End of Fulmer era easily biggest story of decade in UT football

The day after the world clock rolled over from 1999 to 2000, Nebraska rolled over Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

For the Vols, it was an inauspicious way to start the new century.

In hindsight, it also could be interpreted as an omen that the coming decade would not be as prosperous for UT as the one just ended.

There's one game left on the scorecard, tonight in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech.

On the whole, it's been a decade most football programs would gladly embrace.

The Vols are 83-44, a .654 winning percentage.

They've earned their way to a bowl eight of the 10 years. But won only three of them thus far.

They've played in three SEC championship games. But won none.

The school record book has been considerably updated since 1999.

Travis Henry became the leading career rusher in 2000. In 2001, Travis Stephens broke the season rushing mark.

That same year Kelly Washington rewrote the single-game record for receiving yardage against LSU. In 2006 Robert Meachem accumulated the most receiving yards ever in a season.

Between 2001-2004 Dustin Colquitt played in more games (52) than any Vol in history.

Nobody toppled Peyton Manning atop the passing charts, but Casey Clausen and Erik Ainge moved into the second and third spots, respectively.

Here is a look at the top 10 stories in Tennessee football for past decade:

1. Fulmer Fired: For every coach, no matter how successful, the end eventually comes - Joe Paterno being an apparent exception.

The Phillip Fulmer Era ended hard, on Nov. 3, 2008, in an emotional press conference. After 150 wins, two SEC titles and the 1998 national championship, Fulmer was undone by a downward spiral that denied him the opportunity to walk off into the sunset on his own terms.

2. Kiffin Shakes It Up: Lane Kiffin, hired Dec. 1, 2008, came from outside the UT family tree and has been a jolt of fresh energy, to say the least.

The 34-year-old Kiffin has generated media attention in almost every conceivable way during a 7-5 debut season. For better or worse, folks are talking about the Vols.

Whatever fans might think of Kiffin, they can't accuse him of being dull.

3. A Blown Opportunity: Only three years after their '98 national title, the Vols were on the verge of playing for another one.

All they had to do to get to the Rose Bowl was take care of business against underdog LSU in the SEC championship game on Dec. 8, 2001.

But the Tigers' shocking 31-20 upset pulled the plug and many argue that UT football hasn't been the same since.

4. Stunner in The Swamp: The Vols' biggest win of the decade came one week before the afore-mentioned worst loss.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, forced UT and Florida to reschedule for Dec. 1, a season finale. Tennessee, a heavy underdog, shocked the Gators 34-32, in Gainesville, to advance to the SEC championship game against LSU.

They didn't know it at the time, but it would be the final game at Florida of their 1990s nemesis Steve Spurrier.

5. The 'Perfect Storm' of '05: UT began the 2005 season considered a national title contender. After a typical September (3-1, a loss to Florida), things fell apart in October.

The Vols lost five of their final seven games. Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders resigned after a 16-15 loss to South Carolina on Oct. 29. When Vanderbilt beat the Vols in Neyland Stadium on Nov. 19, a 16-year streak of bowl games was toast.

6. Cutcliffe's Return: To cure the offensive woes of '05, the Vols had a handy remedy. David Cutcliffe, offensive coordinator in the 1990s heyday, was available for a return engagement after being fired at Ole Miss.

Cutcliffe returned in 2006 and resurrected the career of quarterback Erik Ainge. The Vols went 19-6 in 2006-07. During those two seasons Ainge passed for a combined 6,511 yards. Only Peyton Manning had a better two-year total.

Cutcliffe left for another head-coaching job at Duke in 2008 and the offensive malaise resumed.

7. Big John: The most prestigious individual award garnered by a Vol in the decade was John Henderson's Outland Trophy in 2000.

The defensive tackle from Nashville was voted nation's top defensive player. He didn't repeat in 2001 but was again a first-team All-American.

8. Eric Berry: No Vol was more exciting - or more fundamentally sound - in the decade than safety Eric Berry.

Likely playing his final collegiate game tonight, Berry is a two-time consensus All-American and added the 2009 Jim Thorpe Award to his collection.

Thanks to a fantastic highlight- reel of plays, he nearly toppled the NCAA record for interception return yardage in his first two seasons. He could still get it tonight.

