Messages in Fulmer's new deal

Rewarded for loyalty, ensures job security

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer watches a play against Florida last year.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer watches a play against Florida last year.

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer watches a play against Florida last year.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess // Buy this photo

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer watches a play against Florida last year.

Mike Hamilton on the finances surrounding the coaches' raises


UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton met with the media in his office Wednesday to discuss the raises given to coaches Phillip Fulmer and Bruce Pearl. He also addressed Coach Fulmer's history at UT and fan perception.

UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton met with the media in his office Wednesday to discuss the raises given to coaches Phillip Fulmer and Bruce Pearl. He also addressed Coach Fulmer's history at UT and fan perception. Watch »

Wednesday's announcement of a new contract for Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer included a few new clauses and perhaps some different wording.

But more than that, it goes a long way toward quieting speculation about Fulmer's future at UT.

Fulmer's contract will average $2.99 million over the seven-year term, beginning at $2.4 million this season and escalating to $3.3 million by 2014.

And after a season in which fan discontent rang loudly following blowout losses to rivals Florida and Alabama, the deal should go a long way toward silencing those who like to debate Fulmer's job security.

"It's another answer to that question," UT athletic director Mike Hamilton. "Frankly, I think as it relates to any kind of speculation and stuff like that with contract extensions, the fact that we said eight regular-season wins gets an automatic rollover, that also has an impact as well."

Included in the deal is a clause that automatically will give Fulmer a one-year extension following any season in which the Vols win eight games during the regular season.

Hamilton arrived at eight wins in 12 games because it closely compares to UT's all-time winning percentage in football, noting that he hopes the Vols will exceed eight wins.

"I've never felt for one minute there wasn't a great commitment to us," Fulmer said. "Our fans want to win every game, and I do too. We have the greatest fans in all of college football. They have high standards. We have high standards for the program.

"We've won the division more times than anyone else in the league. We've played for championships, won championships. We're hungry for another one. We're going to win more championships at Tennessee."

Another new item in Fulmer's contract is automatic raises, in addition to an already present bonus structure, for achieving certain goals. An SEC championship, for instance, would result in a total guaranteed raise of $500,000, while a BCS national championship would mean a total raise of $1 million.

Also new is a one-time, $1 million longevity bonus to paid in 2012, which would be Fulmer's 20th season as head coach.

"A lot of coaches bounce around every few years," said Fulmer, who has remained at Tennessee since joining the staff as offensive line coach in 1980. "I've not been that way. Being a Tennessee guy, I think I have a better appreciation of the history and tradition of our school. As a result, I think there's a whole lot more commitment there than what might be typically coming from somebody that's just looking for the next job."

Hamilton said Fulmer's contract is an effort to reward him for that loyalty.

"Those days and times in the future of college athletics will be few and far between," Hamilton said. "In my opinion, there aren't going to be a lot of Joe Paternos and Bobby Bowdens in the future of college football. When Phillip Fulmer reaches the 20-year plateau, I think that's a significant accomplishment for the University of Tennessee and for Phillip Fulmer. This is one way to reward him for that."

Fulmer's new contract is also somewhat of a bargain, at least in terms of coaches' salaries.

Despite a $350,000 raise for the 2008 season, Fulmer remains the seventh highest-paid coach in the SEC.

Even if he earned the $3.3 million due in the final year of his contract this season, Fulmer would only rank third in the conference behind LSU's Les Miles and Alabama's Nick Saban.

"If Phillip decided today he was going to retire and move to his great home up in the mountains, to find a guy that had that kind of track record for what we're paying Phillip would be a difficult proposition," Hamilton said, citing Fulmer's career 147-45 record, five SEC championship game appearances, two SEC titles and a national championship. "We've got a guy who has had immense success for a long period of time, and for the most part been very consistent in that success. I think he should be rewarded for it."

Fulmer's new contract could have an impact on the recruiting trail as well. Questions from recruits and their families - and ammunition for rival schools - can move away from how much longer Fulmer, who has said he hopes to coach for another 8-10 years, will be at Tennessee.

That message came across as clear as any during Wednesday's announcement.

"I don't want any negative recruiting to be about how much longer is Phillip really going to coach," Hamilton said. "He's signing a seven-year contract. We're anticipating he's going to be here seven years-plus. That's what the contract says, that's what he's said he wants to do, that's what we've said we want him to do."

Drew Edwards may be reached at 865-342-6274.

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Comments » 226

TommyJack writes:

8 wins. Something to shoot for.

