John Trembley, the second-longest tenured University of Tennessee coach — next to women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt — and one of UT’s most decorated swimmers, was fired Tuesday for “gross misconduct.”
UT vice chancellor and director of athletics Dave Hart said in a news release that the men’s swimming and diving coach now in his 23rd season was “relieved of his duties” in violation of his contract. Assistant coach Lars Jorgensen will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
Trembley’s contract also stipulates that he “shall not be entitled to further salary, compensation, benefits.” Although the 59-year-old Trembley’s current base salary is not listed in the contract provided to the News Sentinel, he was earning close to $180,000 annually in total compensation.
In a letter from Hart to Trembley with Tuesday’s date, the AD writes that “for reasons we discussed today” he was being terminated from his position “for adequate cause” that is contained in his contract.
Hart cites Article XII, Section E, which defines acts of gross misconduct as “theft or dishonesty; gross insubordination; willful destruction of University property; falsification of records; acts of moral turpitude; reporting for duty under the influence of intoxicants; illegal use, manufacture, possession, distribution, or dispensing of controlled substances or alcohol; disorderly conduct; provoking a fight ... ”
Hart’s letter informs Trembley he has the right to appeal the decision. Options include a review by chancellor Jimmy Cheek or president Joe DiPietro, or request a hearing.
When asked if Hart would answer questions about Trembley, UT said since this is a personal matter, there will be no additional comment or statement.
A message left on Trembley’s cellphone was not returned.
Trembley was named SEC coach of the year in 2011, the sixth time he had been honored (1989, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2001).
His annual base salary at UT was $110,000 in July of 2007, but when his contract was amended at the time, UT elected to give Trembley a 3-percent pay raise on an annual basis. He also earned additional compensation of $10,000 for radio and television and $45,000 for shoe and apparel endorsement.
The contract was extended in October 2009 through June of 2014.
Trembley came to UT in 1971 as the nation’s top swimming prospect. The Vols were undefeated from 1971-74. During an All-America career, Trembly won or was a member of nine NCAA championship efforts.
After graduating from UT, Trembley served five years as an assistant from 1975-79. He became coach at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania from 1980-88 before returning to UT in 1988 as coach replacing legendary Ray Bussard, who retired.
Jorgensen, who is a 1994 graduate and a former UT swimmer, is in his second season on the staff. He joined UT in August 2010 as an interim assistant before being promoted to a full-time assistant on June 30, 2011, assuming the position previously held by Joe Hendee, who died last April.
He previously was coach at Toledo for six years and spent five years as an assistant coach and associate head coach at LSU.
Phil Kaplan is sports editor for the News Sentinel. Follow him on Twitter at twittter.com/philkaplan