9. Not-So-Hot 'Lanta: The Georgia Dome has been where seasons go to die in the 21st Century.

The Vols are 0-3 in SEC championship games: 2001, 2004, 2007.

Adding insult to injury, two other seasons, 2002 and 2003, ended there with a whimper in poorly-played Peach Bowl losses.

10. The Streak Lives: One thing didn't change in the decade. The Vols were 10-0 against Kentucky, prevailing in two overtime wins in Lexington to do it.

It's only Kentucky, but when you end the decade with the longest rivalry winning streak in the nation - 25 years - it counts for something.

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Comments » 36

SWAVol writes:

in response to listentothemusic:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Get lost you loser! I only wish the KNS would police you interlopers off the site. Phil is gone! He gave his all to the program but in the end it was not cutting it so he had to be replaced. So what if some high school kid does not want to come to Tennessee, it's ok. We will get our share of athletes with drive and morals. The best thing I see so far is a coach that demands the best off the field, on the field and in the classroom or your history. I got so tired of the double secret probation and ten chances of the last regime. Go vols!

kb7398#233189 writes:

in response to SWAVol:

Get lost you loser! I only wish the KNS would police you interlopers off the site. Phil is gone! He gave his all to the program but in the end it was not cutting it so he had to be replaced. So what if some high school kid does not want to come to Tennessee, it's ok. We will get our share of athletes with drive and morals. The best thing I see so far is a coach that demands the best off the field, on the field and in the classroom or your history. I got so tired of the double secret probation and ten chances of the last regime. Go vols!

Get lost yourself. There will be more as long as Kiffin remains in charge. He can't leave soon enough.

jeff#208355 writes:

No we get this from kids about Ole Philly Boy...
"I used to hate them actually when Phil Fulmer was coaching there," said Miller, who had 146 tackles and 18 sacks last season. "It was kind of slow paced. I didn't like it. Lane Kiffin came in, and the rest of the coaching staff - Ed Orgeron and (defensive coordinator) Monte Kiffin - they changed the whole philosophy. That got my attention."

OldNumber7 writes:

in response to SWAVol:

Get lost you loser! I only wish the KNS would police you interlopers off the site. Phil is gone! He gave his all to the program but in the end it was not cutting it so he had to be replaced. So what if some high school kid does not want to come to Tennessee, it's ok. We will get our share of athletes with drive and morals. The best thing I see so far is a coach that demands the best off the field, on the field and in the classroom or your history. I got so tired of the double secret probation and ten chances of the last regime. Go vols!

Hey birdbrain, listentothemusic was just stating a FACT..you are shooting the innocent observer. The guy you need to take it up with is Mr. Corey Miller.

SWAVol writes:

in response to OldNumber7:

Hey birdbrain, listentothemusic was just stating a FACT..you are shooting the innocent observer. The guy you need to take it up with is Mr. Corey Miller.

It was Chris Dunkley for your information. That is a fact.

vet4ut writes:

Funny how a story about Fulmer brings out all of the apologists...mind you, none of these idiots are season ticket holders or even attend games. They sit at home and complain about anything that isn't the same as the last 16 years. Like my grumpy old granddad...if they didn't complain, they wouldn't have anything to say.

brod writes:

That definetly was a sign of things to come. Nebraska did not blow us out. It was 31-21. If we had taken advantage of our oppurtunities we would have won. That is what brough Fulmer's downfall. Missed oppurtunities, and Arian Foster's fumbles.

CapitolC writes:

in response to brod:

That definetly was a sign of things to come. Nebraska did not blow us out. It was 31-21. If we had taken advantage of our oppurtunities we would have won. That is what brough Fulmer's downfall. Missed oppurtunities, and Arian Foster's fumbles.

The 31-21 score was not indicative of the game. They fumbled deep in their own territory late in the game - we got the meaningless TD well after the game had been decided. Two games against NU - two humbling losses sandwiched around a national title.

FlyFishingVol writes:

The Vols’ decade-of-ought garnered a good, not great, football win-lose record. It was a down cycle, but not as down as the 80’s.

There were some big fun wins. The losses mostly occurred only on the big stage and while they hurt, we usually were not embarrassed.

