Fulmer: 'It's been like three-week long funeral'

Drew Edwards
Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer and his wife, Vicky, leave the field after a 20-10 victory over Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville on Saturday.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer and his wife, Vicky, leave the field after a 20-10 victory over Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville on Saturday.

NASHVILLE - Heading for the locker room underneath the stands in Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer smiled and waved to a group of fans who spent a few more minutes in the bitter Nashville air to pay their respects.

Those fans were the latest voices to lend support and offer thanks since athletic director Mike Hamilton announced Nov. 3 that Fulmer would not return for an 18th season.

Following a 20-10 victory over Vanderbilt in his penultimate game as Vols coach, Fulmer said he appreciates the support, even if it doesn't do much to lessen the sting of what happened nearly three weeks ago.

"We've had a lot of people who have called and e-mailed and faxed and written lots and lots of notes," Fulmer said. "I do appreciate it. It makes you feel warm about it, but it doesn't make you feel any better."

Moments after leaving the field, Fulmer spent much of his postgame press conference addressing the emotion surrounding his ouster.

"I told some good friends it's been like a three-week long funeral in some ways," he said. "I don't think I would encourage any athletic director to do it that way. That's made it tough on everybody.

"It's been something our kids … I tell you what, I've got to give them a lot of credit. They've continued to fight through it."

Despite losing to Wyoming 13-7 in its last game, Tennessee jumped on Vanderbilt in the second quarter with 20 points and held on with its defense.

Senior Robert Ayers, echoing players' comments over the last three weeks, said the Vols are playing for Fulmer in their final games.

"It gives you more of a reason. We know this is coach's last two games at this school, and we want to send him out on a good note," Ayers said. "We have a lot more motivation. Not saying we weren't motivated the first 10 games. This is coach's last two games. There's a little more motivation to go out there and play better."

Despite the ultimate outcome, Fulmer said, he's not bitter about Hamilton's decision.

"A good friend of mine told me, and it's true, bitterness or resentment is like taking poison and expecting somebody else to die," he said. "I'm not going to live that way. I just choose not to. Certainly I do think if we'd been given the opportunity then we would have turned it around and gotten to where want to be. I believe that with all my heart.

"There's a lot of good young players on this football team," Fulmer said. "Certainly the next guy's going to have - I shouldn't say that - a real good opportunity. It is what it is."

For most of the season, it's been a downward spiral.

The Vols opened the season with an overtime loss to UCLA on Sept. 1. Then came a 0-3 start in SEC play and a three-game losing streak that UT finally snapped on Saturday against the Commodores.

While he disagrees with Hamilton's decision to go in a new direction, Fulmer said he bears some responsibility.

"Would I like for it to have been different? Certainly," he said. "But I accept responsibility in this, too. We let it get to a point where somebody felt they had to make a decision. Whether it was the right decision or wrong one, we can agree to disagree."

As for his future beyond next week's season finale against Kentucky, Fulmer said he would take time and evaluate what the future holds.

"When one door closes, another opens. There's a lot of things out there to look at and consider," he said. "Just have some quality time with my family. They've paid a dear price for me to do this job for a long time.

"I may coach again," he said. "There are some opportunities to look at there. Everybody advises me to take my time and think about it and kind of get out of the stress. But I love the game. I love to win the games, I guess is the best way to say it."

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

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Comments » 136

tnbigg writes:

One more week...

TommyJack writes:

Lots of nice comments about CPF. And that's good. He's given many years to his alma mater. But let's not forget, he hasn't done too badly by his university either.

spvol writes:

Thanks for the memories, Coach Fulmer. You are a class act and a true Vol.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

"Certainly I do think if we'd been given the opportunity then we would have turned it around and gotten to where want to be. I believe that with all my heart."--Coach Fulmer.

With all due respect Coach, are you kidding me? UT has averaged more than 4 losses per year this decade. This is one of the worst years we've ever had. PLEASE, PLEASE, Coach, don't act like you were never given a chance to right the ship. If you (or any Fulmer defenders) believe you weren't given a chance, then it shows how out of touch you are.

