A look back at 2008: titles, tears and turnover

End of Fulmer era changed landscape of UT football

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer gets carried off the field Nov. 29 at Neyland Stadium after coaching the Vols for the final time, a 28-10 win over Kentucky.

Photo by Michael Patrick

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer gets carried off the field Nov. 29 at Neyland Stadium after coaching the Vols for the final time, a 28-10 win over Kentucky.

There were medals awarded in Beijing, nets cut down in Tampa and a No. 1 ranking (for a week, anyway).

Area high school teams did us proud. That includes Maryville, whose amazing 74-game football win streak finally ended one game short of another state title.

But over at the University of Tennessee this fall, the earth moved. About a 7.5 on the Richter Scale. Damage, figuratively speaking, was extensive.

The Phillip Fulmer Era came toppling down and the football landscape will look dramatically different in 2009.

It takes a mighty big story to unseat UT football from the top of the charts and even in eventful 2008, nothing came close.

Here's a look at the top 10 local sports stories of 2008.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer gets carried off the field Nov. 29 at Neyland Stadium after coaching the Vols for the final time, a 28-10 win over Kentucky.

Photo by Michael Patrick // Buy this photo

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer gets carried off the field Nov. 29 at Neyland Stadium after coaching the Vols for the final time, a 28-10 win over Kentucky.

1. A Hard Fall

Tennessee played in the SEC championship game in 2007, after which coach Phillip Fulmer was rewarded with a raise and extension. It seemed impossible that 10 months later Fulmer would be gone.

And yet on Nov. 3, the Fulmer era ended in an emotional press conference. His 16th season as UT's head coach was undone by a horrible offense that ranked 115th out of 119 teams in the nation.

The nadir was a loss to Wyoming, five days after the Fulmer announcement.

It could have been worse - at least the Vols beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky to avoid an unprecedented eighth loss.

2. Kiffin Era Begins

Former Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin was introduced as the Vols' head football coach during a press conference Monday in Neyland Stadium letterman club.

Photo by Michael Patrick // Buy this photo

Former Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin was introduced as the Vols' head football coach during a press conference Monday in Neyland Stadium letterman club.

Fulmer's exit meant athletic director Mike Hamilton had to conduct a national coaching search to find a successor. This was a departure from virtually all previous UT football coaching hires.

Several marquee targets quietly declined UT's interest. On Dec. 1, Hamilton introduced 33-year-old Lane Kiffin, a former Southern Cal offensive coordinator with no Tennessee ties and a short resume.

At year's end, Kiffin is still assembling a staff that has a decided NFL flavor. His dad and new defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, is one of the NFL's top defensive minds.

3. Lady Vols Repeat/Parker's Year

Former Tennessee stars Candace Parker, left, and Alberta Auguste smile as the 2008 National Championship banner is raised at Thompson-Boling Arena Nov. 15.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess // Buy this photo

Former Tennessee stars Candace Parker, left, and Alberta Auguste smile as the 2008 National Championship banner is raised at Thompson-Boling Arena Nov. 15.

Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols remained atop women's basketball with a 64-48 victory over Stanford in the NCAA tournament championship game in Tampa.

Tennessee's eighth title came one year after its seventh. National player of the year Candace Parker overcame a painful shoulder injury to repeat as the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player.

The next day Parker was selected No. 1 in the WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. She led an exit that included all five starters from the championship team and assistant coach Nikki Caldwell, who got the UCLA job.

Parker went on to become both the WNBA's Rookie of the Year and MVP. She was last week named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.

4. Onward, Upward for UT Men

The Bruce Pearl Era just got better. The basketball Vols won a school-record 31 games and captured their first outright SEC regular-season title since 1967.

They also attained the program's first No. 1 ranking when they upset Memphis on Feb. 23.

UT stayed on top only one week but reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year.

The Vols are riding a 36-game homecourt winning streak going into their final game of 2008 on Monday night in the spectacularly renovated Thompson-Boling Arena.

