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Texts, emails detail John Currie calling Tennessee fans ‘wacko,’ ‘broken WiFi’ that preceded ouster

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Not surprisingly, Tennessee’s circus of a search for a new head football coach was just as wild on the inside as it looked from the outside.

Multiple media outlets Friday released text messages, direct messages and emails pertaining to John Currie, who began the search to replace Butch Jones as Tennessee’s athletic director but was suspended partway through the process as part of what some described as an athletic department coup.  One of the more bizarre exchanges came during the infamous Greg Schiano imbroglio, with Currie referring to the Volunteer fan base as “wacko” and simultaneously elicits some “PR” help from USA Today sportswriter Dan Wolken.

Jones was fired on Nov. 12 of last year.  In the 25 days between that firing and the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt Dec. 7, Tennessee replaced Currie with Phillip Fulmer as athletic director and were reportedly turned down by Mike LeachDave DoerenKevin SumlinJeff BrohmMike Gundy and David Cutcliffe.  It was the pursuit of Leach that turned out to be the tipping point for the end of Currie’s tenure in Knoxville.

On Nov. 30, Currie, still in pursuit of the North Carolina State coach, flew out to Los Angeles for a meeting with the Washington State head coach after the two had apparently reached a verbal agreement in talks leading up to the face-to-face.  In fact, Leach’s agent, Gary O’Hagan, stated in a subsequent message to UT general counsel Matthew Scoggins that “[w]e negotiated earnestly and in good faith and feel we had reached and agreed to a deal.”

However, on the flight out to LA, Currie was out of touch with his superiors for a period of roughly six hours, which the then-AD blamed on a WiFi outage on the plane.

“I am very sorry for the stress I caused by the Wifi outage on the Delta flight,” Currie wrote in an email. “I had every intention of being able to communicate and that we could still get (Dave Doeren) deal done while I was traveling but without an immediate answer, the negative social media assaults against him and and the media news of their negotiating with NCSU, I was concerned that I needed to be in position to meet with other candidate[s] including Coach Leach who’s (sic) was in LA recruiting.”

Another missive stated that “[t]he plane I was on had broken WiFi. I am so sorry.”

From WBIR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Knoxville:

At 4:14 on the afternoon of November 30, Currie sent a group text saying, “[Leach] wants the job, but I have not offered or discussed terms with him. He has to leave for a visit at 2 (Pacific time). Can someone please call me back?”

At 4:26 p.m., UTK Chancellor Beverly Davenport texted Curried saying, “We need you to come back to Knoxville tonight.”

Currie responded, “What should I tell coach Leach?”

“Tell him you have nothing more you can talk with him about,” Davenport replied.

In response to Currie’s emailed apology for the stress his being out of contact caused, Davenport wrote that “[a]fter finally connecting, you informed me that you were in California heading into a meeting with Mike Leach. This was the first I had heard of this meeting.”

“Because of the confusion from earlier in the day with the other candidate [Doeren], I asked you not to pursue any discussions about employment with any additional candidates,” Davenport continued. “I would like to meet with you in my office at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow [Dec. 1] to continue this discussion.”

It was at the Dec. 1 meeting that Currie was informed he had been suspended.  Thursday, UT announced that it had reached a $2.5 million “amicable resolution” with Currie, who had been suspended with pay since that first day of December.

In addition to the previously reported candidates who turned down the Vols, former LSU head coach Les Miles and current Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson had expressed interest in the opening, messages showed  Additionally, former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, who took over as interim head coach after Jones’ firing, sent a text to Currie in which he expressed interest in the full-time job.

And, of course, the text was sent in all-caps.

JOHN I HOPE YOU DO KNOW I WOULD LIKE TO BE YOUR HEAD FOOTBALL COACH I DO KNOW THE ENVIRONMENT WE LIVE IN AND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AT TENNESSEE!

If that doesn’t perfectly encapsulate Tennessee’s sideshow search for a coach, nothing does.

Alabama announces future home-and-home with Notre Dame

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The reports have officially come to fruition.

Late last month, it was reported that Alabama was working on scheduling a home-and-home series with Notre Dame.  Nearly a month later, the Crimson Tide confirmed that it has indeed reached a scheduling agreement with their counterparts with the Fighting Irish.

The Crimson Tide will travel to South Bend Sept. 2, 2028, with the Fighting Irish heading to Tuscaloosa on Sept. 1 of the following season.

“It doesn’t get more tradition-rich than Alabama and Notre Dame when it comes to college football,” a statement from UA athletic director Greg Byrne began. “What a great opportunity this is for our program and for our fans to kick off the 2028 and 2029 seasons.”

The two storied football programs have met seven times previously, with the last coming in the 2012 championship game.  The Tide won that last matchup, but trail in the series 5-2.  Including the BCS title game, three of the meetings have come in the postseason, with the other two being the 1973 Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl following the 1974 season.