Where my Vol pride suffered was off the field. There were the numerous off field player discipline problems and our criminal dirty laundry was spread nationwide thanks to ESPN. The poor graduation rates indicated a focus too tilted toward wins and away from the university’s responsibility and promise to help boys become men. The knee jerk reaction to fan hysteria caused a pathetic unceremonious firing of a coach who deserved a better exit.

I’m not changing my Big Orange color, but am wishing for some off field improvement. On field wins are more certain.

CrankE writes:

Actually, I'd have moved the 2001 SEC CG loss to #1-even ahead of Fulmer's firing. A huge reshuffling of college football powers was developing in the 2001 time frame. Some traditional powers waned, new ones ascended, some old ones returned. Tennessee had the opportunity to step to the top and remain there.

That one loss created a ripple effect that either directly led to or contributed significantly to many other fiascos in the naughties (my term for the '00 decade).

lahvolman2 writes:

in response to vet4ut:

Funny how a story about Fulmer brings out all of the apologists...mind you, none of these idiots are season ticket holders or even attend games. They sit at home and complain about anything that isn't the same as the last 16 years. Like my grumpy old granddad...if they didn't complain, they wouldn't have anything to say.

AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!

CoverOrange writes:

From the book of "nitpicking" under the chapter of "who cares" is this: the third millennium started in 2001 with a demoralizing loss to Kansas St in the freezing Cotton Bowl, 35-21.

The first decade of the third millennium will end a year from today, not today. Everybody learns in preschool to count from 1 to 10 by starting with 1 and ending with 10.

Move along now. Diatribe is over. Nit has been picked. I know you don't care.

balloonman writes:

Strange you twit.....it's not the end of the decade for another year!.....1 thru 10 equals a decade......just like the millenium didn't end until 2001.....2001 A Space Odyssey....get it??.....even WD knows better!....Happy New Year not Happy Decade!

BIGORANGEDOG writes:

The "What If's" will always be apart of sports in general. CPF like, CJM, like CLK had and will have those "What If's. It is just part of the game. What and how you use these situations dictates your legacy. CLK and staff have shown to be able to use the disappointments to challenge the players to improve as a working unit, both Offensively and Defensively. This team has shown improvment in each outing, with the exception of our Special Teams play, but even that showed a glimer of respect at the very end. This next decade promises to be a new and prosperous era in "Tennessee Football" history. The "System" is just taking root, watch the growth.
Enjoy the Ride Big Orange Fans!

Bufforange00 writes:

tennessee finally had a chance to become dominant following spurrier's departure. but the arrival of richt at uga and saban at lsu cut off recruiting lines to those talent-rich states. this, combined with attrtion on ut's staff led to mediocrity. the bad seasons are inevitable part of down cycle, but you never got the sense that fulmer had a coherent game plan to get the vols back on track. I disagree that the 80's were worse. Although UT started 5-6 in 1980 and 0-6 (5-6 finish in 1988), UT also had more memorable wins (#2 alabama 1982, #1 auburn 1985, #8 bama 1985,#2 miami 1985, #3 auburn 1989) than this decade. Our best wins this decade were against #2 UF 2001, #4 UGA 2004, and #8 UGA 2006. UT also did not win any SEC titles this decade, the longest drought since 16 year drought between 1969 and 1985. They won 2 (1985 and 1989) in the 1980's.

tnbigg writes:

in response to kb7398#233189:

Get lost yourself. There will be more as long as Kiffin remains in charge. He can't leave soon enough.

Scarecrow? Is that you? "If I only had a brain" still applies....terminal situation obviously.

CapitolC writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

From the book of "nitpicking" under the chapter of "who cares" is this: the third millennium started in 2001 with a demoralizing loss to Kansas St in the freezing Cotton Bowl, 35-21.

The first decade of the third millennium will end a year from today, not today. Everybody learns in preschool to count from 1 to 10 by starting with 1 and ending with 10.

Move along now. Diatribe is over. Nit has been picked. I know you don't care.

OK - follow this...

When did the 60s start ?

'60 or '61 ?

