Adams: Contract making less sense

With it being a presidential election year, would you re-elect Phillip Fulmer to coach the Vols?

See the results »

View previous polls »

Tennessee won’t win the SEC or the SEC East. It won’t play in a Jan. 1 bowl or finish in the top 10.

But if you believe in football miracles, the Vols still could win enough games to earn head coach Phillip Fulmer a contract extension.

Never mind UT’s 2-4 start or its 0-3 record in the SEC. The season could be worth millions of dollars to its head coach.

Of course, that won’t likely happen. That’s not the point.

It could happen. That’s the point.

If UT wins eight games, Fulmer gets a bonus year added to his most recent contract, which was finalized this summer. Call it Christmas in July.

The deal validated Fulmer’s status as one of the luckiest coaches in America. If they gave a Heisman Trophy for agents, Jimmy Sexton (Fulmer’s agent) would win by acclamation.

It’s bewildering enough that the UT athletic director Mike Hamilton would agree to pay Fulmer an average of $2.9 million over the breadth of the seven-year contract. It’s incomprehensible that he would deem a four-loss season worthy of a contract extension.

That’s not 20-20 hindsight. That’s how Fulmer’s new contract was viewed by most fans and media before this disaster of a football season began to unfold.

The Rollover on Rocky Top was downright dizzying to most fans, many of whom cling to the notion that UT football is something special. Under the contract, Fulmer could lose to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and one more opponent, then still be rewarded at season’s end. Couple that contract with UT’s bad start and you can understand the fans’ current hostility.

They’re paying more than ever to follow UT football, and their coach is being paid more for less. No wonder, fewer fans are going to Neyland Stadium. No wonder, some of them actually hope UT loses, so there will be a coaching change.

Fulmer is the last guy most UT fans want to pull against. He played and served as an assistant coach at UT. He led the Vols to a national championship. He and his wife donated $1 million to the university. He’s UT football through-and-through.

So what better scenario for UT football than Fulmer returning the Vols to their glory days — and his glory days. Any athletic director would find that appealing, which might help explain why Hamilton gave his coach a vote of confidence worth millions.

That wasn’t just wishful thinking. Hamilton could point to UT winning the SEC East last season. He also could point to back-to-back, nine- and 10-win seasons, which distanced the program from its 5-6 failure of 2005.

But it was naïve to evaluate the program on last year’s record. Rivals Florida and Alabama beat the Vols by a combined margin of 63 points. Victories against South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt were decided, in large part, by missed field goals.

After last season and before the finalization of Fulmer’s contract, you had more reason to wonder about the program’s direction.

David Cutcliffe, UT’s best coach, left to become the head coach at Duke. Popular assistant coach Trooper Taylor took a job at Oklahoma State.

The coaching upheaval impacted the recruiting class, which wasn’t up to UT’s standards. At the same time, a series of player arrests reflected the program’s lack of discipline.

Yet none of that prevented UT from rewarding Fulmer with an outrageously lucrative contract.

It made no sense in July. It makes less sense now.

UT already has been outscored 56-20 by Florida and Georgia. Second-ranked Alabama is coming Oct. 25, raising the possibility that “Roll Tide” will echo louder than ever throughout Neyland Stadium.

“Rollover” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Sports editor John Adams may be reach at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com

Get Copyright Permissions © 2008, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2008 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 172

trap2240#1340138 writes:

1st

matrosscbc writes:

1st.

matrosscbc writes:

RATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FLAVOLS writes:

Yep.

rusty_shackleford writes:

do you think tuscaloosa john eats the free food at Neyland?

trap2240#1340138 writes:

I remember being at the South Carolina game in 98. It was in Columbia and the vols won big led by tee martin's record setting day. I remember sitting amongst some Gamcock fans who were saying they couldn't wait til basketball season. 10 years later....Who knew?

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Fulmer's contract making "less sense"? Heck, it never made sense from the start! When I read about it I was ticked at Mike Hamilton for setting such a low standard.

I'm still ticked. For an AD to agree to such a low standard (Tennessee's historical average, as Hamilton put it) for a head coach with a good winning percentage, great facilities, fan-base and tradition was ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS.

When I read the contract details over the summer, that told me what kind of smarts the AD had on the state of UT's football program. It was a sham then, and it's a sham now.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

And one more thing.

