Strange: No one waiting in wings this time

Phillip Fulmer announces he is stepping down

UT Coach Phillip Fulmer

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

UT Coach Phillip Fulmer

There’s an element of sameness to any press conference called for the purpose of relieving a coach of his duties.

There are hurt feelings by one party, who is surrounded by a phalanx of loyal family and friends.

There is an authority figure representing the institution, trying to put the best face on an awkward situation (and to get the show over with as quickly as possible).

I wouldn’t go so far as to call it deja vu, but Monday’s press conference announcing the end of the Phillip Fulmer era at Tennessee bore some resemblance to the last time UT conducted the business of changing football coaches.

That was on Nov. 13, 1992. That Tennessee went 10 days short of 16 years between such announcements is an endorsement of Fulmer’s success.

John Majors was the unwilling attendee back in ’92. His press conference came in his 16th year coaching at UT. He was 57.

Fulmer’s comes in his 17th year at his alma mater. He recently turned 58.

Each agreed to a negotiated, but forced resignation after losing at South Carolina (and Alabama the game before).

Majors thanked his loyal fans and expressed what a wonderful place UT was. Fulmer did likewise.

Both coaches made it clear they felt they should have had the opportunity to stay and get things turned around.

Both were lauded for their long service by the university official in charge. Both were invited to coach out the final three games of the regular season, plus a bowl game if they wished.

There were striking differences as well.

At least Fulmer got to experience the toughest day of his career on home turf, in the new media center at Neyland Stadium, surrounded by his players.

Majors’ end was made even more awkward by the fact that the Vols were in Memphis to play Memphis State the next day. The deal went down in the conference room of a budget motel chain, Wilson World Inn.

Fulmer’s buyout is $6 million. Majors got, $600,000.

But the biggest difference for the UT program is this:

There is no Fulmer waiting in the wings after Fulmer.

For the first time since a young Robert Neyland was recruited from West Point to coach the Vols in 1926, Tennessee will embark on a true national coaching search.

UT has quite the history with men’s basketball searches. They happen on a regular basis, like presidential elections. Everybody knows the drill.

Not football.

When one guy left, there was always the next guy, hand-picked to step in.

I won’t try to name them all, but Neyland, as athletic director, brought former UT star Bowden Wyatt home to coach in 1955.

In 1964, athletic director Bob Woodruff went outside the UT family but he knew his man: his former quarterback at Florida, Doug Dickey. When Dickey bolted, Woodruff tapped one of Dickey’s assistants, Bill Battle.

As Battle faded, UT brought Majors marching home off a national championship season at Pittsburgh. A no-brainer.

And when Majors ran afoul of certain powers, Fulmer, his offensive coordinator, was already in line to replace him. Once again, UT’s search never left the football building.

In fact, I remember standing in a hotel lobby in Memphis 16 years ago and asking a prominent booster about a possible search. Just to cover the bases.

“Coaching search?” he said, laughing at the notion. “There isn’t going to be any coaching search.”

There is this time.

No UT assistant will be promoted. There’s no hero alumnus to bring home.

Unless athletic director Mike Hamilton has secretly lined up his guy — and I’m fairly certain he has not — Tennessee football is sailing into uncharted waters.

Will Hamilton throw big money at an established guy at a marquee program?

Will he try to find another Bruce Pearl, who has succeeded at a smaller school with modest resources?

Will he take a chance on a hot coordinator, hoping for the next Mark Richt or Bob Stoops?

Will he reach out to the NFL and see if there’s a Nick Saban or Pete Carroll who misses the college game?

It’s going to be interesting. It always is in uncharted waters.

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Comments » 55

smashmouth98 writes:

I hope they can find someone that has the same amount of CLASS that Fulmer had!!!!! That will be tough to do. A Very respectable man.
Also, I'm kind of excited to hear about the possible canidates. Who will be interested? Can they bring some quality & proven schemes?

LargeOrange writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No not first hiresanders, just like your hero, you are a loser again, but I bet you are very used to that.

tnlizard writes:

in response to aketron:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

God help the players and lets hope it is a good change and not an immediate bad one.

CT_VOL writes:

If the players are so mad, they can show us by demolishing their opponents in the remaining games. Now that would be a statement.

