Beverly Davenport, Tennessee chancellor, forced out of position after 15 months

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport is being forced out of her post after less than 15 months at the helm, a tenure that included a tumultuous search for a head football coach and other controversies.

University president Joe DiPietro announced Wednesday that Davenport's term will end July 1, citing her "unsatisfactory performance" in a termination letter he made public from her 2017 evaluation.

Davenport was hired as Tennessee's chancellor in November 2016 and took over in February 2017. Her tenure included the rocky search for a football coach that resulted in the removal of athletic director John Currie, whom Davenport had hired.

"Personally, I am disappointed that this action is necessary, but as President it is my duty to make decisions that are in the best interest of The University of Tennessee," DiPietro wrote in his termination letter to Davenport.

One of Davenport's first moves as chancellor was to hire Currie as athletic director. Currie lasted only eight months before Davenport put him on paid leave and replaced him with former football coach Phillip Fulmer. Currie eventually reached a $2.5 million settlement with the school.

According to emails obtained in a public records request, Davenport removed Currie one day after she spent six hours unsuccessfully trying to reach him about the state of Tennessee's football coaching search. Currie was meeting Washington State coach Mike Leach at the time but hadn't informed Davenport.

Less than a week earlier, Currie and Greg Schiano signed a memorandum of understanding to make the Ohio State defensive coordinator the new Volunteers football coach before the deal fell apart amid a public backlash. The memorandum of understanding, which wasn't signed by Davenport, would have given Schiano a six-year, $27 million contract.

Fulmer eventually hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as football coach.

Davenport is being put on paid administrative leave until June 30 and will be reassigned as a faculty member in the university's college of communication and information.

Davenport will receive about $438,000 for her faculty role each of the next four years, three-quarters of the $585,000 salary she was making as chancellor.

Davenport couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Her removal comes as Tennessee's Board of Trustees undergoes an overhaul. A new law that was backed by Gov. Bill Haslam reconfigures the board and shrinks it from 27 to 11 voting members.

DiPietro told Davenport he had several concerns about her tenure, citing her relationship with DiPietro and his leadership team, her inability to acclimate to the UT system, her lack of organization and failure to communicate a strategic vision to the campus.

DiPietro said he was better off making a change rather than putting Davenport on a "formal performance improvement plan" because of the number of concerns needing to be addressed and the lack of trust in their relationship. DiPietro also cited the Board of Trustees' lack of support for Davenport as well as his belief that she'd have similar problems with the new board.

After the university announced Davenport's removal, dozens of students gathered on campus to show their support for her.

Davenport drew much scrutiny during her brief term.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.