Blog Entry

The end of the Phil Fulmer era

Posted on: November 3, 2008 3:52 pm

Phil Fulmer called me.

When an SEC head coach calls out of the blue he doesn't want to borrow a few bucks. It was a couple of years ago. The Tennessee coach had called about some mindless thing I'd written in a blog. It was during the seemingly endless run of the program's off-field problems at the time.

I had posted something flippant in a blog which, for me, wasn't surprising. What was surprising was Fulmer calling at that moment (I was in the Atlanta airport), at that time (it was in the middle of summer) to pick a bone.

I had no problem with it. In fact, I wish more coaches would call in person if they have a problem with a story. It can't hurt and keeps the lines of communication open. We hung up that day with whatever problem there was, resolved.

Still, I thought it was odd that a high profile, big-time SEC coach would call me about a blog. I'm no expert on blogs but, to me, you can get away with certain things in a blog that you might not in a regular story. As long as your name is on it, then it's just another way of communicating.

Anyway, it seemed that day that was Fulmer was cultivating a media "friend." Nothing wrong with that. I'm closer to some coaches than others. I wouldn't call any one of the I-A guys "friends". First, they're in a different tax bracket. Second, a guy like me is basically a bug smashed on their windshield.

Our common interest is between the lines. In this business, it's always nice if you can call or text a guy and just gossip. We're not all about ripping.

As we know now, Fulmer didn't have many friends in the media at the end. The only thing easier to beat up before Monday was a piñata.

That was unfair. Fulmer is one of the decent ones. He's not a crook. He's doesn't have a fundamental personality flaw that needs to be addressed by professionals such as one Robert Montgomery Knight. He is a son of the South, a proud Vol and a hell of a coach.

His sin was letting the program get stale. It happens. Everywhere. Former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer once said that after 10 years the average NFL coach gets stale no matter what. The message becomes old. The players stop listening. It's time to go.

Phil Fulmer lasted 17 years if you count his 4-0 record in 1992.  He delivered five SEC East titles, two SEC titles and a national championship. As recently as 11 months ago, Tennessee was playing for the SEC title.

Still, things were stale. The popular theory is that the loss of offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe contributed to the downfall.  I don't think even Cutcliffe could have made chicken salad out of Jonathan Crompton. That Tennessee -- once the cradle of quarterbacks -- couldn't find someone better Crompton was an indictment of Fulmer's recruiting.

I talked to a big-time offensive coordinator last week who had visited the Tennessee staff in the offseason. He had nothing but good things to say. Believe me, he would have ripped them if it was warranted.  This guy holds nothing back.

Still, things were stale. It was more than irony that the loss that finally got him out was to his old nemesis. The Old Ball Coach, lacking some of his old mojo, punked Fulmer one more time.

 Everything started to change for coaches everywhere at the beginning of this decade. Bob Stoops won a national championship in his second year at Oklahoma. He was followed quickly by Jim Tressel who won in his second season. Urban Meyer did the same thing in 2006.

Maybe Phil should consider himself lucky for getting this far. Fans have little patience, especially when three other SEC coaches have either gone undefeated and/or won national championships since Tennessee's in 1998.

The fifth-winningest active coach in I-A was only third in his own  conference. Patience? There is little left these days for coaches who don't deliver immediately, or enough. Fulmer's departure also makes it four I-A coaches this year who have either resigned or been fired during the season.

Things were stale, maybe, but how many ADs would like a .766 coach? That's why it will take something special for Fulmer to get into coaching right away. He is overqualified for most jobs. His star has dimmed, perhaps, in the SEC. His dignity would prevent him from going to non-BCS level for a job.

Shed no tears. The guy is walking away with at least $6 million from Tennessee. He still has a lot of energy left. I'm thinking he might resurface as an offensive line coach in the NFL. There's a lot less crap to deal with at that level.

Where does Tennessee go from here? First, whoever is hired must know that it's AD Mike Hamilton's neck on the line too. Hamilton got mouthy in Fulmer's final days, basically throwing his coach under the bus. The AD better deliver, big time. That means a coach capable of recruiting his butt off (Tennessee simply doesn't have many players), winning more than 75 percent of his games and, oh yeah, delivering a national championship.