I don't know Mike Hamilton, does he have the courage to fire Coach Fulmer? I'm being serious here and not joking.

trap2240#1340138 writes:

in response to volball09:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

hahaha moron...so hamilton makes hiring and firing decisions based on a local journalist. sounds like he should go 2. i thought his decisions were based on a local chain of convenient stores' owner. wow john you must be movin on up in status!

DennisVols writes:

You Mr. Adams hit the nail on the head with this article.
I don't believe there is much a chance this teams wins their last 6 games to get Fulmer his extension. Vandy and UK both are better than they were last year and UT is well....UT. MSU just beat a 5-0 Vandy so this weekend doesn't look to well either. How many empty seats will we have? We'll hear how many tickets were sold but you know that ain't what will show up.
Now we must face futher embarressment during this season.
What will it take until someone capable of making a decision makes a decision regarding this coaching staff?
What is the dollar amount in reduced donations do we need to reach before we get that decision?

volunteer_cowboy writes:

word on doug matthews show this morning is that david oku has commited to tennessee. thats what rob lewis from volquest said. he was on the show.

TinaTennesseeVol writes:

Hey John, the Alabama game is October 25 not the 18th. The 18th is Mississippi State (we'll get beat then too). I know, the whole third Saturday in October thing messed you up. This year, it is the fourth Saturday.

I heard recently that Vicki Fulmer tried to get her husband to retire after the National Championship because he would never be as good as he was then.

I see Tennessee Football going down the road that Notre Dame traveled. They hit rock bottom and it has taken years to rebound.

dirtywhiteboy writes:

in response to trap2240#1340138:

1st

wow, your life must be filled with excitement.

rblakeh writes:

We will probably have a Top 10 recruiting class (at this stage) when the next school rankings come out. Not sure if Fulmer's new contract had anything to do with this (impossible to judge). Just food for thought.

Mansonlamps writes:

Hit 'em again, hit 'em again, HARDER, HARDER!!!!!!!! Keep it up, John! These guys in the UTAD could care less if we have a consistent winner on the field.

2kevin#529111 writes:

somebody give mr adams credit he had the nerve to call out fire fulmer and everybody jumped his case they really owe him opology .

BillVol writes:

It is because of writing such as this that Mr. Adams has been recognized so often with awards.

fltapout writes:

in response to TinaTennesseeVol:

Hey John, the Alabama game is October 25 not the 18th. The 18th is Mississippi State (we'll get beat then too). I know, the whole third Saturday in October thing messed you up. This year, it is the fourth Saturday.

I heard recently that Vicki Fulmer tried to get her husband to retire after the National Championship because he would never be as good as he was then.

I see Tennessee Football going down the road that Notre Dame traveled. They hit rock bottom and it has taken years to rebound.

You make a good point, but sometimes it is good for people,programs, teams, etc..
to hit rock bottom. Only then do they see the light.
But, you made a good point.
UF v Penn St for national championship?

BillsBrother writes:

J Adams should have made Mike (Hammy) Hamilton the focus of this column. It was the Athletics Director that signed off on this contract, and it is the Athletics Director that needs to be held accountable.

The contract may have been intended to reward a loyal coach, but it set the bar for success far too low. And that is exactly what we are getting; far below success.

For that, Mike Hamilton must be held accountable.

trap2240#1340138 writes:

in response to dirtywhiteboy:

wow, your life must be filled with excitement.

yeah it's pretty lame i'm sure compared to your days in smoky mountain wrestlin

chefjorge writes:

Before I slit my own wrists, I wanted to get this off my chest. While the Vols are my first sports love, my situation might make some of you feel a little better. You know, misery and company. I live in Seattle, Washington. Because of this, I'm a big fan of all the local pro clubs. So we no longer have a NBA team. Thanks Howard Shultz. Our baseball team was the first team in MLB history to have a 100 million dollar payroll and 100 losses. The Seahawks, our one local winner is now 1-4 and is looking like also rans in the worst division in the NFL. Add to this the fact that UW is 0-5. Because my best friends are UW Husky fans I root for them too. We used to talk about the how cool it would be to have a home and away with each other. Two proud football programs loaded with tradition. The 1991 Husky team may be one of the best in CFB history. Now might be a good time to play them. It would probably be a fairly competitive game.

Peace, G

RockyTopRooks writes:

the contract has never made any sense.

invisiblekid writes:

Good article by Adams, sometimes the truth has a little sting to it.

