The Tennessee Vols athletics program’s budget and its Directors’ Cup standing show the Volunteers are on a roll under athletic director Phillip Fulmer.
Does Phillip Fulmer have the magic touch with the Tennessee Vols, or does he always take over positions at just the right time? After all, when he joined as a player, his teams went 2-1 against the Alabama Crimson Tide, won an SEC title and had three top 10 finishes.
Then, as a head coach, he took over a program that had enjoyed four straight top 25 seasons, which included back to back SEC titles in 1989 and 1990. But he took it to the next level with that 45-5 run from 1995 to 1998 and the national championship.
Well, now he’s taken over the athletic department. And with his first full year in the books, the program as a whole is in a better place than it’s been in for a while. Success is coming in the field of play and in the budget.
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The Directors’ Cup standings for 2018-2019 placed UT at No. 25. That is the school’s highest ranking in eight years, which dates back to the start of this decade. Fulmer didn’t hire Rick Barnes or Tony Vitello, whose programs played huge roles in that, but it’s crazy that the Vols were able to make that jump under him.
At the same time, reports are now showing that the Tennessee Vols athletic budget is expected to be back in the black. They had an operating revenue of $135.3 million and spent about $134.9 million. So they are running a surplus while climbing the ranks of athletic programs.
That number comes a year after they operated at a net loss of $6.5 million and were No. 35 in the Directors’ Cup standings. So a 10-spot jump and nearly $7 million increase in net revenue is a heck of an improvement.
It also does beg the question: What is it about Fulmer’s magic touch? He seems to always take over things at just the perfect time, and now he’s doing it with UT athletics as a whole. Whether or not that continues with the Tennessee Vols into the future remains to be seen.
Fulmer’s hires of Jeremy Pruitt, Kellie Harper and Eve Rackham for volleyball are all going to be things that reflect on him. Rackham already looks like a success, and Pruitt, the key hire of the bunch, has the fans motivated. What happens with Harper for the women’s basketball program will also be a huge reflection on Fulmer.
But what’s clear is, at least for right now, he’s overseeing an athletic department on the rise. To have this finish in the Directors’ Cup standing and be operating in the black means he’s succeeding in the two specific areas an AD is judged on. And this was just after his first year.