Does that eliminate defensive coordinator John Chavis? He seems to be a popular choice. Mike Leach is going to be mentioned for every opening and then end up on the sidelines again next season for Texas Tech. Hamilton might go the up-and-coming route. Tulsa's Todd Graham and Cincinnati's Brian Kelly have been mentioned.

If it comes to that, I favor Kelly. Michigan dismissed him out of hand because he had once coached at Central Michigan. Bad move. Tennessee shouldn't be limiting itself. That includes at least a courtesy call to Steve Spurrier to see if he is interested.

After the laughing dies down, Spurrier might give Hamilton a couple of names.

Kelly, though, is the no-nonsense type who has won a Division II national championship and been able to succeed at two non-descript mid-majors (Central Michigan and Cincinnati).

Tennessee is a destination job. After being at three schools in six years, Kelly could retire in Knoxville. One other thing: Kelly knows how to develop quarterbacks.

At a program that is in decline but hasn't crumbled, that's a great place to start.

Category: NCAAF

Since: Oct 21, 2006
Posted on: November 3, 2008 10:06 pm

The end of the Phil Fulmer era

Spurrier hates Tennessee with a passion.  The fact he took the job at South Carolina surprised the heck out of me, but it was for Lou Holtz which is a long time family friend of his.  He has a few years left at South Carolina and he is starting to get better players into SC so I dont see him leaving.  Plus there arent enough golf courses in Tennessee for Steve Spurrier.

Since: Nov 3, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2008 9:58 pm

The end of the Phil Fulmer era

"Fulmer couldn't beat him, no matter where (Spurrier) was at."

Apparently you are not completely familiar with your topic.

Back in 2001 the Florida team was destined to play in the national championship game. They only needed to win two games and they would be playing for the BCS championship in the Rose Bowl. Why? Nebraska and Oklahoma had both lost opening the door for the 9-1 Gators. They controlled their own destiny. Hell, they only needed to beat UT at Florida Field (The Swamp) and then defeat LSU in the SEC Championship Game and bingo, they're in.

The UT game? No worries there. UT was an 18 point underdog. They hadn't won at Florida Field since 1971. Everybody in the press etc were talking about LSU vs UF. Only UT fans gave UT a chance to win the game.

And they did. Which proves your statement above to be historically inaccurate.

People tend to forget this incredible event in SEC history. And that is a shame b/c it is just as meaningful, if not moreso, then last week's UT loss to USC, which led to Fulmer's dismissal/retirement.

Why is that game in 2001 more meaningful to SEC history? Because Spurried coached his last meaningful SEC game that day at The Swamp. And he lost to his self-created nemesis, The Tennessee Volunteers. Spurrier would coach one more meaningless bowl game for UF and quit.  That's correct yee people with short memories. Spurrier's last SEC game coached at UF was a LOSS to Phil Fulmer and the Tennessee Volunteers.

Feel free to check the facts. It's all out there for the reading. Here's a quick link on the story as reported Dec 01, 2001

Since: Dec 20, 2006
Posted on: November 3, 2008 9:10 pm

The end of the Phil Fulmer era

Come on Rockytop you guys have to take off your hypersensitive glasses on this one. I think the article was fair and factual. I am not and have never been, a UT fan but the fact is, even with his record - which is enviable by most coaches - the program was going south. He didnt say Phil Fulmer was not a nice guy and a good coach; he said the program had become stale and it was time for a change. A prime example is this season. As for Crompton there are two ways to look at his failure as a quarterback..either he isnt as good as he was hyped to be or he needed help in developing into a good quarterback. Just because he was a top name out of  high school does not guarantee he will be a good quarterback...example - Ron Powlus at Notre Dame. He never lived up to his billing and no it was not because of Lou Holtz it was because of Ron Powlus. UT is a proud school with a lot of tradition and they will find the right guy. I agree Mike Hamilton should be kicked to the curb if he picks the wrong guy. He is not blameless in all of this. As for David Cutcliffe...he is a good coach and will have Duke competitive in a few years. I dont know if he is one of the reasons why the UT offense sputtered but to say he is overrated is simply not true. I feel sad for Phil Fulmer. I know he loves the school and is fiercely loyal. I hope he finds another coaching job if that is what he wants. Now all you UT fans who have been screaming for this day are getting what you asked for...I hope you dont regret it.