On top of it, it's been more than a 3-week long funeral. In reality, it's been a 6-season long funeral dating back to 2002.

bd330794#206783 writes:

Stay classy, gatorzz

Just like your boy Urban kicking people when they are down. Dont worry your day is coming...

txvolsfan writes:

Fulmer is truly a class act and a good coach!!! I'll always be grateful to him as a Vol fan but I do think it was time to go in a different direction. Thanks for the memories Coach Fulmer!!!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

"We let it get to this point".

Finally admitting that he might be the reason for his departure, albeit the "we".

Only trouble I saw at the game today was two frat bros from Vandy got to pushing and shoving each other with the help of Michelob. Got a little heated, but they broke them up.

6 days, Ashley, where ever you are.

tennisvol writes:

Thanks for the memories and all the positive things you brought to the university and the football program. Best of luck in the future to you and your family.

tenuscvol writes:

in response to spvol:

Thanks for the memories, Coach Fulmer. You are a class act and a true Vol.

ditto Coach....I have many great memories and wish you nothing but the best in whatever you chose to do...

GoVols!

khelton657 writes:

Man...it was time but this is still tough to watch.

After seeing this unfold, I don't think an HD should ever
fire someone midseason due solely to W and L's.

blitzshoot writes:

Shame it had to end this way, for all parties involved.

dvols writes:

thanks coach, one more win would be a nice early christmas gift.

just lets all pretend it is the ole beer barrell we are playing for!

jfg1980 writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

"Certainly I do think if we'd been given the opportunity then we would have turned it around and gotten to where want to be. I believe that with all my heart."--Coach Fulmer.

With all due respect Coach, are you kidding me? UT has averaged more than 4 losses per year this decade. This is one of the worst years we've ever had. PLEASE, PLEASE, Coach, don't act like you were never given a chance to right the ship. If you (or any Fulmer defenders) believe you weren't given a chance, then it shows how out of touch you are.

On top of it, it's been more than a 3-week long funeral. In reality, it's been a 6-season long funeral dating back to 2002.

Right on brother!

ClayMolder (Inactive) writes:

the more he talks the less classy he is. there is no perfect time for this sort of thing, especially when YOU are the one getting the walking papers.

thank you phil (again) for the memories. now go on. today's win was certainly no masterpiece, especially on the offensive side of the ball. when the best-looking QB is the starting safety you simply dont have much talent under center. that's what big-time college coaches do: recruit and develop good players.

FWBVol writes:

in response to ClayMolder:

the more he talks the less classy he is. there is no perfect time for this sort of thing, especially when YOU are the one getting the walking papers.

thank you phil (again) for the memories. now go on. today's win was certainly no masterpiece, especially on the offensive side of the ball. when the best-looking QB is the starting safety you simply dont have much talent under center. that's what big-time college coaches do: recruit and develop good players.

As I"ve said before, it's a moot point now because the decision was made, I think year two with Clawson's offense would have been much better than this season. I know it couldn't get much worse. But I believe a lot of the QB problems this year have to do with a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive system.

Even when Ainge went from Randy Sanders as OC and QB coach to David Cutcliffe as the OC/QB coach, it was the same offensive system, and I would guess a similar approach to playing quarterback. Clawson's offense calls for weak side and strong side alignments on the offensive line. I think that's one reason for some of the confusion on the line.

All that said, I understand why so many fans are upset. That still doesn't take away from Phillip Fulmer's total body of work.

Pullingguard writes:

in response to gatorzz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

2008 was bad year for Vols, but before this is all over there will be lot of people missing ole Phil.. Mark it!!

TNisPeerless writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

2008 was bad year for Vols, but before this is all over there will be lot of people missing ole Phil.. Mark it!!

The ONLY football thing anyone will miss is Phil's RECRUITING in the 90's. That was a decade ago in case you were wondering. You are deluding yourselves if you believe otherwise.

utang1602#204610 writes:

in response to ClayMolder:

the more he talks the less classy he is. there is no perfect time for this sort of thing, especially when YOU are the one getting the walking papers.

thank you phil (again) for the memories. now go on. today's win was certainly no masterpiece, especially on the offensive side of the ball. when the best-looking QB is the starting safety you simply dont have much talent under center. that's what big-time college coaches do: recruit and develop good players.

I guess it's all in the perspective. When I read his comments, I see nothing but respect and class oozing from them.