Frank

lomas98 writes:

Most TN fans will prove why they are targeted as unreasonable with this coaching search. Nothing makes this fan base happy and whoever the replacement is will not be the right choice. I bring up all these different names with friends and they point out a fault with every single one. If its Leach, it should have been Peterson. If its Peterson, it should have been Kiffin. If its Kiffin, it should have been Brewster. What happens if the new coach starts out 0-2 in conference next year as well. At FL and home vs Auburn it could happen. No matter who comes in here, he will not have a QB to work with. I think we better settle in for a few more years like this season and then another possible coaching search.

slojim writes:

I feel sick...Fulmer has class and I will root for him wherever he ends up, but I got to be honest...it will hurt deep inside to see him coach elsewhere... I feel like I just lost my favorite Uncle...

Call me crazy, but I'm just not blown away by any of the choices out there... NOT A ONE...

Joelomite2j writes:

Neyland Stadium BETTER be filled for the last 2 remaining home games.
If I could afford the time off work, trip, ticket, etc. I would go!
GO VOLS!

Madkels writes:

If the powers that be are smart, and I believe they are, they already have a short list and probably have spoken to a few. I don't believe they would "sail into unchartered waters" with out some idea of where they were going with this.

As bad as I was frustrated with our poor on field performance, I hate it for coach Fulmer, but know it is time. I wish him the best and pray lightning strikes twice. So Mr. Hamilton, go get the best and put Tennessee football back on top!

TommyJack writes:

in response to volball09:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I must have read a different article. Didn't see any bad-mouthing.

AlWilson writes:

Very mixed emotions. On one hand I was excited when I first heard the news and the thought of what the future might hold. After the press conference and reflecting on the last 17 years I almost feel like someone shot my dog. I hate that it had to end this way, but all things end badly, otherwise they wouldn't end. Thank you for your loyal service to the university coach and I wish you well in any future endeavors. You took this program to new heights and we will always think of you as one of the icons in Tennessee football history. I hope Mike Hamilton has a plan, because there are some very large shoes to fill(no pun intended).

Pullingguard writes:

Unchartered waters hold many dangers and whomever Hamilton finds will bring a new staff, none of them with ties to the University..Can't you see the Vols in same boat wallowing in unchartered waters with Nebraska, N. Dame, Texa A/M, Washington, Miami, Michigan and others... All you anit-Fulmer people better get the puke bucket for there are going to be some rough water ahead...

utvolz#637682 writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Get lost you IDIOT! I would love to say that the "T" on the side of your head stood for the "Thumping" ANY UT Fan could put on your sorry excuse for a human being! You disgust me!

Frank (broadcasting live from Manchester, TN!)

sandman8323 writes:

does anyone know if we r keeping the recruits so far?

BRVol writes:

I feel like you do after you break up with a girl you've dated for a long time it hurts and you feel like a jerk, but you did it because you believed it was the best thing.
I was overwelled and surprised by the way i felt when receiving the news, and especially watching the press conference. Thank's coach for the last 17 years, and i hope you stay in the Tennessee family. I don't think i could take seeing you anywhere else. You are a true Tennessee Vol.

JACK8254 writes:

in response to slojim:

I feel sick...Fulmer has class and I will root for him wherever he ends up, but I got to be honest...it will hurt deep inside to see him coach elsewhere... I feel like I just lost my favorite Uncle...

Call me crazy, but I'm just not blown away by any of the choices out there... NOT A ONE...

who do think would hire Fulmer at this age? I like the man , but i think his skills as a coach are mostly picking good assistant coaches. The Clawson choice seems to imply he is not what he used to be in that area.

BillsBrother writes:

in response to sandman8323:

does anyone know if we r keeping the recruits so far?

Sandman, see article posted about 15 minutes ago.

sandman8323 writes:

I felt sorry for fulmer until espn showed his record 1992-1998 lost 9 games 1999-2008 lost 31 . holy ship wreck. 25-28 against ranked teams

reachkim00 writes:

See ya.. take Clawson with you.

diamond_dave35#235769 writes:

Wonders if Les Miles would leave LSU..nah just wishful thinking..On a more serious note..I really like the guy at Boise (cant think of the name of the top of my head)

KAvolsfan writes:

not gonna lie, it hit me when he choked up talking about developing kids into men. sad stuff.. 2-3 yrs. Tennessee will be back..wait and see

Volalumnus writes:

There are plenty of opportunities out there.

Look at the top 25 and all the schools that are being put on the map becuase of their coaches.

RockyTopVolFan writes:

The media loves to hype up potential news events:

The media fanned the flames of resentment for "news" purposes against a good coach and man who was having a down period. The media recommended or encouraged his firing.

