport announced Thursday that Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer has signed a four-year contract. Fulmer took over as UT’s Director of Athletics on Dec. 1, 2017.
“Phillip has been a great partner over the last four months and I commend him for the work he has done with our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” Davenport said. “Phillip has been connected to the University of Tennessee and its athletics program for more than 40 years and he understands the expectations we have for our athletics department.
“He is surrounded by a very knowledgeable staff that is deeply committed to the success of our student-athletes. I look forward to our continued partnership.”
Fulmer has wasted no time during his four months at the helm of his alma mater, ushering in two new head coaches to Rocky Top. Six days after his initial appointment as athletics director, Fulmer finalized a deal to make Jeremy Pruitt the 26th head coach in the storied history of the Tennessee football program. Then on Jan. 10, Fulmer introduced Eve Rackham—a former AVCA Division I Assistant Coach of the Year—as UT’s new volleyball coach.
Fulmer also secured a contract extension for coach Brian Pensky, who led the women’s soccer program to a 15-4-2 record last fall and a berth in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I am very grateful to Chancellor Davenport for the opportunity to continue to serve our outstanding university and its proud legacy,” Fulmer said. “The positive momentum established by our talented student-athletes, dedicated coaches, excellent staff, our great alumni and fans has united us all. I am excited to work alongside them as we push forward in pursuit of excellence in all sports.”
Another early highlight of Fulmer’s tenure came when UT’s men’s basketball program—led by SEC Coach of the Year Rick Barnes and SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams—stormed to a share of the SEC regular-season championship. The Vols went on to appear in the SEC Tournament final before advancing to their first NCAA Tournament since 2014.
“We are all so much better when we are aligned and pushing ahead together,” Fulmer added. “A perfect example of turning challenges into opportunities is our men’s basketball team this past season. When you care for each other, work really hard and no one cares who gets the credit, lots can be accomplished.”
Fulmer’s days on Rocky Top date to 1968 when he enrolled at UT and joined the football team as an offensive guard. He became a co-captain and went on to lead the Volunteers to a football national championship as a head coach, ultimately earning first-ballot induction into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame.
Fulmer’s 17 years at the helm of the Volunteers program produced a record of 152 wins and 52 losses. At the conclusion of Fulmer’s final season, he was the dean of SEC football coaches and no active coach with at least a decade in Division I-A had a better winning percentage (.744).
Under his tutelage, the Volunteers were the first to win the Bowl Championship Series National Championship in 1998 and made five appearances in the SEC Championship game over his last 11 seasons. Fulmer was named SEC Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year in 1998.