Fulmer: Tribute to longevity

Years of success honored with induction

Phillip Fulmer has 147 career victories and a national championship as Tennessee’s head coach.

Photo by UT Photo

Phillip Fulmer has 147 career victories and a national championship as Tennessee’s head coach.

Take a look down Phillip Fulmer's resume and plenty of accomplishments jump off the page: a 1998 national championship, two SEC championships, six divisional titles and 147 career wins.

But gaze a little longer at that bio, and another trend becomes incredibly obvious.

Some 28 years ago, Fulmer came back to his alma mater as an assistant coach. Twenty-eight years later, he's still here.

That's a big enough feat to earn admission in the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame all on its own.

When Fulmer, 57, joins nine other inductees in this year's class on July 17, it's not only a tribute to his success on the field. It's a testament to his longevity in a profession that sometimes treats coaches like used cars.

"It's certainly a compliment to the people who have been in our program - the players and the coaches and the administration and their support during that time," Fulmer said. "All those things have to be in place to achieve any level of success as to what I do. It's not like you're being put in there for being a great golfer or a great tennis player or 3-point shooter or anything like that. Being a coach is very much a part of being a team. We've had a lot of good people on the team."

And since November of 1992, Fulmer has been leading the team.

After Fulmer was officially named UT's 20th head coach, 41 coaches have come and gone from SEC schools. Alabama has had five different head coaches. So has Ole Miss, which just hired Houston Nutt who had been the second-longest tenured SEC coach after spending 10 seasons at Arkansas.

Of the 12 current head coaches in the SEC, only two - Georgia's Mark Richt and Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom - have been at one school for their entire career as a head coach. Moreover, four coaches - South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, Alabama's Nick Saban and Ole Miss's Nutt - are on their second go-round in the SEC.

Still, it's not exactly the way Fulmer had it all planned out when came to Tennessee as the offensive line coach in 1980.

"I don't think you could ever think that was the case," Fulmer said. "Fact is, I came back and I was thrilled to be back, but I saw myself more as a pro football coach. That was really what I wanted to do at that time."

And the opportunities came.

Before becoming UT's head coach, the San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all came calling with offers to be an assistant coach in the NFL.

In the last 10 years, Fulmer said he's had opportunities and discussions about making the jump from college to the NFL.

Early in his career, Fulmer didn't want to force his family into following him across the country as he climbed the career ladder.

But now, as then, family and his alma mater made it too costly to leave.

"The reality, again with my children and my situation here, I'm very blessed," Fulmer said. "It's very unique in my world to have a chance to be in one place for this long. That has its plusses and minuses to it. Sometimes people get tired of you, or (want) change for change. It's a pretty special place here, the tradition, the facilities.

"What I represent on a daily basis, all the people that wore the orange before, I take it very seriously."

That approach won't change as Fulmer closes in on a pair of milestones.

After going 10-4 last season and leading the Vols to their third SEC title game appearance since 2001, Fulmer's 147 wins leave him just 26 short of Gen. Robert Neyland's 173 career wins on UT's all-time list.

Fulmer's 95 wins in SEC play, which rank sixth in SEC history, leave him 11 behind Mississippi's John Vaught for second all-time behind Bear Bryant's 159.

Fulmer's proximity to those two milestones, like his induction into the Knoxville Hall, is equal parts of a complimentary equation of success and longevity.

"I have a great love and a great passion for this," Fulmer said. "You have your faith and your family, which my wife would say I even get that out whack every now and then with the time spent and everything. It's not just a job. It's a part of my life, and it's something that I want to leave a legacy that's like I found it."

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

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Comments » 215

FlushTheJohn writes:

Coach Fulmer is a class act. Nice Story Drew!

John Adams, Why are you still here? They need to flush you back to where you belong!!

FWBVol writes:

Phillip Fulmer is one of the icons in Tennessee football history. His success as a player, assistant coach and head coach stand on their own merit.

Yes, it's been a long time, maybe too long of a time between SEC titles and since the national championship. But as far as the national title, it was 47 years between the one the General won and Phillip Fulmer's 1998 team.

Thanks coach for being true to your school, and being a good caretaker of the program.

LargeOrange writes:

Congratulations Coach, well deserved, we are lucky to have you leading our program. Your best days are still ahead. Now that I was lucky enough to say my peace before the usual suspects arrive and trash this article and our respected coach (except for a vocal minority), I will leave and let the lonely band of miserables have at it.

posivol writes:

thank goodness phil chose the vols over the nfl and still has the loyalty to tennessee that some have never shown.

heres to you coach--cheers :)

Laydbakvol writes:

Nice Article! Congratulations CPF. There are a lot more positives to this program than negatives. Give credit to where credit's due. The stabilizing influence of a long-tenured head coach means more than lot of people appreciate.
Go Vols!

Gigavol writes:

I just want to say Go Coach Fulmer!

How many games do you think Tennessee will win next year?

I'll just go ahead and post this and read your replies.

khelton657 writes:

???? is this some sort of conspiracy......????