OrangePower11 writes:

Congratulations Coach Fulmer!!!!!!

I for one am VERY happy this deal got done, as the "noise in the system" was being used against UT on the recruiting trail.

WTG University of Tennessee for doing the best thing for the school and football program!

ncvol17 writes:

I have been an alumni of UT for almost 30 yrs. I have never received so many e-mails trying to sell me season tickets and single game tickets, What happened to the waiting list that there was for season tickets for so many years?

I gave up mine several yrs ago due to the high costs of the contribution requirements and travel costs. With gas now going to 5.00 I bet a lot more 200+ milers will drop back to watching tv games only. Nashville to Bristol will be the season ticket holder base.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

Sounds like we have our coach for the next 10 years, so let's move on to other topics. I guess they just don't listen to you, Adams.

law_vol writes:

Whether PF is a good coach or not, rewarding him out of left field for his career stats seems a little out of place. Let him prove it on the field, then give him a great contract. It is hard to argue with the fact that we haven't been competing at a high level in a while. And since when does a program measure its success by how many conference division titles it has?

gohawks1 writes:

A one year extension following 8 wins in a regular season? Hmmmmmmmm.

utwick writes:

I appreciate Fulmer's loyalty and contributions to UT. I honesty don't feel the urgency to lock him into a long term contract like I do with Bruce Pearl. I have never felt that other programs were out to steal him from us. I don't feel that way with Pearl. Anyone agree?

VOLS85 writes:

wick, yes...

rusty_shackleford writes:

If any of the naysayers had a similar contract offered by their boss, would they turn it down? Or would they join their coworkers to piss and moan about it?

Volfan1 writes:

The long term contract for Fulmer is to quiet the negative recruiting from other schools that gets part of their fodder from this site. The legions of the miserable (as Majors put it so well) will never be happy with anything, so the insults from these "astute" observers here are now meaningless when compared to a signed contract.

So, rave on. The contract is mightier than the whining.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

I don't think this was about Fulmer leaving UT for another job. This was about sending a message to recruits that Fulmer is going to be here for a long time. He has coached at UT for 27 years, and will be here for at least 7 more. That stability should mean alot to recruits.

TommyJack writes:

wick, yes...

eb502us#225637 writes:

The contract wasn't the first step toward Fulmer's longevity, getting rid of Cutcliffe was.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

It's not that hard to win 8 games a year if you wisely schedule your non-conference opponents.

Stepping back and looking at it, he has job security as long as he beats everyone but Florida, Georgia, 'Bama and another team from the SEC West. Unbelievable.

It's good to know that UT's "past history" is the measuring stick for job security. So much for trying to set a new standard. Sorry, folks, but this isn't acceptable. 8-4 each year is a 66% win percentage, and for that to be considered acceptable makes me speechless.

I am truly grateful for Coach Fulmer's experience and loyalty to UT; however, hearing Mike Hamilton set these standards makes me think one thing: you get what you pay for, most of the time.

Why in the world is a school like UT setting such a low standard by calling an 8-win season acceptable? My expectations and hope that the on-field product improves have immediately faded. I just hope I'm wrong.

eduardo writes:

Someone please explain loyalty for multi million dollar contracts, ext. out the wazzoo for mediocre play and coaching that is downright puzzling. What the heck is wrong with this admin. wanting to keep this guy at the helm. Keeping the program and fan base hostage for 7 more years oh boy!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Phil is getting his mil back gratis for a 8 win season outlook.

If a first you don't succeed, lower your goals.

8 wins is considered worthy of an award.......

ThurmondEppy writes:

I was really bored today and was watching Major League II on tv. Randy Quaid played a fan of the Indians. Every time they did something good, he complained. Even when the Indians won the pennant, he frowned and said, "So what? They'll screw it up in the playoffs!" Reminded me of the Legions of the Miserable.

BSweet writes:

I don't think it should be as arbitrary as 8-4. I think the quality of the wins and losses should definately fit into the picture. I'm not a Fulmer-hater, but if he continues to be trounced by the gators and tide, I think that should matter. No way we should settle for just being a mediocre team. I don't expect championships every year, but I do expect us to actually compete. If your not in it to win it, then what's the point? And why should we as a fan base that pours millions of dollars into UT athletics accept mediocre. Like I said, nothing personal against Fulmer himself, but I expect the Vols to be in the hunt. 8-4 is sitting on the sidelines as other SEC teams enjoy that BCS money.

