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9 June 2008

Fuller set to retire from Jax State: Longtime coach, AD had five-decade career in athletics

By Joe Medley
Star By Joe Medley

Reprinted here in its entirety.

It's a transition period for Jacksonville State University athletics, and athletics director Jim Fuller has opted to transition into retirement.

Fuller informed JSU president Dr. Bill Meehan of his decision earlier this week. His retirement will become effective at the end of this summer.

So will end his long run as a player, coach and administrator at the University of Alabama and JSU.

"I felt like it was just the right time for me to step away from college athletics, which is something I've been involved in for more than 40 years," Fuller said in a statement released by JSU. "I was blessed to have worked with an incredible staff. With their help, and in many situations taking time out from their jobs, we have been successful in accomplishing some, but not all the things that we set out to do."

Fuller could not be reached for further comment as of press time.

Meehan said that he expects to begin the search for Fuller's replacement by the end of the year and might hire an interim.

Sources have told The Star that a likely replacement for Fuller would be Oval Jaynes, who has done consulting work in relation to JSU's exploring a move up to NCAA Bowl Subdivision in football. Jaynes currently works for the Tuscaloosa-based Johnny Williams Group consulting firm.

It's not certain who might serve as an interim. Former senior women's administrator Debbie Bishop was interim AD before Fuller was hired, but she retired in May.

For the moment, the focus is on Fuller. Meehan lauded Fuller's accomplishments.

"The last five years, we've had 31 conference championships, outstanding grade point average of our students. They've done well," Meehan said. "He sees this as a turning point for the university and a good chance for him to step out.

"He's done a good job putting us on a new level. It's his decision, and that's the way he should go."

Not only has JSU begun exploring a move up in football, but the school also recently hired James Green as its men's basketball coach after not renewing the contract of former coach Mike LaPlante.

Meehan also said school officials are sorting out how to handle a $5 million budget cut from Montgomery, and it's uncertain what kind of hit athletics will take.

"We're all working on that right now," Meehan said. "It means positions will stay open and reorganization, try to conserve where we can, consolidate positions. It makes it tough for everybody."

Meanwhile, the school seeks to add skyboxes and seats to Paul Snow Stadium as part of a major renovation for athletics facilities. The total project, which includes student housing, is expected to cost about $36 million.

Revenue from the skyboxes and student housing is expected to defray cost.

High-placed sources at JSU have told The Star that some trustees questioned Fuller's ability to sell the skyboxes and lead the program forward.

He was also blamed for a scheduling glitch that cost JSU a football game with Mississippi State last season. The school missed out on a $250,000 game guarantee and paid $150,000 for breaking the contract.

It's also known that Fuller wasn't involved in the search that resulted in Green's hiring. He also wasn't consulted on the five-year contract given to football coach Jack Crowe last year or in early talks about a move up in football.

Still, Fuller presided over major capital projects, including the completion of Kennamer Hall and the William Taylor Stewart Strength and Conditioning Center, renovations of Gamecock Football Field House, the Paul Snow Stadium turf and scoreboard projects and University Field upgrades.

Fuller also presided over 31 conference championships and two OVC Women's All-Sports Trophies. It's the most conference championships by JSU over a five-year span in school history and 14 more conference titles than the next OVC school during that span.

Also, more than 450 athletes have been named to the OVC Commissioner's Honor Roll, and more than 600 maintained a 3.0 grade point average since Fuller took over as AD in 2003.

"I was glad to have him come back," Meehan said. "He's a Gamecock at heart, even though he spent his young career and the latter part of his career back in Tuscaloosa, we were glad to have him come home and end his career here at JSU."

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