After a week of controversy, Phillip Fulmer declined a three-month appointment Friday as a special assistant to University of Tennessee President John Petersen - an appointment that aimed to maintain Fulmer's insurance and retirement benefits while he considers his options after being forced out as UT's head football coach.
The Faculty Senate's president said Fulmer's $12,500-a-month appointment, coming on top of a $6 million payout of his coaching contract, had caused "considerable distress" among faculty members facing the prospect of layoffs and program eliminations because of state revenue shortfalls.
On Monday, Petersen announced Fulmer's appointment, which was to be funded by private donors.
On Tuesday, Petersen called on UT faculty and staff to prepare for a reduction of up to $75 million in state funding.
On Friday, the university released a statement in which Fulmer said, "I am sorry for any confusion, and I appreciate the university allowing me to take time to consider my retirement and insurance options. …
"Today I informed President Petersen that I will not be transitioning to a position in the president's office at this time.
"Instead, I have offered my services to him as an alumni volunteer, helping develop the university's relationships with its supporters. It has always been my goal to do what's right for this great university and bring Tennessee people together, and that's what I will continue to do."
Fulmer had been offered "an existing temporary position that had been left unfilled to give him time to consider his future without severing insurance and retirement benefits with the university," a UT press release stated Friday. The position had been filled by Jack Williams while he transitioned into retirement after serving as vice president for development.
The appointment was to run from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28 and include standard full-time employee benefits. Fulmer's primary role would have been "enhancing and developing strategic relationships on behalf of UT," Petersen said when the appointment was announced.
"I think, under the circumstances, this shows good judgment on the part of Phil Fulmer," John Nolt, UT Faculty Senate president, said Friday. "It was a mistake to have offered that position at a time when they're freezing hiring and imposing budget cuts."
Tennessee fired Fulmer as football coach on Nov. 3 in the middle of UT's second losing season in the last four years.
Under Fulmer's buyout, he will be paid $6 million over 48 months.
"Our announcement earlier this week in response to widespread media reports created some confusion," Petersen said, referring to Monday's news of Fulmer's appointment as a special assistant.
"We had to move quickly to adhere to university retirement policies and deadlines. Under those policies the agreement would not have become final until today," Friday's statement read. "In the days following our announcement, Phillip had the time he needed to consider it further."
Chloe White may be reached at 865-342-6341.