Tennessee parted ways with coach Kellie Harper on Monday after five seasons, opting to make a change to try to reinvigorate a program that has not played for a national championship since the late Pat Summitt retired.

Harper, who played under Summitt, could never quite get the program back to an elite level. Though she won 20 or more games four times, Tennessee never advanced past the Sweet 16.

Harper, 46, had four years left on her contract. Her buyout dropped significantly Monday, going from 100% of her annual compensation through April 14, 2027 to 50% of her annual compensation through its end date in 2028.

“After a thorough review of our women’s basketball program, I have informed Kellie we are making a change in leadership,” Tennessee athletic director Danny White said in a statement. “Decisions like these are never easy to make, especially with someone who has done so much for the Lady Vols as a three-time national champion student-athlete. Her love and passion for Tennessee and the Lady Vols is second to none. She has invested so much heart and soul into our program and truly has given her all for Tennessee. I thank Kellie for her stewardship of our women’s basketball program and wish her and Jon well in the next chapter of their lives.”

This past season, with projected WNBA first-round pick Rickea Jackson, Tennessee struggled to play consistently and lost in the NCAA tournament second round as a No. 6 seed to NC State, finishing 20-13.

The Lady Vols came seconds away from upsetting South Carolina in the SEC tournament last month, as Kamilla Cardoso banked a shot home at the buzzer to lift the Gamecocks. Harper bent over with her hands on her knees, a look of agony on her face.

Tennessee has not won the conference since sharing the regular-season title with South Carolina in 2015. Its last SEC tournament title came in 2014, an unofficial changing of the guard. South Carolina has won seven of the past nine SEC tournament titles, replacing Tennessee as the preeminent women’s college basketball program.

Harper went 108-52 at Tennessee, replacing Holly Warlick in 2019.

“It has been an honor to serve at my alma mater and to coach a Lady Vol program I love so dearly,” Harper said in a statement. “I am grateful for the opportunity my staff and I have had to lead an amazing group of young women and to mentor them on the court as well as provide them with life skills that will benefit them far beyond the game of basketball.”

Finding the success Summitt had at Tennessee has proved to be elusive. The late Hall of Fame basketball coach built the best women’s basketball program in America in 38 seasons, winning 1,098 games and six national championships.

After retiring following the 2011-12 season, the Vols turned to her longtime assistant Warlick to lead the program. In seven seasons, Warlick never reached the Final Four.

Though both Warlick and Harper led Tennessee to the NCAA tournament every year they were head coaches (minus the canceled tournament in 2020), the Lady Vols lost in the first or second round in five of their past seven NCAA tournament appearances.