Now that they have accomplished their goal of getting Fulmer's job they are making more "news" by asking us if the decision was a good one, if the timing was poor, if we will be able to find another coach as "good" as Fulmer (who they were lambasting as bad) or if we will be able to find a winner. What biased hypocracy I witness with the local media.
They nauseate me.

Good Luck Phil, thanks for the good times.
GO VOLS!

utvols4ever writes:

I think the major problemn is Hamliton. All he wants is more sky boxes. Now he has got rid of our best coach. Good Luck filling any seat for years to come.

elsinoresam writes:

The best way out of this is to hire Coach Cut away from Duke, who would keep most if not all of the current assistants, and Keep Coach Fulmer as assistant AD

FLAVOLS writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

First... IDIOT

Madkels writes:

in response to RockyTopVolFan:

The media loves to hype up potential news events:

The media fanned the flames of resentment for "news" purposes against a good coach and man who was having a down period. The media recommended or encouraged his firing.

Now that they have accomplished their goal of getting Fulmer's job they are making more "news" by asking us if the decision was a good one, if the timing was poor, if we will be able to find another coach as "good" as Fulmer (who they were lambasting as bad) or if we will be able to find a winner. What biased hypocracy I witness with the local media.
They nauseate me.

Good Luck Phil, thanks for the good times.
GO VOLS!

No Rocky. The media didn't do this. Sandmans entry explains it all.

"I felt sorry for fulmer until espn showed his record 1992-1998 lost 9 games 1999-2008 lost 31 . holy ship wreck. 25-28 against ranked teams"

sandman8323 writes:

in response to Madkels:

No Rocky. The media didn't do this. Sandmans entry explains it all.

"I felt sorry for fulmer until espn showed his record 1992-1998 lost 9 games 1999-2008 lost 31 . holy ship wreck. 25-28 against ranked teams"

Don't get me wrong, i loved fulmer but ut football is more than about coaches. It's about bragging to my co-workers who r fans for other teams. It's about my little girl dressing up like a ut cheerleader. It's about comparing how many nfl stars r former ut players over other colleges. dam* it it's about winning

mattnchatt writes:

BRVol, I think you nailed it. I feel the same way but it was the right decision. I hope coach stays in K-ville, he wouldn't look right in any other color but orange.

sandman8323 writes:

in response to JACK8254:

who do think would hire Fulmer at this age? I like the man , but i think his skills as a coach are mostly picking good assistant coaches. The Clawson choice seems to imply he is not what he used to be in that area.

I thought they would fire clawson or something stupid like that, just to throw some raw meat into the crowed

woodwr#217203 writes:

Actually next year has a very favorable schedule:

UCLA comes to Knoxville with not much better team.
Auburn still won't have much offense, or whole new staff.
Western KY, Ohio, and Memphis are not world-beaters.
Ole Miss, Vandy & Kentucky are still behind in talent.
With the worst Randy Sanders Offense even South Carolina was a toss-up.

Instead of Johnny Majors doing much worse than Bill Battle's worst, winning eight or nine games is quite imaginable in the new guy's first year.

Catching back up to Georgia, Florida, and Alabama will take much longer.

DaddyO writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

Unchartered waters hold many dangers and whomever Hamilton finds will bring a new staff, none of them with ties to the University..Can't you see the Vols in same boat wallowing in unchartered waters with Nebraska, N. Dame, Texa A/M, Washington, Miami, Michigan and others... All you anit-Fulmer people better get the puke bucket for there are going to be some rough water ahead...

I bet you see that puke bucket as being half empty... don't ya Pullingguard?

DaddyO writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree - Miss. State may take him... or NC State... or Kansas State (if you can get him to move to Manhattan, KS - yuck).

Phil isn't through with coaching.

junder13 writes:

in response to Volalumnus:

There are plenty of opportunities out there.

Look at the top 25 and all the schools that are being put on the map becuase of their coaches.

Amen dude. I hate to read all this negativity about UT being doomed now! What BS! As you said, look at the Top 25!!! It's not filled with the Florida States and Wisconsins and Notre Dames! It's filled with teams that have fresh philosophies and game approaches. Modern schemes and coaches who develop them. We have PLENTY of great options this year and we are the best school with a coaching vacancy! I expect great things in the not-so-distant future. Perhaps it takes some time. Perhaps its quick. It can't get much worse! We're 3-6, with a possible 1st ever 8-loss season and we returned a majority of last year's team! This "new" offense was more of the same we've had for over 30 years--just not as well-coached and disciplined as with Cutcliffe (although I'm not a Cut dink-n-dunk fan).