You're right, there is no perfect time for this type of thing, but it wasn't fair to the coaches or to the players for it to happen as it did. It could have, and should have, waited until the end of the season.

ncvol17 writes:

I'll miss having a confirmed UT man at the helm. I hope we don't get a mercenary who wants just $$$ and then moves on to the NFL or another D1 school with a better recruiting base in the near future.

burpee_von_rotweiler_IV writes:

Gimmee a break! Whose children are going through a tougher time? Those youngsters whose parents were laid off from local firms recently (making probably 1-3% of what Phil earns) or Phil's grown children? His UT dream job was his to lose and he managed to do it. All of this wallering in self pity is getting nauseating. Move on!

arkyvol writes:

as capo tessio said, "it wasn't personal--i always liked him. it was just business."

OdessaVol writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

"Certainly I do think if we'd been given the opportunity then we would have turned it around and gotten to where want to be. I believe that with all my heart."--Coach Fulmer.

With all due respect Coach, are you kidding me? UT has averaged more than 4 losses per year this decade. This is one of the worst years we've ever had. PLEASE, PLEASE, Coach, don't act like you were never given a chance to right the ship. If you (or any Fulmer defenders) believe you weren't given a chance, then it shows how out of touch you are.

On top of it, it's been more than a 3-week long funeral. In reality, it's been a 6-season long funeral dating back to 2002.

Big,
What is he supposed to say? Most, including myself, believe it's time to leave, but anyone worth their salt is going to have confidence in what they do.

TommyJack writes:

At the risk of being an I Told You So, OK is eating TTech like guv'ment cheese. 42-7 at half.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

in response to OdessaVol:

Big,
What is he supposed to say? Most, including myself, believe it's time to leave, but anyone worth their salt is going to have confidence in what they do.

Odessa, I regret that my comment was too one-sided; I agree with you--Fulmer has been good for UT but it is time for him to go.

Fulmer has become an excuse-maker since 2005. He used to not be that way, but once things started going south he changed his tune in ways like never before.

On a side note, OK is whipping up on Texas Tech. I've watched the whole game thus far and it only affirms my reason for hoping that Hammy DOES NOT HIRE Mike Leach. Though Leach has done well at TT in his 9 years, at some point in the season his offense crumbles.

BillsBrother writes:

in response to TommyJack:

At the risk of being an I Told You So, OK is eating TTech like guv'ment cheese. 42-7 at half.

You have earned the prognosticators crown, TJ.

Although me thinks this one looks like too much OK, not the failures of "Black Bart" Leach.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to gatorzz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Classy comment, thanks.
I thought I was going to have to say some mean stuff about the Gators after your first few remarks, but then you made up for it.
Maybe the next coach will do exactly what you said.

utdihard#527762 writes:

Big,

Doesn't sound like you are a Leach fan (glad to hear) but I don't understand how people keep saying he is the man and has "done well a TT in his 9 years". His record is mediocre at best. His best season is this season and you see his high powered offense the 1st half of the OK game, not to mention his dominant defense. He has never even won his side of the conference, the best until this year was a tie for 2nd palce in the big 12 south in '05.

xvolx writes:

3 weeks. try 11.

TommyJack writes:

in response to BillsBrother:

You have earned the prognosticators crown, TJ.

Although me thinks this one looks like too much OK, not the failures of "Black Bart" Leach.

Arrrrrrrgh, matey.

jcherrie#219531 (Inactive) writes:

Is anyone else sick of dvolfan - rc shepards - phooey?

He made over 22 posts today - in a 10 hour period - insulting Manning, Ainge, Fulmer, Clausen, Mims, and White praises Spurrier and claims to be Vol fan!

Dvolfan - if you are a Vol - are the biggest loser fan in UT History!

Triton1 writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

"Certainly I do think if we'd been given the opportunity then we would have turned it around and gotten to where want to be. I believe that with all my heart."--Coach Fulmer.

With all due respect Coach, are you kidding me? UT has averaged more than 4 losses per year this decade. This is one of the worst years we've ever had. PLEASE, PLEASE, Coach, don't act like you were never given a chance to right the ship. If you (or any Fulmer defenders) believe you weren't given a chance, then it shows how out of touch you are.

