The Tennessee Vols are having a terrible November.
First, there are the on-field struggles that third-year coach Jeremy Pruitt’s squad is experiencing (the Vols haven’t won since October 3).
Then there’s the recent news that eight of Tennessee’s assistants didn’t accept pay cuts during the pandemic (former Vols Jay Graham and Tee Martin were Pruitt’s only assistants to accept a salary reduction to help offset financial losses in the athletic department).
And now there’s a report that athletic director Phillip Fulmer received a two-year extension in May.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported the extension on Wednesday.
Fulmer’s base salary isn’t increasing — and he took a voluntary 15 percent pay cut to help UT cope with losses during the pandemic — but the optics of this are still terrible.
For starters, Fulmer, though a beloved figure at Tennessee, hasn’t really done anything to earn an extension. The football program is still struggling. Pruitt’s seat is getting warm and there isn’t any sign of improvement on the horizon.
Football is the star of the show at Tennessee. If the program isn’t improving, it eventually falls on the AD.
However, even if the extension were warranted, it would still be a bad look for UT.
Giving an athletic director an extension during the height of the pandemic is incredibly tone-deaf. Tennessee obviously knew the news wouldn’t be received well, which is why there wasn’t an official announcement.
But they still made the deal happen anyway.
Look, even if Tennessee is happy with Fulmer, they should’ve waited on this. Fulmer’s contract wasn’t due to expire until December 31, 2021. There should’ve been no rush to make this happen.
With millions of Americans desiring job security, it’s not a good look that an already wealthy man was able to get some behind-the-scenes job security when many were losing jobs.
Tennessee is continuing to make it tough for fans to trust that the football program will ever be fixed.
Fulmer receiving this extension ultimately has nothing to do with whether or not the Vols will find success on the football field. But it provides another example of why the program has struggled for more than a decade.
Great football programs are backed by great athletic departments.
Tennessee football has been subpar for a long time because it’s backed by a subpar athletic department.
I’m not sure how anyone could see it any other way.
Featured image via Randy Sartin/USA TODAY