Manning: Role at Tennessee is Now 'Donor, Supporter, Fan'

By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer

NEW YORK (AP) – Peyton Manning says he takes his role as an ambassador for the University of Tennessee seriously and looks forward to supporting the Volunteers' next football coach.

Tennessee's search for a replacement for Butch Jones has resulted in turmoil, with fan protests, the firing of athletic director John Currie and the hiring of former Vols coach Philip Fulmer as AD. After being turned down by several coaches, Tennessee is still searching.

Manning, the former Vols quarterback and longtime NFL great, will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday night. He said Tennessee is capable of being among the top programs in the country again.

"Obviously, it's been a difficult time but I know what Tennessee is capable of being, it's what it was when I was in school there," Manning said at a news conference. "I've been a devout supporter and always will be and look forward to hopefully getting it back to where it was back when I was in school. Great place."

As the Tennessee search has lurched forward, there have been questions about who is in charge and what influence Manning has had throughout the process. Manning was asked what his role is now.

"Donor, supporter, fan, all of the above, what I've always been," he said. "I've always supported – obviously Coach Fulmer was my coach – but supported every coach we've ever had: Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, Butch Jones. And I look forward to supporting whoever our next coach is. It's a role I take very seriously."

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