On top of it, it's been more than a 3-week long funeral. In reality, it's been a 6-season long funeral dating back to 2002.

percentage wise, this is the second best decade in UT history, the first was the 90's, most of which were under CPF. Be careful what you wish for, we can hope it turns out as good as Fulmer, but history says it won't.

scottmichaelmoore#540590 writes:

I tell you what is like a 3 week funeral...one John Adams article...BahdahBing!

NOLAvol writes:

In their coverage of the OU / Texas Tech game, ABC just related an anecdote about (then assistant coach) Leach staying up late in the head coach's hotel room, after he went to bed, to watch Howard Stern's show.

Classy guy, huh? Just the kind of person proud Tennesseeans have in mind to become the new face for Volunteer football.

And, oh yes, he's never won in Norman, Oklahoma... been whipped pretty bad every time, actually. (As I write this, coaching the #2 team in the country, he's losing 64 to 14... again.)

What wealth of successful coaching experience might we expect him to bring to lead the Vols into Tuscaloosa, Gainesville, Athens, Baton Rouge... heck, he'd probably wet his pants pulling into Starkville!

Greer_Vol_22 writes:

a 3 week long funeral huh?....this comment from the man who resigned to keep his alma from "tearing itself apart".

...the only coach I know that would rather hang on and win by 10 than beat your by 40.

Urbiewerecomingtogetyou writes:

in response to Triton1:

percentage wise, this is the second best decade in UT history, the first was the 90's, most of which were under CPF. Be careful what you wish for, we can hope it turns out as good as Fulmer, but history says it won't.

Triton 1: With all due respect, would you keep Coach Fulmer for 10 more years if you were guaranteed the same results as the last 10?

posivol writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

"Certainly I do think if we'd been given the opportunity then we would have turned it around and gotten to where want to be. I believe that with all my heart."--Coach Fulmer.

With all due respect Coach, are you kidding me? UT has averaged more than 4 losses per year this decade. This is one of the worst years we've ever had. PLEASE, PLEASE, Coach, don't act like you were never given a chance to right the ship. If you (or any Fulmer defenders) believe you weren't given a chance, then it shows how out of touch you are.

On top of it, it's been more than a 3-week long funeral. In reality, it's been a 6-season long funeral dating back to 2002.

classy post moron,your were obviosly not here for the 60,s 70,s and 80,s---youll see soon enough.

surfmaster writes:

Again I will say it, Chip Kelly should be our new coach.

An offensive genius, and he doesn't think he is a pirate. A disciplinarian. A great recruiter. This is the guy!

The man puts points on the board. Does it consistently, and more importantly, does it with the passing and running game. No other system in college football is as balanced and explosive as Chip Kelly's system.

Check out the link to his bio below. He is worth at least an interview. He is a great coach and outstanding recruiter. It would work.

http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.db...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HybKUO...

Hamilton, get this guy on your interview list.

RJ_Vol writes:

I have to admit...I'm not seeing anything(today) at TTech or UNC that impresses me. I felt pretty good about Leach until recently, but Oklahoma revealed some true weaknesses in TTech's offense versus a strong D. UT had better take its time and get the right coach. Otherwise, we may replace a legend w/ an unknown quantity.

volfaninjersey#206894 writes:

Phil you have done great but with youre comments today about a 3 week funeral then I am glad you are gone after next week ,,,, Phil its not a funeral the VOLS werent getting the Job done Period ... Hopefully get a new coach in here and have a better year next year go Tennessee

sdscott22#258112 writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

"Certainly I do think if we'd been given the opportunity then we would have turned it around and gotten to where want to be. I believe that with all my heart."--Coach Fulmer.

With all due respect Coach, are you kidding me? UT has averaged more than 4 losses per year this decade. This is one of the worst years we've ever had. PLEASE, PLEASE, Coach, don't act like you were never given a chance to right the ship. If you (or any Fulmer defenders) believe you weren't given a chance, then it shows how out of touch you are.

On top of it, it's been more than a 3-week long funeral. In reality, it's been a 6-season long funeral dating back to 2002.

We all agree the vols need a change. Given the choices of head coaches available, I would take Phil over most. 2 words, Rich Rodriguez. He is horrible. I don't want a Rich Rodriguez. Someone that can look good at a small time football program and the truth come out when he really has to coach.

newtonrail writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

"Certainly I do think if we'd been given the opportunity then we would have turned it around and gotten to where want to be. I believe that with all my heart."--Coach Fulmer.