TommyJack writes:

Pay more, expect less.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Even after my earlier posting at 8:38pm, I'm still speechless at what UT (namely, Mike Hamilton) has done.

Vol13 writes:

Absolutely! Fan discontent and criticism rings loudly with recruits on the recruiting trail (assuming they read every message on the message boards - which most do not). But getting blasted on national TV by Florida and regional TV by Alabama goes unnoticed. Some of you are such University of Fulmer fans, they could have put anything in there and you would have lopped it up like Hardee's biscuits and gravy.

Fulmer won't be here past the 2010 season. And if he is allowed to be, then not only will the top SEC teams be laughing at us. The bottom ones will as well.

philfan writes:

Hamilton arrived at eight wins in 12 games because it closely compares to UT's all-time winning percentage in football, noting that he hopes the Vols will exceed eight wins.

Nowhere in this article does it say that Hamilton will be pleased if Tennessee wins eight games per year. He goes on to say that he hopes Fulmer will win more than 8 games per year. Fulmer said: We're going to win more championships at Tennessee. This means that Fulmer is not pleased with 8 wins per season and is fully aware that it could take 11 or more wins to win an SEC trophy. We need to remember that Fulmer won 10 games last season, not 8.

I am convinced that Fulmer is dedicated to very lofty goals at Tennessee. Whether or not he will be able to achieve them is a question that no one can answer now, unless he has a crystal ball.

andy112382#209793 writes:

law_vol.........'Let him prove it on the field, then give him a great contract. It is hard to argue with the fact that we haven't been competing at a high level in a while. '


Winningest active coach with 10+ seasons isn't proving it on the field?

Winning the SEC east more times the past 8 years (or is it 10?) than any one else, yes, that includes florida and uga, isn't competing at a high level?

Please explain.....I will go ahead and acknowledge one of the worst years ever for me personally in which we had a losing record (that and I spent a month in the hospital/ICU..bad times) which was mostly a product of Fulmers biggest downfall he has had, TOO MUCH loyalty to some people, in that case Sanders and Washington. But, if that is his biggest fault, I think we are in pretty darn good shape looking ahead.

philfan writes:

The deal should go a long way toward silencing those who like to debate Fulmer's job security.

Winning a NC every other year and winning the SEC regularly will in no way silence the critics on this chat board, many of whom have stated openly that they do not like him because of his obesity or state that he is an embarrassment to Tennessee football, even as he approaches General Neyland's number of wins. Some of these fans may be using the coping mechanism known as denial.

VOLS85 writes:

thanks for the DT info Watermelon...he's a beast!

Vol13 writes:

We're the 5th winningest program in the SEC this decade. Look it up. You think Bama is going to keep on being #6? Somebody has to be the worst. We are almost there now and will soon clearly be the 6th best SEC program.

Fulmer will never win another SEC title.

cjraney writes:

I hate Hardee's. How long you think til we're the worst in the SEC?

dfreeman writes:

yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!! The last few days sure have been a fun ride!!! LOL

tigervol9802 writes:

I just know how personally excted I am that Fulmer has been rewarded with a raise as we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of our last SEC title in 2008.

rbatten9#231828 writes:

I'm glad to know we reward people for not winning championships.

FWBVol writes:

BigVolinCarolina, nobody seemed too upset when CPF led Vols were beating Bama 41-14 and such. We've had our share of big wins against Florida as well, maybe not as recently as most of us would like, myself included. As for Georgia, we've handed the Dawgs a good old fashioned Southern Beat Down three out of the last four years.

Phillip Fulmer is coaching in a different era than any coach in UT football history. He has to deal with a 12-game regular season schedule. And if he's fortunate to win the toughest division in college football, the SEC East, he still has to beat a monster from the West in game 13 with the hopes of playing for a national championship.

I think General Robert Reese Neyland remains the greatest coach in the history of the SEC, but the fact is he only won one outright National title...1951, and that was when they voted the NC after the regular season. UT lost the bowl game at the end of the 51 season (the 52 Sugar Bowl I believe), and wouldn't have been NC in today's voting. And that was only the 11th game of the season.

An SEC team today has to play three more games to win the NC than the teams in the 50s that played a 10-game regular season.

Cracks about UT's schedule are hilarious. Most of the schedules are made out 8 to 10 years in advance for non conference games like UCLA. Today's weak sister could be tomorrow's up-and-comer like Central Florida was last year.

And again, with all respect to the General, he made a living against teams like Chattanooga and other soft sells when he was coach.

