The silence may have been coincidental, but it spoke volumes.
When asked if he had spoken to Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn and former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, new Tennessee AD John Currie said nothing. Perhaps there was a bad connection during Currie’s interview on WGOW-AM in Chattanooga. But it seemed more like Currie just didn’t want to answer the question.
Finally, Currie had an answer that didn’t really answer much. Currie seemed reticent to say that he had spoken with Fulmer and Blackburn, who were both candidates for the athletic director position.
“We’ve got great relationships and friendships that will continue to move forward,” he said.
In fact, that’s not completely forthcoming. Multiple sources say Currie has indeed spoken to Blackburn, but the Currie-Fulmer relationship isn’t so peachy.
It has been widely reported that Currie was involved in helping fire Fulmer in 2008. That, along with Fulmer hoping to get the UT athletic director job, surely doesn’t sit well with Fulmer, a UT alum. The Currie-Fulmer relationship is understandably strained.
After he was fired, Fulmer didn’t feel comfortable being around UT’s athletic department as long as then-athletic director Mike Hamilton was in charge. When Hamilton resigned in 2011, Fulmer was soon back around. Now it seems history is repeating itself since Currie was Hamilton’s main confidant.
UT is working on nearly 30 years of having a sad divide between two of its most successful coaches in history. Johnny Majors felt betrayed by Fulmer and the administration, so Majors was nowhere to be seen around UT’s football program until Fulmer was fired. Fulmer followed suit until Hamilton resigned.
Now, the same could happen again. Fulmer certainly feels Currie was involved in his firing, and likely betrayed by the disjointed hiring process to find the Vols’ next athletic director. Some have even reported that Fulmer believed he had the job just days before Currie’s announcement.
There are two reasons for Currie to mend the relationship with Fulmer – if that’s even possible. First, Fulmer can be a valuable fund-raiser. Second, it’s just the right thing to do.
Fulmer deserves to be a part of UT’s athletic department. Anything short of that is a failure on Currie’s part. Currie must know that.
“We’re going to continue to have great relationships with both of those folks,” Currie said of Fulmer and Blackburn. “They’re part of the Tennessee family. David and I are colleagues. He’s done a wonderful job at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. We’ll continue to have great relationships moving forward.”
I hope Currie is right, but given recent history, I doubt Fulmer will be around much.
(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)
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