5. Gold, Silver and Orange

The Lady Vols were all over the medal stands during the Beijing Olympics in August.

Parker, Kara Lawson and Tamika Catchings won gold in women's basketball.

Swimmer Christine Magnuson was the SEC women's swimmer of the year. She topped that in Beijing with silver medals in the 100 butterfly and 4x100 medley relay.

Flame-thrower Monica Abbott won silver in softball.

6. Alcoa Continues Dynasty

Alcoa High School figured if it could replace departed quarterback Randall Cobb, it had a decent shot at another state title.

It did and it did.

The Tornadoes beat Milan 28-14 in the Class 2A title game to become the first state team to win five consecutive championships. Alcoa is only the third program with 10 total championships.

New quarterback Chase James was one of the stars and another was Tyler Robinson, the 2A Mr. Football lineman of the year.

Catholic’s Spencer Mackle celebrates the school’s first state football title on Dec. 6 in Murfreesboro.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess // Buy this photo

Catholic’s Spencer Mackle celebrates the school’s first state football title on Dec. 6 in Murfreesboro.

7. Catholic Hat Trick

Catholic High School had been around 75 years without a state title in the trophy case. Now it has a shelf full.

The Catholic football team defeated Memphis Mitchell 28-18 in the Class 3A state championship game earlier this month to complete a 15-0 season. Among the heroes were Tyler Williamson, Jordan Howanitz and 3A Mr. Football lineman of the year Daniel Hood.

But the real breakthroughs came in May at the Spring Fling. The boys won the A/AA tennis title with a 4-2 win over University School of Jackson in the finals.

Catholic also claimed the boys soccer A/AA title with a 3-0 win over arch-rival CAK in the finals, thanks to goals from Spencer Payne, Hank Holleman and Ricardo Martinez. Thus ended CAK's five-year reign.

Tennessee’s Chris Lofton hits a gamewinning shot against South Carolina in the SEC tournament in Atlanta March 15. Lofton also battled, and defeated, testicular cancer.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess // Buy this photo

Tennessee’s Chris Lofton hits a gamewinning shot against South Carolina in the SEC tournament in Atlanta March 15. Lofton also battled, and defeated, testicular cancer.

8. 'Mr. 3' Beats 'The Big C'

Only after Tennessee's basketball joyride ended was it revealed that star Chris Lofton had overcome testicular cancer.

Lofton revealed in May he had been treated for cancer in the spring of 2007. He underwent surgery and two months of radiation treatment but kept his ordeal secret during a season in which he became the SEC's all-time 3-point basket king.

Although his numbers dipped slightly from his 2007 SEC Player of the Year campaign, Lofton was a John Wooden Award All-American, a third-team AP All-American and won the inaugural SEC Sportsmanship Award.

9. Superman on a Bad Team

As bad as the Tennessee football team's offense was in 2008, Eric Berry was that good on defense.

Berry broke an SEC record for career interception return yardage, even though his career is only two years long. The sophomore safety made every All-America team and won the Jack Tatum Trophy, presented by the Touchdown Club of Columbus (Ohio) to the nation's top defensive back. (He should have won the Jim Thorpe Award, too).

10. Fulton Boys Win Title

Knox County had been without a boys state basketball title since 1987 and Fulton High School had been without one a lot longer than that.

The Falcons ended both droughts with a 74-68 victory over Memphis Mitchell in the Class 2A finals last March. It was Fulton's first title in 57 years.

The Falcons started out 9-4 but won their final 19 games. Dominique Minor was tournament MVP and James Gallman was the 2008 PrepXtra Player of the Year.