I would love to win every game, ever year, but I know that won't happen. I want to be competitive every year. And the small recruiting base in Tennessee makes that tough, but it should happen because we have the best facilities in the country.

I will never be happy with a losing season, but I don't think Phillip Fulmer is either. The raise and extension are in line as far as I'm concerned.

If everyone was offering year-to-year contracts then that would be one thing, but throughout the landscape of college and professional sports coaches sign multi-year deals.

Considering everything, I think CPF is a bargain.

GerryOP writes:

7th highest salary in the SEC? Sounds about right.....

max357_2000 writes:

1st. down off tackel left,2nd down off tackel right,3rd down screen pass good for 3 yards, 4th down punt.yea thats good for 8 wins a year!

jvires writes:

uh. . .8 wins?!? Mediocrity rules! Our goal for 2008. . .bowl eligibility!!!

weisgarber2003#313889 writes:

Mike Hamilton......the mouse that roared.

bobbarbilly writes:

FWBVol, thanks for expressing my opinion along with yours.

bobbarbilly writes:

Perhaps his contract should have stated that his pay package is dependent upon his winning every regular season game, every SEC championship game and every national championship game or he has to forfeit all of his earnings back to the first day he was named head coach. Yeah!!! That's what I am talking about!!!

utclassof1992 writes:

Mike sure took care of his patriarch. Why am I not surprised. 8-4 every year, and he keeps his job. I hope everybody's happy. Now we really are stuck with him.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

FWBVol, your point is valid and I agree with what you wrote.

My problem is that I truly believe the expectations are too low. Unlike many fans, I don't believe--or expect--UT to compete for the national championship every other year; however, Mike Hamilton has been on the record in saying that he expects UT to win an SEC Championship about every 4 years.

At a place like UT, with the fan-base, facilities, coaching experience, coaching stability, and financial support, UT should be competing for an SEC title every other year.

Yes, the SEC is a beast and the SEC East Division is incredibly tough to win. This decade, UT has averaged 4 losses each year. I'd like to see us not be so content with that.

Coach Fulmer took us to a new level in the 90's, and that is undisputable. But, right now we're stuck with a mediocre product on the field.
Fulmer has no one to blame but himself. The rationale being used to reward him for that is beyond me.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

I agree very much with the points made by Hamilton. I do differ, as do all of you, on the 8 wins, top it up deal.

Eight wins is not acceptable. It is tolerable for a rebuilding year, but this program is better than that.

Personally, I do believe that TN is returning to the top of the heap soon. I don't think that Fulmer has lost his ability to coach or recruit and within a couple of years, we should be viewed as a top ten program on a regular basis once again.

WereInTrouble writes:

We've got a 'Good Ole' Boy' club on The Hill. Homer Hamilton has given a raise/extension to a FAILURE??? From 2002 on 'The Warden' has a 62% failure rate against LSU, Bama and Auburn in the West, Florida and Georgia in the East, regular season games against major programs, the SECCG and bowl games. Fulmer wins 38% of these games!!! Hamilton has rewarded Phil for being a failure. Phil and Hamilton have to go.

utchris writes:

Fulmer has never lost a Tuesday or Wednesday night or day game. Nor has he ever lost a Saturday game before 10 a.m.

Seriously though, you can use statistics all you want, but if you go deep enough or look at it in different ways, you can shape them anyway you want too.

8 wins is a good season for the good portion of the college football world. Hell that is a dream season for Vandy. At Tennessee we have been spoiled with higher expectations (thus nothing under 10 is acceptable), and there is nothing wrong with that. Reality should tell us that this is something that is hard press to happen year in and year out in a conference like the SEC. We have had a few leaner years than normal recently, but we really need to give this overhauled staff an opportunity for revival before we pronounce them dead. This contract should really not come as a surprise given Hamilton's outspoken support of Fulmer. You can agree with it or not, but he is the coach of the foreseeable future and those that are tried and true Vols fans will continue to support the Vols.

At the very least, we should at least remain respectful to Fulmer. As the head coach he is open game for criticisms of certain things, but all the idiotic name callings and such are not appropriate for a man that has devoted most of his life to UT and has done so much for not only UT but for the city of Knoxville and State of Tennessee during that time.

andy112382#209793 writes:

WereInTrouble, umm...what is that failure rate against georgia? Explain that to me one more time. We have beat them 3 of the past 4 years, with the last two years we hold a 86-47 scoring advantage over the 'Mighty Richt'. A 75% success rate the last 4 years, good trend there in our favor...or as the only way you can understand, a 25% failure rate.

