Tennessee athletic director John Currie has parted ways with the university after meeting with school officials, including chancellor Beverly Davenport, on Friday morning, sources confirmed to ESPN.
Currie had been leading a disastrous search for a new football coach. He flew back to Knoxville after interviewing Washington State coach Mike Leach on Thursday in Los Angeles. University officials instructed Currie not to broker a deal with Leach or anybody else prior to returning to campus, sources told ESPN.
Tennessee was close to hiring Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano on Sunday, but the deal fell through due to backlash from fans and supporters. Currie had also courted Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, Duke's David Cutcliffe, NC State's Dave Doeren, Purdue's Jeff Brohm and new Florida coach Dan Mullen.
Currie, previously the athletic director at Kansas State, had been on the job at Tennessee since April 1.
Sources told ESPN that former Hall of Fame coach Phillip Fulmer, now serving as a special adviser to university president Joe DiPietro, will take a more active role in helping Tennessee land a coach. The Volunteers' new coach will be their fifth in the past 11 years.
WVLT-TV first reported Currie's departure.
Tennessee is conducting its coaching search after possibly the most disappointing season in school history.
After being ranked in the Top 25 at the start of the year, Tennessee went 4-8 to set a school record for losses. The Vols were winless in the SEC for the first time since the league formed in 1933.
The public nature of Tennessee's inability to find a coach frustrated a fan base already angry about the Vols' poor 2017 season. People chanted "Fire Currie" on a handful of occasions Monday night during a wrestling show on campus and again Wednesday night during the Tennessee men's basketball victory over Mercer.
Currie took over as Tennessee's athletic director after Dave Hart stepped down. Currie agreed to a five-year contract worth at least $900,000 annually. According to the terms of Currie's contract, the school would owe him $5.5 million if he is fired without cause.
At his introductory news conference, Currie boldly said that Tennessee "can and should be the very best athletics program in the country."
Currie's familiarity with Tennessee was seen as a selling point when he was hired. Before coming to Kansas State, he worked at Tennessee for about a decade in various capacities, most recently as a chief deputy and adviser to former athletic director Mike Hamilton, who forced out Fulmer as football coach in 2008.
Tennessee announced in June that Fulmer had been named a special adviser for community, athletics and university relations. The part-time position pays Fulmer $100,000 annually and was seen as a way to unite a fan base divided over whether he should have been chosen as athletic director.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.