ONUV writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Fred08 writes:

Thank you Coach. You are a true Vol, through and through.

sevenmaxims#354995 writes:

Good job CPF

DannyVol writes:

Fulmer is a class act all the way. And he's not done yet, folks. This year's team looks to be much better than advertised.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

Congratulations Coach!

TheLongView writes:

Yes, Coach Fulmer is building a legacy.

A legacy of mediocrity.

volnknox writes:

Coach, your time has come and gone- now go away!!!!!
We will see what you all are saying at the end of this year when he losses 5 or 6 games. Sorry, but that is a very realistic. He was a great coach in the 90's, I'll give him that, but the past 7 years he has accomplished nothing but a lost in the sec championship, nothing to be proud of. Time for new blood as Head Coach.

GerryOP writes:

He gave his all for Tennessee! God bless and God speed.

CrankE writes:

Three. Coach Fulmer has spent his entire head coaching career at UT. Dummies.

mbradshaw1#655539 writes:

Congratulations coach, and God-speed. Oh, please shut up the negative posters on this site this season. There comments are really getting old. I know how hard it is to win week in and week out in the SEC. Some of us got spoiled in the 90's and I might just be one of them. Thank you for your life time support of the Tennessee program and the University.

GO VOLS!!!!!

THE_VOL writes:

You want to talk about longevity?????



hbvol writes:

Coach Fulmer is a great representative of our state and our university. He will most certainly be in the college football hall of fame someday and I hope he finishes his career here. I also hope we can find a little magic one more time before he is done. I look for 08 to be a better year than people think and that we are really only a good D-line away from a GREAT year. Coach you are a class act and I wish you and the boys all the best. GO VOLS!

Volgrad777 writes:

Losing 5 out of 6 games , a realistic possibility??????? Wow , do they deliver the paper to your cave dude???

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Congrats, coach on the honor.

PaulTheVol writes:

Congratulations coach and it is a well deserved honor. You have represented the university with honor, integrity and decency and I am proud that you are our coach.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

tngeoff ?

richvol writes:

In 15 full years as head Coach he has won 147 games and will definitely end up second in career SEC wins behind Bryant. That is a hall of fame record. For those of you that denigrate his performance perhaps you should examine your own accomplishments.

I remember Coach Vaught and Coach Bryant very well and to be in their company is remarkable in this day and age.

jgvol8 writes:

Doesn't this article make us all feel good about our chances this upcoming season. Urban and Saban own him. I've said it before and I'll say it again; our program has been spiraling downwards since the 2001 SEC championship game. 1999, our last BCS game. No SEC titles. What does this tell us?

99gator writes:

uhh oh.

i'll set the over/under on 300 comments for this one.

KNS is definitely looking to end the doldrums.

over/under as to when it starts getting ugly is at post 71.

Bigger_Al writes:

John Adams is vacationing in Branson, Missouri, which is why this article was allowed to be published.

Thanks, Coach. Can't wait for the season!

99gator writes:

in all seriousness,

how does the KNS have the john adams column and a month or so later come out with this.

i know adams' article was the opinion of one man and not the position of the KNS....

i know we build people up and tear 'em down and build 'em up and tear 'em down.

but, the adams article and this article take it to the extreme.

txsvol#372416 writes:

Congratulations to Phil Fulmer, a true Tennessee icon deserving of the honor of inclusion into a Knoxville Hall of Fame. With his typical humility, he shares the award with his players and assistant coaches. He takes seriously that he represents all the people who have worn orange before. While all of us would like to have won the SEC and National Championships more than we have over the past ten years, how can some of us not appreciate his class and character? No one ever erected a statue to a critic! There will be a statue of CPF on the Hill when his career is completed, if not before! I also expect him to be inducted into the Tennessee Sports H of F, if he's not already in it, and also, the NCAA Football H of F. Go Vols! SAVol

TommyJack writes:


TommyJack writes:

got it

arkyvol writes:

i've supported coach fulmer for years and i think he's been a credit to his profession.

however, if you were to divide his years as head coach into two parts, you could not help but be concerned. his first half would make you think hall of fame; the second would make you wonder how he keeps his job. i like fulmer and i hope he can get his career back into the early mode.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

TJ, good picture of ol' Phil. Looks like he is sitting right where he needs to be. He has been a loyal and faithful servant but maybe goals have changed or are unattainable.

thgeoff, stay the course, rethink your charts, there's a brighter day coming.


Pullingguard writes:

Vols have been well served by Phil Fulmer and so has the community. No one could have been more dedicated to the success of the players, the team and University than Phil Fulmer. Good luck for the future...

Vol13 writes:

When you are brokering business deals with most of the top fatcat boosters and have a puppet for an AD - that's how you produce average results and are able to keep your job.