Bama, since 2002, we are 3-3, so we are at a 50% success rate against them, err, sorry 50% failure rate so you can get that as well.

Auburn, we haven't even played them since 2004, that undefeated team of their, and we played them two times that season despite us having a freshman QB - that last time being the SEC title game (Riggs had a nice day) Since '02 we are 0-2 in regular season play with them, lets wait and see what happens this year, totally different look for the Vols, remember we had *gag* Sanders last time we played them.

LSU, we are 1-1 in regular season play, that one loss was when we had our starting QB knocked out and it still took a last second TD pass by the future #1 pick in the NFL draft to beat us. We lost in yet another SEC title appearance last year to make us overall 1-2 against them. Only if we hadn't made it to that pesky title game once more.....

Florida, no suprise here based on history, is the team we are having the biggest fits with, some pretty darn good games with them (outside of last season...ick....) we are 2-4 since '02 agaisnt them. Before last years lopsided loss, is was fairly close since 2002 with Florida holding a 105-94 scoring advantage on us. Time to end the Urban Legend this year!

And please spare us from the Fulmer must go comments.....A) not happening B) like it or not, still the winningest active coach with 10+ years in the nation C) WE HAVEN'T EVEN PLAYED A GAME THIS SEASON! CHILL!!!


LargeOrange writes:

This is a good deal for Tennessee, the Fulmer haters should go cry in their tailors and hope they can pick up the games on their rabbit ears or massive lawn dishes, CPF is here for the duration, so learn it, live it, get over it, and get behind our boys, or just go away...

hcjournals#206623 writes:

All of the Vol haters need to start your own blog. If you don't like Coach Fulmer, just go away. Now. You have made your case. You lost. So buck up, get on the team and be loyal. Hate Florida. Or Georgia. or UCLA. Stop being traitorous. We are unifying as a fan base. Get on the team or wring your hands and storm off and watch the ETSU Bucs. Or the Racers. Or somebody else where you can be a big shot. If you think coach Fulmer is trying to just "hang on" you don't have a clue. Not clue one.....Thanks and we appreciate your right to express your opinions. Just not over and over and over about the same thing expecting a new result. That's the definition of insanity.....Later.

stroker writes:

Take that Adams. Write about it and whimper about it on enemy sports talk radio. Or you can quote andy and say he is still the winningest active coach with 10+ years in the nation, along with other postive stuff.

ps11824 writes:

Sometimes I'm so ashamed of you 'so-called' Big Orange fans. I agree with the sentiments of hcjournals. Why can't we please be loyal. Reality is, we cannot win them all, but we can be loyal to our team always.

TennVol4Life writes:

utchris2003: All I can say to that is AMEN!! All of the major college teams go through down spells, it's the nature of the game, it's a cycle that you have to be willing to endure. I have a feeling this is gonna be one of those special seasons, not saying it's gonna be a NC season, but I think it will be MUCH better than what alot of people think. I have never per say been a Fulmer basher, but I too had gotten tired of the run left, run right, bubble screen, punt, series....and the "hey we have a 3 point lead in the 3rd quarter, lets protect it".... but I think with CPF allowing Clausen to install a new style offense, shows he is willing to make the changes needed to right the ship. If we were to go undefeated and win the NC this year, the same naysayers would be calling Fulmer a genius for hiring Clausen and running a new offense. As for me, I'll be in the stands, whether we are 12-0 or 0-12. Good luck CPF and staff... GO VOLS!!

beartn#223846 writes:

<<It's good to know that UT's "past history" is the measuring stick for job security. So much for trying to set a new standard. Sorry, folks, but this isn't acceptable. 8-4 each year is a 66% win percentage, and for that to be considered acceptable makes me speechless.>>

There are only 5 active coaches with 10 or more years with winning % above 66%. Winning this % with an SEC schedule is harder than most fans think. Frank Beamer, who many people want, is below that with a weak Big East and ACC schedule for the majority of his tenure. My guess is that sometime in the future, Vol fans will look back fondly on this era.

rusty_shackleford writes:

If UT won all 13 games, some of you miserables would whine that the Vols lucked into it (see your posts re: 1998). If UT won 13 games by 20, some of you would whine that the Vols should have won by 30.

Face it, some posters here are genetic whiners who can find a cloud everywhere they look. The Volunteer Eeyores! hahahaha Must be fun to live with! I pity your families.

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