There are plenty of other kudos to go around. Among them:

To the Knoxville Ice Bears, who won the Southern Professional Hockey League's President's Cup; to Lady Vols basketball player Nicky Anosike, the NCAA's Woman of the Year: to Webb School's Glory Johnson, who was Miss Basketball, the Gatorade state player of the year, a multi state track champion and is starting for the Lady Vols as a freshman; to Farragut baseball, state champions for the fifth time in six years; to Jacquelyn Coward, who closed out a stellar prep career by leading West High to the girls state track title; to all other athletes and teams who won state titles; to senior citizen Ken Mink, who is playing basketball at Roane State.

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Comments » 22

wesw33z#667083 writes:

hoping for a better 2009. go vols

plzcomebackpeyton writes:

i bet they have tons of stories like this saved on the computers at kns, and just copy and paste them on here when they have no news to report. great job guys! great job!

VOLorado writes:

"...Fulton High School had been without one a long longer than that."

I'm not familiar with that expression.

DennisVols writes:

Here's to looking forard to UT football team being a higher ranked sports story than the Lady Vols because of what they did and not because of whay they couldn't do.

LDDFC912 writes:

I can't stand haters. Great Article Mike.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Good read, especially on #9.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

True, great things do happen to good people.

agarn writes:

2009 WILL be better for UT.

Go Vols!

southernson writes:

The EXTENSION, was the worst move in the athletic department history.Next to keeping Wade Houston. I believe the firing of Fulmer and hiring of Coach Kiffin will prove to be the best move.

blitzshoot writes:

Throw out #1 and not a bad year. Many schools would take this in a heart beat. Congrat Vols and those who are about to be! Go 2009 Vols!

volnation200973 writes:

To go along with #7 about Catholic they should have included the support they gave to Scott Co. at the football game following the accident that killed four SHS cheerleaders. They showed tremendous support to a team and community in mourning. Im from Scott Co., and have a nephew who plays at SHS, the folks at Catholic have no clue how much this meant to the students, faculty and staff, and community. To anyone from KCHS who may read this- Thank You for all you did for us following the tragedy we are forever grateful to you and wish you well in the future.

VolsPride writes:

I hope 2009 is better. If not:

http://getfulmerback.com

tnbigg writes:

in response to DCflorida:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It doesn't mean squat at this point...

tnbigg writes:

in response to VolsPride:

I hope 2009 is better. If not:

http://getfulmerback.com

tnbigg writes:

"One thing is for sure, Monte Kiffin has some big shoes to fill."

Above quote from getfulmerback.com

Good grief...this perverse statement implies that Coach Chavis is a better coach than Monte Kiffin. I have read some ignorant ramblings by the cry baby...its not fair...he got cheated...he's a legend...rename the stadium...but licking crowd...but this is sheer unbridled moronic assinine mentally challenged stupidity...of the uncurable variety...I can only imagine that "volspride" is related to "Tennessee Pride" a little too closely...

http://www.accents-n-art.com/clipart/...

invisiblekid writes:

in response to DCflorida:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, it was kind of like when UF went after Stoops and Shanahan a few years ago.

When a top program looks to replace it's coach, there may be a few that decline, especially those that have won Super Bowls.

RaineyVol writes:

Still mad about the Eric Berry thing!

ncvol writes:

Brings back the memories of the glad and the sad...
Hope we have more of the positive drama for our football team next year. Coach Fulmer will always hold a special place in my heart...Best of Luck to Kiffin and staff...
Lady Vols BB did us proud...Chris Lofton was a brave soul and we love him... Eric Berry was the best...Vols BB team was great and hope we have a better season this year...Candice Parker was super...
Thanks for the memories! Go Vols!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to grvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Amen and amen.

murrayvol writes:

in response to grvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He's part of the Tennessee DNA.

It'll be hard for many to move on. Downright impossible for some.

Major_Magilicutty writes:

in response to RaineyVol:

Still mad about the Eric Berry thing!

I know it. My blood started boiling when I read #9. It's as blatant a robbery as I've ever seen.

steelersman42 writes:

haha... i like your touch at the end of #9

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