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Could the Tennessee Lady Vols fire head coach Kellie Harper on Monday?

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The Tennessee Lady Vols were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday by the same team that fired the head coach they decided to hire. Since then, athletic director Danny White hasn’t said a word about the status of UT women’s basketball head coach Kellie Harper.

There may be a reason.

White could be waiting until Monday, April 1 to make the decision about the future of the Tennessee Lady Vols. That is the day we will know whether or not Harper remains head coach for next year or not, and it all comes down to one thing…buyout money.

According to a report by Cora Hall of the Knoxville News Sentinel, Harper’s buyout if she were fired right now would be 100 percent of her annual salary through 2027. However, that number drops to 50 percent of her annual salary, despite going through 2028, if she is fired after March 31.

Currently, Harper’s annual salary is $1.1 million. Do the math. UT would be on the hook for $4.4 million if they fired her now. They’d be on the hook for $550,000 over five years, or $2.75 million total, if they waited until April 1 to fire her. It’s simple. They can save nearly $1.7 million by waiting.

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You may think that doesn’t make sense because White would want to get a head start on finding another head coach. However, he could already be making calls behind the scenes, and most of the available coaches will still be available Monday, as unlike Harper, they’re likely in the NCAA Tournament still.

Also, we’re talking about the Tennessee Lady Vols. How hard would it be for them to go out and find the coach they want regardless of the roadblocks? This is the most storied program in women’s basketball history. Pat Summitt. The Woman’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Candace Parker. Who wouldn’t come?

Now, while this does provide a motive for White to wait, is there any evidence that is what he’s doing? Well, last year, he extended Harper’s contract through 2028, which created this buyout scenario, carving out a great situation to fire her on the cheap if he had to. It seemed like he was already planning for this.

More importantly, he hasn’t announced an extension this year, and the basic rule of college coaches is they should either have five years or be fired. She would need another extension to have a fifth year, so White not doing that is very alarming.

Add in how quiet he is, not expressing a vote of confidence or making a decision on the future, and it seems like waiting is exactly what he’s doing. Oh, and KnoxNews wouldn’t come out with that report the Friday before that key date unless somebody in UT’s administration emphasized it to them.

Simply put, there’s a very realistic chance that Harper is fired by Monday. The Tennessee Lady Vols should be in good hands after that with White’s hiring track record. However, he can’t let the fan base mafia sabotage it with their list of demands the way they sabotaged Phillip Fulmer’s search.

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