I do think that some are giving too much credit to Hamilton as far as his role in the decision-making process. He was quickly reprimanded after putting out the expectations of two SEC titles in 10 years by the true powers that be. If memory serves, the ostensible "lack of support" from the AD was supposedly affecting recruiting and we then heard from Fulmer after '06 that: "The bottom line is you've got nine wins. Nine wins is OK at Tennessee. It's OK." Fulmer gets the Vols back to the SECCG in '07 and builds his equity back up with the money men. Conversely, Hamilton follows up with the new contract.

I'll give Fulmer credit for at least one thing, he is probably a better politician than football coach at this point in his career.

DarthVol writes:

I liked it better when I was in the minority. The idea that I might be wrong was...comforting.

orangecountry21 writes:

Adams is on target. I am going to say something to ole Hammy next time I see him around the Vol Walk.

volunteer_cowboy writes:

if he would sit some of those O-Linemen that have that jamal lewis disease and play some younger ones that want to prove they can play like they did at the QB position everything would be fine

30233vol writes:

Good article! As long as the negative articles about Fulmer keep arising, Hamilton will have no choice but start looking at how this program and fan base is becoming because of Fulmer and his coaching abilities!( Or lack there of!!!) Nor can Hamilton ignore 20,000 to 30,000 empty seats at Neyland Stadium for each home game. At the NIU game the parking garages were not full, the tailgaters were not out in full force and about 30,000 empty seats in Neyland for the game! All this equates to less revenue and that is something Hamilton can not ignore!!!!!

spvol writes:

This time last year, Adams was complaining about Cutcliffe, and all of a sudden Cut was "UT's best coach". Hack!

bwilson177 writes:

John, keep writing about the lack of action by AD Hamilton and the horrible mess Fulmer has made of the program.
Things need to be in place for Fulmer to resign, take position in fund raising, an Associate AD position,
A search committee formed by the President of University and AD to provide list of 10 candidates for due diligence to be completed by Dec 1.
I am betting this team will not win another game, they looked a like they quit Saturday

volunteer_cowboy writes:

plus leave foster at the dorm and play man up on D. We have one of the best secondaries in the country, GET IN THIER S**T, smack the WR around the first 5 yards and throw timing off......

invisiblekid writes:

in response to DarthVol:

I liked it better when I was in the minority. The idea that I might be wrong was...comforting.

Agreed, I miss being called a "loser/hater" by most everyone on here. If we continue down this path, '05 isn't going to look so bad.

DarthVol writes:

in response to invisiblekid:

Agreed, I miss being called a "loser/hater" by most everyone on here. If we continue down this path, '05 isn't going to look so bad.

I actually preferred *moron*. Weird.

volunteer_cowboy writes:

Tennessee is off to its worst start in 20 years. That’s not good news for Phillip Fulmer. Saturday’s game at Georgia was billed as a “must win” for Fulmer. His Vols fell to the Bulldogs 26-14, are now 2-4 and in danger of having their second losing season in three years. The future for Fulmer does not look good. One more loss probably does the Fat One in. Barring an upset of Alabama and a running of the table, it’s very likely the Vols will have a new coach in 2009.

Early names include Duke Coach David Cutcliffe, Tampa Bay Bucs Coach Jon Gruden, North Carolina Coach Butch Davis, UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel and Wake Forest Coach Jim Grobe.

South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville are two names that have been tossed around over the past month. Both seem to be extreme long shots at this point. Spurrier seems to have fallen out of favor due to his age, although he is still younger than Bobby Bowden when he won his first national title. Tuberville has his own problems at Auburn. The Vols are trying to escape mediocrity – not make it a permanent situation, which would seem to eliminate Tub.

orangecountry21 writes:

in response to volunteer_cowboy:

plus leave foster at the dorm and play man up on D. We have one of the best secondaries in the country, GET IN THIER S**T, smack the WR around the first 5 yards and throw timing off......

AJ Green made our "great secondary" look like inantimate tackling dummies

volunteer_cowboy writes:

in response to orangecountry21:

AJ Green made our "great secondary" look like inantimate tackling dummies

i think vinson and johnson should be our corners not #41 rogan and #24 willingham

BillsBrother writes:

in response to invisiblekid:

Agreed, I miss being called a "loser/hater" by most everyone on here. If we continue down this path, '05 isn't going to look so bad.

'05 will still be pretty bad.

orangecountry21 writes:

in response to volunteer_cowboy:

i think vinson and johnson should be our corners not #41 rogan and #24 willingham

Vinson whiffed numerous occasions. Johnson is undersized but still a good player.