Since: Aug 1, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2008 9:09 pm

The end of the Phil Fulmer era

Wow reb, that was the most illiterate, irrelavent post on this board. 

Fulmer is a great coach (possibly the greatest next to the General) and a hardcore, old school offensive line throwback who's only fault was not being able to adapt to a rapidly changing SEC.  We as Vol fans should be deeply appreciative for making Tennessee nationally relevant and respected (which they weren't before he took over).  I wish him all the best, and hope Hamilton makes a well-informed wise decision.  As evidenced, the Vol nation can turn its loyalties very quickly.

Since: Oct 26, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2008 8:50 pm

The end of the Phil Fulmer era

Dodd you never surprise me. For crying out loud I am positive that you were one of the kids at school that told on your classmates for chewing gum or skipping class. To say that Fulmer was a class act what a joke you are out of your mind, more like a class RAT. He can dish it out but can not take it a la Alfred Means and Tee Martin. So before you get your ticket to go help Fulmer pack his bags, and cry on his shoulder why do not give him accolades for being a good guy. Try to be a little less bias.

Since: Oct 26, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2008 8:45 pm

The end of the Phil Fulmer era



Spurrier would never consider Tennessee because he has put his family in place and would not dare put them through another move. Additionally he has a pretty sweet set up on a golf club membership.



Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: November 3, 2008 8:41 pm

Dennis the Menace

Oh, please, Dennis. Don't inflict Todd Graham on the Vols. His Tulsa team just lost to Arkansas. Do you really believe UT wants a football coach who can't even beat Arkansas when we have to contend with the likes of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, and Auburn for dominance in the SEC? I beg to differ with your assessment of Fulmer as a great coach. He's had some great seasons at UT, but if he were a great coach, there would be many big time football schools now knocking at his door. Since his announcement, there hasn't  been a single one. The 'When will he finally leave?' melodrama dragged out much too long, but now that it's finally over, It's a good thing for his legacy that he decided to get the hell out of Dodge before things went from bad to worse. Thousands of the Knoxville faithful were more than ready to run him out of town on a rail. Hopefully, Mike Hamilton will now have the good sense to choose only the very best from the available candidates. Go Vols! 

Since: Apr 5, 2007
Posted on: November 3, 2008 8:30 pm

The end of the Phil Fulmer era

Best comment ever by Spurrier "You can't spell citrus without UT"  I say give him a call, I am sure he would consider it. Either Muschamp or Leach are your best options.

Since: Nov 17, 2007
Posted on: November 3, 2008 8:06 pm

The end of the Phil Fulmer era

I see the idiots are out and you sir are an idiot. Fulmer was and is an outstanding coach. He gave Tennessee his life and to disrespect him like you shows you are , well, trash yourself. Maybe it was time for a change and maybe it wasn't only time will tell. This could be a huge mistake. Hopefully, all will work for everyone. Tennessee gets a new coach and he wins and Fulmer either moves to coach the line in the pros or stays on at UT in some way. But atleast have some class, which has been lacking of late at UT. I wish the best for Fulmer and his family and hope UT can get it together. Dodd is right Hamilton's butt is on the line here. He has some clout because of Pearl, but make no mistake, if he screws this up he is GONE!!!! By the way Crompton is bad and Cutcliff is WAY over rated! If UT hires Cutcliff they will be the laughing stock of college football! We need star power. I say Leach or Kiffin, but maybe a move similiar to Meyer would be good like some of the young guys Dodd was mentioning, but we need some research.\

Anyway GO VOLS!! We will miss Fumler and we are glad he was our coach and hopefully time will heal all!

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2008 8:02 pm

The end of the Phil Fulmer era

Phil is one of the best coach's out there.It won't be the same next year. I hope to see him coaching again somewhere.  hope UT can find the right guy and can get the vols back in the winning season.

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