The 2029 game will mark the Fighting Irish’s first-ever appearance at Bryant-Denny Stadium as their two previous regular-season games against the Crimson Tide were played at Legion Field in Birmingham (1980, 1986).  Alabama has played Notre Dame in South Bend twice (1976, 1987).

“We are excited to be able to add a home-and-home series with a team like Notre Dame,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Alabama and Notre Dame represent two of the most storied programs in college football history. What a great opportunity for our team and our fans to be able to witness these teams play in two of the sport’s most iconic venues in Tuscaloosa and South Bend.”

Tennessee announces four-year deal for AD Phillip Fulmer

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Earlier this month, it was reported that Tennessee and Phillip Fulmer were closing in on a long-term deal.  Two weeks later, those reports have come to fruition.

Thursday morning, UT announced that it has reached an agreement on a four-year contract with Fulmer to continue in his role as athletic director.  Fulmer was named as acting athletic director on Dec. 1, not long after John Currie was fired from the post.  His first big move came less than a week after being tabbed for the role when Jeremy Pruitt was hired as the Volunteers’ new head football coach.

Fulmer’s contract will reportedly average $1 million annually, with the opportunity to earn up to $300,000 in bonuses as well.

“Phillip has been a great partner over the last four months and I commend him for the work he has done with our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” chancellor Beverly Davenport said in a statement. “Phillip has been connected to the University of Tennessee and its athletics program for more than 40 years and he understands the expectations we have for our athletics department.

“He is surrounded by a very knowledgeable staff that is deeply committed to the success of our student-athletes. I look forward to our continued partnership.”

A native of Winchester, Tenn., Fulmer played his college football for the Volunteers in the late sixties.  He began his coaching career at UT as a grad assistant from 1972-73, then returned as offensive line coach in 1980.  After spending 13 seasons as an assistant, he took over as the Volunteers head coach in 1992 — Johnny Majors has always alleged Fulmer was behind his ouster — and spent 17 seasons leading his alma mater.

In that span, Fulmer went 152-52, winning a pair of SEC titles and the 1998 national championship.

“I am very grateful to Chancellor Davenport for the opportunity to continue to serve our outstanding university and its proud legacy,” Fulmer said. “The positive momentum established by our talented student-athletes, dedicated coaches, excellent staff, our great alumni and fans has united us all. I am excited to work alongside them as we push forward in pursuit of excellence in all sports.”

Jalen Hurts’ dad: if son loses Alabama QB battle, ‘he’d be biggest free agent in college football history’

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For the first time, the rumors surrounding the future of the quarterback situation at Alabama have some real legs.

Ever since true freshman Tua Tagovailoa replaced two-year starter Jalen Hurts in the national championship game, it’s been thought that the former would replace the latter as Alabama’s No. 1 quarterback moving forward.  Even with Tagovailoa battling a hand injury since very early in the spring, most observers are still of the opinion that the rising sophomore will win the job and be under center when Alabama opens the 2018 season against Louisville.

And, should that come to fruition?  Hurts’ father, Averion Hurts, very heavily intimated to Matt Hayes of Bleacher Report that his son, 26-2 as the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide, would transfer if he loses a job he’s held for most of the past two seasons.

Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen—and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play…”

Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?

He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.

Given the rumors swirling around Hurts, the Crimson Tide has been in pursuit of at least one graduate transfer at the position this offseason.  East Carolina quarterback Gardner Minshew announced his commitment to UA in February, only to flip a month later to Washington State.

Earlier this month, a terse Saban told the media he has no timeline on making a decision on a starter.

“First of all, I don’t have a time frame. So how could it affect it? You have a time frame. I don’t,” the coach said. “So from your perspective, maybe I should ask you the question. From my perspective, if there is no time frame, how does it affect it? I can’t answer that. But I don’t think any time a player gets hurt at any position that he should be penalized for that.”

Earlier this week, Saban once again indicated that Tagovailoa would likely be a non-participant in this weekend’s spring game, meaning any decision on a starter likely won’t be made until some point during summer camp.

Florida’s Cece Jefferson reportedly out four months after surgery

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One of the most heralded members of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class has hit a medical speedbump.

According to Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun, Cece Jefferson underwent surgery on his right shoulder earlier this week after injuring it during the Gators’ spring game.  As a result of that surgical procedure and the ensuing rehab, the defensive lineman is expected to be sidelined for the next four months.

Such a timeline would see Jefferson returning to on-field football action in mid-August, which would be right in the middle of summer camp.  Whether the lineman would be ready for the start of the 2018 regular season remains to be seen.

Jefferson was a consensus five-star prospect, rated as the No. 2 strongside defensive end in the Class of 2015; the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 7 player overall on 247Sports.com’s composite board.

This past season, Jefferson led the Gators with 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.  After considering early entry into the 2018 NFL draft, the 6-1, 242-pound lineman opted to return to Gainesville for one more season.