Give UT REAL CHANGE! Give UT fans something new and something from OUTSIDE the "family". Bring me modern, entertaining, dynamic college football! With the right hire, we'll be at the fore front of college football again soon. As good as the coaches are in the SEC, a lot of them are not good against "modern" schemes. Look at what Urban did to Richt and Miles. Spurriers past his prime. These teams, 10 years from now, will be in our shoes if there schemes do not change. Florida's got the right idea. I hope UT hires someone with the same kind of mindset: modern, speed-oriented, wide-open, unpredictable, and EXCITING! Go Vols!!!

DaddyO writes:

in response to elsinoresam:

The best way out of this is to hire Coach Cut away from Duke, who would keep most if not all of the current assistants, and Keep Coach Fulmer as assistant AD

Hiring Coach Cut is an exceptionally bad idea... if we're going to do that... we might as well rehire Fulmer tomorrow.

Coach Cut can't "cut it" in the SEC. He's where he belongs... hopefully he's smart enough to stay there...

Grim1 writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

UTC is looking for a coach....he would still be in the Tennessee family (kind of)
and the Mocs do need TRUNING AROUND.

utmdm writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

in response to hiresanders:

Tennessee football will not be heard from again until 2010 at least. The T on the helmet stands for Terrible

And K is for Korat - "any of a breed of short-haired domestic cats originating in Thailand and having a heart-shaped face, a silver-blue coat, and usually green eyes"

It fits. Green with envy, I would say.

tripper writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

are you serious? outside of Croom and Brooks, he is the worst coaching canidate in the SEC. he may draw mid level interest but to suggest he's on anyone's (ie Clemson, Washington, etc..) short list is absurd. who's he going bring with him, Chavis or Clawson ? the only reason he lasted this long was because he was at UT. his coaching days are over.

posivol writes:

thanks for your dedication coach fulmer.you will be missed for years and years to come.hope after a couple of years of trial and error on hamiltons part he too will be fired and you will come back as the a.d. and rescue the vols once again (even though alot of these FOOLS dont deserve it).

i will miss the rantings and ravings from several on here who loved to attack you at every twist and turn.but dont worry they will give the new coach the same phooey before his first year is up.

these same FOOLS wanted crompton to start over ainge last year.they were jumping for joy for the new spread offense (until they got it) they were all excited about the clawfense coming to town and the G-GUN.

they are FOOLS,they know nothing!

when 200 plus former players gave you a shout out of approval,they disagreed and claimed to know more FOOLS!

you rewarded them w/ a sec east championship and a trip to atlanta (they didnt deserve or appreciate) then for icing on the cake you played on jan 1st and sent a good wisconsin team home in defeat (again these FOOLS were unimpressed).

all the while they complained dink and dunk dink and dunk we want change,we want change louder and louder WE WANT CHANGE!.......FOOLS!

well FOOLS you now have your wish,wanted a new o.c. for sake of change (how did that work out for you),,,FOOLS!

guess what,your fixing to see the same thing w/ your next 3 or 4 misses at head coach.or maybe you failed to notice that many turned down the o.c. position....FOOLS!

keep throwing out those big name head coaches that are just hanging around the phone waiting for the call from mikey.they aint coming boys,this job requires way to much travel and time recruiting for a big name coach that can find a easier meal ticket just around the corner...FOOLS!

pissing off current and former players along w/thrashing a top 5 recruiting class is no way to rebuild the program.this isnt b.b. you need 85 players not 10....FOOLS!

you begged for it,you got it...now live with it.....FOOLS!

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

in response to aketron:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Why don't you go change your underwear, or diapers in your case, with baby faced Hamilton, who is content with being politically correct. I am going to be just as critical of the new coaches as you have been of Coach Fulmer. This time around we will be the protagonists and you know it alls will have to play the faithful devotee's role. Just remember this is what YOU guys wanted!! You and Hamilton, and Adams , and the rest of the sports writers and talk show hosts, who were losing popularity wanted Fulmer's head so that they could keep theirs. Sad Sad situation. Be prepared for the worst.

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

in response to JACK8254:

who do think would hire Fulmer at this age? I like the man , but i think his skills as a coach are mostly picking good assistant coaches. The Clawson choice seems to imply he is not what he used to be in that area.

half of the people on our short list are 58 years old?

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

in response to elsinoresam:

The best way out of this is to hire Coach Cut away from Duke, who would keep most if not all of the current assistants, and Keep Coach Fulmer as assistant AD

Yep, this is the only way out.

Triton1 writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Oh well, you've apparantly never been first at anything, why should that change now. LOSER!