With all due respect Coach, are you kidding me? UT has averaged more than 4 losses per year this decade. This is one of the worst years we've ever had. PLEASE, PLEASE, Coach, don't act like you were never given a chance to right the ship. If you (or any Fulmer defenders) believe you weren't given a chance, then it shows how out of touch you are.

On top of it, it's been more than a 3-week long funeral. In reality, it's been a 6-season long funeral dating back to 2002.

Brian, I never wanted to see Fulmer knife Majors in the back, but I got over it. I'm afraid we have made a mistake in firing Fulmer like this. I think he should have been given some measurable ultimatums first, and perhaps offensive staff changes. I don't know how Hammy could do the latter since he's just a Clemson number's cruncher. I think Fulmer hired the wrong OC, and when he tried to take back some power, it ended up a mess.

UT_VOLS75 writes:

The way Chavis acted after the vandy game makes me think he is already out... hmm... I was hopin he'd stay!

BillVol writes:

It's been a ten-year funeral for some... One more week.

TexasVolunteer writes:

you cpf people crack me up. you evidentially like mediocracy. do you all realize we're one loss from the first 8 loss season in history??

our program has fallen so far so fast. to be true, he should have been fired last year. we had no business winning the eastern division.

time for a change. congrats phil on the nc...but time to go!!!!

jsm67vol writes:

in response to utang1602#204610:

I guess it's all in the perspective. When I read his comments, I see nothing but respect and class oozing from them.

You're right, there is no perfect time for this type of thing, but it wasn't fair to the coaches or to the players for it to happen as it did. It could have, and should have, waited until the end of the season.

I disagree that it should have waited until the end of the season. It may not seem fair to the players but maybe they can all learn a good lesson. Life Is Not Fair!! Things don't always work out the way you would like. Making the announcement when they did allows the university and AD more time to interview more coaches so they can get the best guy for UT. If the decision is made to go a new direction, you have to announce it. I would rather the announcement be made when it was than for Hamilton to go interviewing behind Fulmer's back. As it stands, everybody knows one of the top jobs in college football is open. I suspect there are many coaches across the nation hoping to get a call from Hamilton for a chance to get a look at what UT has to offer.

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to ncvol17:

I'll miss having a confirmed UT man at the helm. I hope we don't get a mercenary who wants just $$$ and then moves on to the NFL or another D1 school with a better recruiting base in the near future.

Mercenaries are all that's available if you don't go with someone from your school. UT has been fortunate for 32 years to have a Tennessean.

jsm67vol writes:

in response to DukeDeLuca:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No Duke, I haven't forgot to appreciate what we have going for us. What we have going for us is a great university with top notch facilities and strong football tradition. Fulmer has been a great part of that tradition. But he has only been truly competetive in the SEC when Cutcliffe is his OC. Chavis is a helluva DC and has done much keep this progam competetive in the years Cut was not around. Your support of Fulmer is admirable (I guess) but if you really can't see that the university needed to go a different direction, then you are more out of touch than Fulmer has become the last 8 yrs. Yes, he has run a clean program, but there are a lot of good coaches that run clean programs. UT will find one that can get UT to the next level as Fulmer got us to the next level when Majors was outed.

Alwaysavol writes:

in response to rabidvolfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm glad someone finally mentioned that. I don't presume to know what went on behind the scenes when Majors was let go, but we can definitely say that Fulmer was the beneficiary of the exact situation in which he now finds himself. I'm getting a little tired of CPF acting like that never happened, or that he was so badly mistreated compared to his peers/predecessors. (And no, I'm neither a Fulmer lover nor hater. I was a supporter of his for a long time, but I agree that it was time for him to go.)

jphilli5#240013 writes:

dadburned Hamilton,

You can rehire him again. Its now on your shoulders. Win or else you can be his butler.

Bobby Phillips
UT 1975 1979!!!

utmdm writes:

So these coaches (Davis, Leach) are 2 of the top prospects to move us forward. Weren't we already losing to our own rivals by 30 and 40 points? Kelly has made inroads but personally does not overly impress me as the guy to take the Vols back to the top. Hammy better have a golden rabbit to pull out of his hat or it will be not be a happy decade for the Vols.

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