BillsBrother writes:

But '05 will certainly lose the "anomaly" status.

volunteer_cowboy writes:

Whatever the reason, Georgia waited two weeks.
And while the Bulldogs failed miserably in their scheduled "blackout" against Alabama last month inside Sanford Stadium, they blighted what remained of Tennessee's season Saturday in Athens, Ga., when they leisurely walked the Vols, 26-14. In essence, a sold-out crowd of 92,746 in a stadium that proudly inters its Bulldog mascots in an end zone mausoleum watched the home team inter UT's 2008 campaign.
The schedule reflects that Tennessee gets six more football games, but reality smacks you with the knowledge that the Volunteers' season is over.

mun4life#454315 writes:

The 1st guys crack me up. lol

BigVolinCarolina writes:

As noted in my earlier post, I'm still ticked over this contract. Have been since it happened this summer. Thanks, JA, for writing this column--but you're 4 months too late.

For those of you defending the AD on what a great hire Bruce Pearl was--you are only partially right. Yes, Coach Pearl was a great hire and I'm glad to have him; however, remember that our basketball program had nowhere to go but up.

Our football tradition is a different story. Yes, we're down right now, but this can be messed up even worse if we don't get the right hire. I hope the AD can work his mojo and get another solid coach for Saturdays.

If we don't get the right coach, then get ready to watch UT play on Wednesday and Thursday nights on ESPN.

Urbiewerecomingtogetyou writes:

Preach on brother John! The truth hurts,but it will set you free. Like it or not he tells it like it is.

kbart4033#247331 writes:

I am not sure how, but I believe this team will continue to
play hard and scratch its way to a 7-5 finish. The recruiting
boards say this staff is having a top 10 recruiting season and
a positive finish coupled with a great recruiting haul are
more important than any of the garbage that John Adams and his
kind enjoy spewing (remember, it is his role to sell newspapers and, when Bruce Pearl raises the bar and then
eventually levels off, Mr. Adams and his kind will gleefully
be there to pick at his wounds, too!). Penn State went thru
this same dip--and all the whiners said the same thing about
him and his staff then that we read on here--and now the
Nittany Lions just might be on the way to the NC game. Maybe we should hire Al Wilson to take over the offensive
line...think we might get a little "push" then?

CoverOrange writes:

All the people saying "John was right" reminds me of all the people calling their stockbrokers yelling "sell" last Friday. They don't know why, they just do what everybody else is doing.

TNfaninMS writes:

Tajh Boyd is officially back on the market and that is some damn good news for us. savage said if he ends up decomitting from WVU then we are almost a lock, this might also mean we get heastie too. Wow would that be a marked improvement.

MANVOL writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

Fulmer's contract making "less sense"? Heck, it never made sense from the start! When I read about it I was ticked at Mike Hamilton for setting such a low standard.

I'm still ticked. For an AD to agree to such a low standard (Tennessee's historical average, as Hamilton put it) for a head coach with a good winning percentage, great facilities, fan-base and tradition was ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS.

When I read the contract details over the summer, that told me what kind of smarts the AD had on the state of UT's football program. It was a sham then, and it's a sham now.

AGREE 100%..Why wasn't this article wrote the day the contract was announced. That day was the day i decided to stay at the house and watch the game on HD.

TNfaninMS writes:

just looked on rivals and we are in the top two for BOYD. Us and Boston College. This should be a NO BRAINER. Things are starting to look up for the future, recruiting-wise at least.

steve22043#233791 writes:

I think before we can think about firing Fulmer we'll have to first deal with firing Hamilton--that guy's an idiot and until we get rid of him Fulmer's probably gonna stay

Beast writes:

Win 8? Give me a break. 6 would be a dream. Not taking my son to a game this year(last year was his 1st-Vandy)-2 pay per views not buying. Wish coach Cut the best, but he was never an offensive genius. Majors should have been fired when he punted on 3rd down against bama. Fulmer should have been fired when he ran and ran and ran against memphis in '96 with Peyton. All the rich fans that want to sit quietly at home games need to sell. REFS screwed us for a georgia TD before halftime. Also phantom pass interference and BS calls on the sideline. GREAT LICKS DEFENSE!THANX 4 SOMETHING 2 B PROUD OF! HUUUAAAA!!!

TNfaninMS writes:

If Savage is listening, what do we have to do to get this kid to bring Heastie with him? Does he have any pull with Logan Thomas or Morgan Moses with them being from the same area? Anyone else he could possibly bring with him? Just curious.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features