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UTK athletic director Currie placed on paid leave, Fulmer named AD

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, file photo, University of Tennessee Athletic Director, John Currie speaks during an NCAA college football press conference in Knoxville, Tenn., announcing the firing of head football coach Butch Jones. Tennessee has scheduled a Friday afternoon Dec. 1, 2017, news conference and is expected to provide an update on what has been a tumultuous coaching search. (Wade Payne/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, File)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WTVC) -

Chancellor Beverly Davenport and newly appointed athletic director Phillip Fulmer held a news conference to discuss recent leadership changes in the football program.

You can watch the entire conference below:

NewsChannel 9's Kayla Strayer was in Knoxville covering the conference and what Vols fans think of the season.

WATE in Knoxville reports that Fulmer's contract calls for a $575,000 annual salary.



UPDATE (3:28pm): The University of Tennessee-Knoxville announced Friday afternoon that John Currie has been placed on leave with pay, and former head coach Phillip Fulmer has been appointed as athletics director.

In a statement, Chancellor Davenport says she took these steps in the best interest of the university.

"Phillip Fulmer will begin serving as athletic director effective immediately," Davenport said.

"I am confident that Phillip understands the need to support our student-athletes and our commitment to excellence in all athletic programs. I appreciate his willingness to serve during this critical time."


PREVIOUSLY:

WVLT, the CBS affiliate in Knoxville, reported Friday morning that University of Tennessee-Knoxville athletic director John Currie has been fired, according to unnamed sources.

NewsChannel 9 is working to independently confirm this report.

ESPN is also reporting the news.

WTLT also has a live camera from outside a building on campus where Currie is reportedly meeting with university officials:

Currie has been the target of criticism from Vol Nation for the past week, after fans rejected his choice of Greg Schiano to be the Vols' next head football coach.

Washington State head football coach Mike Leach was reportedly working on a deal with the school to lead the Vols.

Tennessee was turned down by Purdue's Jeff Brohm and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy.

Currie was hired by UT in February and started his duties in April.

He was the former director of athletics at Kansas State and began working with the school in 2009.

We have a crew on the way to Knoxville.

Former athletic director Mike Hamilton forced out Phillip Fulmer in 2008. This marks Tennessee's fourth coaching search since Fulmer's exit.

Fulmer had publicly expressed his interest in the athletic director position, but Currie was chosen as Hart's replacement instead.

Tennessee announced in June that Fulmer had been named a special adviser for community, athletics and university relations. The part-time position pays Fulmer $100,000 annually and was seen as a way to unite a fan base divided over whether Fulmer should have been chosen as athletic director.

Tennessee fired Butch Jones last month and was close to hiring Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano on Sunday. That deal fell through amid a public backlash. Currie met Thursday with Washington State coach Mike Leach in Los Angeles and flew back to Knoxville early Friday morning, according to people familiar with the meeting. Leach was the latest in a long list of candidates connected to Tennessee over the last week.

Reports linked Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and Purdue's Jeff Brohm to Tennessee's vacancy, but both stayed put. North Carolina State's Dave Doeren agreed to a new contract Thursday after speaking with Tennessee officials.

Tennessee is conducting this search after possibly the most disappointing season in school history.

After being ranked in the Top 25 at the start of the year, Tennessee went 4-8 to set a school record for losses. The Vols were winless in Southeastern Conference competition for the first time since the league formed in 1933.

The public nature of Tennessee's inability to find a coach frustrated a fan base already angry about the Vols' poor 2017 season. People chanted "Fire Currie" on a handful of occasions Monday night during a wrestling show on campus and again Wednesday night during the Tennessee men's basketball team's victory over Mercer.

Currie just took over as Tennessee's athletic director in April after Dave Hart stepped down. Currie agreed to a five-year contract worth at least $900,000 annually. According to terms of Currie's contract, the school would owe him $5.5 million if he is fired now without cause.

At his introductory news conference , Currie boldly said that Tennessee "can and should be the very best athletics program in the country."

Currie's familiarity with Tennessee was seen as a selling point when he got hired. Before coming to Kansas State, he worked at Tennessee for about a decade in various capacities, most recently as a chief deputy and adviser to former athletic director Mike Hamilton.

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AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo and AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Depend on us to bring you updates as we get them.

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