The good ole boy network is alive and well in the UTAD and you guys are lopping it up like dog on a gut wagon. With poor recruiting recently, Fulmer will walk away from the train wreck that UT football has become in a couple of years with the program in the same shape it was when Johnny came marching home. We might even go through 5 coaches ourselves before we get it right. But we will have won a lot of games and Fulmer will have made a lot of money in the process. And so will Hammy and the fatcats who used the UTAD donor list to pitch them business ideas attaching the Great One's name to the ventures and getting them to reach deep into their coffers and pony up their cash.

Keep protecting that establishment Coach. And throw Hammy a bone on occasion. He gets lonely and hungry when you don't make his mouth move. We miss you out here in Jackson Hole. Come on back and see us when you can!!!

Pull up a chair boys and wait. It's gonna seem like eons before we get back to the glory years. Who knows. We might even feel a little remorse about poking fun at Alabama a few years ago.

TommyJack writes:

vol13: Not lopping it up.

CoverOrange writes:

Wouldn't it be easier to just cut and paste all the posts anti- and pro-Fulmer from previous articles here. Seems like deja-vu all over again.

Good article, Drew.

txsvol#372416 writes:

FWIW, I ran into one of the Big Orange football players of the late '40s yesterday. He had Alzheimer's, but claimed that his first year was the first year that football players lived in the 'Animal Den' of the football stadium (then known as Shields-Watkins field). He couldn't relate a story about General Neyland, or Hank Lauricella, or Doug Atkins, etc., saying that his memory had gone. So, I asked him what caused another Tennessean to come to Texas, and he replied, "Alimony." He then related about selling cars for Hippodrome Motors on Broadway in Nashville, while his third ex-wife practiced medicine. He told that one day, in snow 10" deep, his wife was attending both of two elderly ladies sharing a double room, who had their false teeth in containers by their beds. One of the ladies died, and his physician pronounced her dead, but while she was writing the note, she told the nurse to put the teeth back in her mouth before rigor mortis set in. The next morning, the other lady complained that her teeth hurt her mouth more than usual. The nurse had switched the false teeth! This may just be a b. s. story from a former car salesman, because I couldn't find his name listed among UT football lettermen of the post-WWII era, and he couldn't remember anything about outstanding linemen like Dick Huffman, John Michels, and Doug Atkins. But, the story was funny enough to me to share it with you guys. Go Vols! SAVol

TommyJack writes:

SAvol: I guess all his ex's lived in TN. lol

utclassof1992 writes:

Vol13, you said it right, sir. The paper has irritated the Great Pumpkin, so now they have to try to make him sound like Paterno or Bowden. Whatever.

vol52 writes:

As long as we live in the past our future is uncertain at best. That is how great football programs falter by living in the past.

FlushTheJohn writes:

Some of you anti Fulmer idiots are such losers. You post on here every day and save articles and links to every negative story ever written about our football program. You fools actually think you can make a difference on whether Fulmer stays or not. It's sad that you claim to be supporters of UT and yet you pull against them just because you think the coach has been around a little to long. Your life is sad and I am thankful every day that I am not like you idiots.

Here's to your continued misery!! This football season is going to be a great one (for those of us who actually pull for our team). And Fulmer will still be our coach this time next year!!! I can't wait to hear your crying tngeoff, TDTN, and company. John Adams will lead the way.

After we win the SEC next year I say we have a "punch John Adams in the Face Day" where we can all slap him silly while we celebrate a championship! You idiots feel free to join Adams in the "get your face smacked Line"!!!!

Go Vols!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

volroadwarrior writes:

Everything in life has its ups and downs. Coach Fulmer was riding high in the late 90's and hit a low point in 05 when he took his eye off the ball. I would hope we are on the rise again and hold to the top for awhile so he can go out on a high. Hiring head coaches who can take a program to the top and hold it is a risky business and I hope there is a solid succession plan in place. In the mean time, I believe Coach Fulmer gives us the best shot to succeed.

bobbyutvol writes:

a true class act who loves tennessee good luck

invisiblekid writes:

Good stuff SAVol, your posts always provides a light touch to the never-ending struggle between "positive" and "negative" on here.

invisiblekid writes:

99Gator, 9:06 post, my take is that KNS is simply catering to their two distinct audiences. You have some that can find common ground in the middle but the majority fall into one of two categories: those that worship at the alter of Fulmer and those that revile his every action.

invisiblekid writes:

Well-put Volroadwarrior. The only thing I would find any disagreement with is that Fulmer is our only shot to succeed at this point. I don't think his job has ever been close to being in jeopardy.

posivol writes:

same ole same ole mediocre posers.


and of course the leader of the clown table:

TDTN aka crvol et.al

must be tough living in the trailer w/ the sun beating down on you day after day.its ok boys,hit the soup line and get you a bowl.better days are coming!

posivol writes:

flushthejohn says:You idiots feel free to join Adams in the "get your face smacked Line"!!!!

now thats just funny!

posivol writes:

Kingsportchemicalspill--awe did i hurt your fellings leaving you off the negalist--poor little baby--get you 2 bowls of soup and we can call it even.

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