Volfan1 writes:

Mr. Hamilton,

You had better pick a coach who wins big, wins at least 75% of his games, wins SEC & National championships soon and often, keeps us off NCAA probation, recruits with the best, cares about his players as people, and wins NOW. Not in two years, not in three years....NOW.
That is the path you have chosen by removing Coach Fulmer. No Nebraska, Michigan, or Mikes at Alabama situations are allowed.
No patience is permitted for you and your choice. You wanted instant gratification to appease so-called fans and hacks like John Adams.
You are DEMANDED to get it right with your FIRST choice to replace Coach Fulmer.
Enjoy the process. You have no margin for error. This is your doing.

blitzshoot writes:

in response to WeLoveTennesseeVols:

Why don't you go change your underwear, or diapers in your case, with baby faced Hamilton, who is content with being politically correct. I am going to be just as critical of the new coaches as you have been of Coach Fulmer. This time around we will be the protagonists and you know it alls will have to play the faithful devotee's role. Just remember this is what YOU guys wanted!! You and Hamilton, and Adams , and the rest of the sports writers and talk show hosts, who were losing popularity wanted Fulmer's head so that they could keep theirs. Sad Sad situation. Be prepared for the worst.

I am prepared fro the worst everytime I see your posts.

rllipscomb#212376 writes:

This is a non sequiter, but so be it.

It is time for John Adams to go. His staff was scooped by several hours by a reporter who doesn't even live in Knoxville. This is the biggest story in more than 15 years, and Adams and his entire staff got scooped in their own backyard. In fact, for several hours, I could get the story all over the internet while this web site had NOTHING.

But that is not the only evidence of Adams' incompetence. Since this winter, John Adams has violated a cardinal rule of journalism. He has allowed himself to become part of the story.

Fulmer's record , poor as it is, glistens in comparison.

mhwhite63 writes:

What about our own John Chavis? He has been extremely loyal and has saved Coach Fulmer's job for nearly a decade. I think his intensity, toughness and talent would be a great asset as head coach.

pdowned writes:

Do some of you clowns honestly think that a major college program would not be interested in hiring a coach that has the 3rd highest winning percentage of active coaches and has teh record Fulmer does? What are you smoking? I love the guy who said no one would hire him as a head coach, and maybe he could "help out" at a school like Washington St. Watch and see.

DennisVols writes:

The only certain thing is uncertainity. 3 things will always affect our lives, death, taxes and change.
"Only those not afraid to lose, will ever have a chance at winning"
The next decision for the AD is the biggest he will probably ever make professionally. UT Football is at a crossroads and the direction the next coach will take it will determine not only wins and losses but one of the largest budgets in college sports.
Fulmer was a winner, no matter what you saw the last few years. He won on and off the field. Had Majors been held to the same standards Fulmer set and was held to.(4 straight seasons with at least 10 wins, a perfect 13-0 season, 2 straight SEC Championships and a National Championship) he would have been fired after his first 6 season in which his best finsihed was a 4th place tie in the conference.
There are big shoes to fill at UT and the bar at what is acceptable in the win/lose is no higher in what we expect in the type of character our coach will have and the kind of character he will build in his players.
To say otherwise is to ingnore the outrage we saw earlier this year when the daily news reports was about what was wrong with all the off field problems. We point at other coaches who have even greater player issues than Fulmer ever did and question their character.
So this next decision needs to have everything weighed in it to include football smarts, character and how loyal will you be to this great university. No need to go through this every election year or less as we have seen many programs do after having to make a coaching change for any reason.

SKO_Vol82 writes:

I asked this earlier, on another story, but got no response:

Anybody know why Meyer has such animosity about Fulmer? I remember last year, after we got pummeled at UF, Meyer made some comment about why he ran the score up and one day he would explain the reason. Anybody know anything?

SKO_Vol82 writes:

in response to mhwhite63:

What about our own John Chavis? He has been extremely loyal and has saved Coach Fulmer's job for nearly a decade. I think his intensity, toughness and talent would be a great asset as head coach.

Again with this? NO!!! Anyone who lines his corners 10 yards off the recievers and puts his safeties 30 yards off the line of scrimmage has no place as a head coach!! That's called "playing it safe", not "playing to win"! NO NO NO! Chavis must get on the fat wagon out of town with the rest of the tired and true coaching staff. We need new blood, top to bottom, even if we have to endure a few years of mediocrity. At least with change, there's hope. If we keep going back to the same trough over and over, things will NEVER improve!!!

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