How about the 70s ? 80s ? ad nauseaum...

imw8n4u writes:

Anyone think Fulmer gets a sniff from Texas Tech? That job seems to fit his definition of the kind of job he wants.

shoelessvol#236864 writes:

I also agree with CrankE. The number 1 story line of this decade was the loss to LSU in the 2001 Championship game. A win there and a possible National Title and who knows what might have happenned? The downward spiral from that game has I believe got us to where we were at Fulmer's firing. Now I see us slowly inching back up off our feet. I see with this coaching staff a willingness to work hard on the field and in recruiting. I see the players giving their all in each game. We aren't were we want to be, but were getting there! GO VOLS!

volsdontsuck writes:

in response to imw8n4u:

Anyone think Fulmer gets a sniff from Texas Tech? That job seems to fit his definition of the kind of job he wants.

As soon as Leech got fired Phil came to mind imediately

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

HAHAH, where's hiresanders? It says the only thing that didn't change was winning over KY.....that's right 10-0. Anyone ever notice he never responds back after posting? He knows he has no good points to make....IT'S KENTUCKY!

Thad123 writes:

in response to vet4ut:

Funny how a story about Fulmer brings out all of the apologists...mind you, none of these idiots are season ticket holders or even attend games. They sit at home and complain about anything that isn't the same as the last 16 years. Like my grumpy old granddad...if they didn't complain, they wouldn't have anything to say.

I agree vet. I said something about the old school Fulmer fans last week after one said something about we needed him back , and they came out swinging. It was pretty funny. They are passionate about the guy, I will give them that.

Thad123 writes:

in response to vet4ut:

Funny how a story about Fulmer brings out all of the apologists...mind you, none of these idiots are season ticket holders or even attend games. They sit at home and complain about anything that isn't the same as the last 16 years. Like my grumpy old granddad...if they didn't complain, they wouldn't have anything to say.

The dial up connection starts to go off the charts when they write something about good ole Phil.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to CapitolC:

OK - follow this...

When did the 60s start ?

'60 or '61 ?

How about the 70s ? 80s ? ad nauseaum...

Thank you for caring enough to respond.

Mr. Strange did not say the 00's, per your argument of the 60's, 70's, etc. He used the terms "new century" and "decade".

Thad123 writes:

in response to volsdontsuck:

As soon as Leech got fired Phil came to mind imediately

Not even a sniff. If he can't get the Loisville coaching job in his recruiting area no way he can get that job. They are already talking about replacements and he is not mentioned. Fulmer is done coaching major college football. Miller's father said it best "no fire in the belly".

10SE writes:

Fulmer will never coach again at any significant program. He was never a good coach, but but he was a very good recruiter. When he lost out on the tallent, he was finshed.
I will never forget hat 2001 SEC championship game. On the way home from Atlanta, I knew that the direction of our program was changing, and that Fulmer was on his way out. It just took longer than expected. He rode the tails of his previous success as long as he could.

Major_Magilicutty writes:

in response to FlyFishingVol:

The Vols’ decade-of-ought garnered a good, not great, football win-lose record. It was a down cycle, but not as down as the 80’s.

There were some big fun wins. The losses mostly occurred only on the big stage and while they hurt, we usually were not embarrassed.

Where my Vol pride suffered was off the field. There were the numerous off field player discipline problems and our criminal dirty laundry was spread nationwide thanks to ESPN. The poor graduation rates indicated a focus too tilted toward wins and away from the university’s responsibility and promise to help boys become men. The knee jerk reaction to fan hysteria caused a pathetic unceremonious firing of a coach who deserved a better exit.

I’m not changing my Big Orange color, but am wishing for some off field improvement. On field wins are more certain.

He maybe deserved a better exit, but some of that can be attributed to how he handled it as well. I appreciate Fulmer and what he did for UT. I also agree with needed improvement off the field, although, aside from the pellet gun stuff, we've done pretty well.

I don't think his firing was a knee jerk reaction though...the pressure had been building for four years.

calvolfromkingsport writes:

in response to 1BigOrangeCountryFan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Me too!But I was also there the year before! That was the first time I got to point my index finger to the sky where it really meant something ultimate.Go Vols!

GR82BaTennesseeVOL writes:

in response to listentothemusic:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You must have forgotten, then, about Chris Leak. Don't worry, it's a really bad memory, so I've TRIED to force it out of my head, too...but apparently you succeeded where I failed.

The1 writes:

Good recap. It's amazing how time flies. I remember that LSU loss in the Championship game like it was yesterday. I was living in Lake Charles, LA at the time and I went to a bar there to watch the game. I had the only TN shirt on in the whole place. The LSU fans started out poor mouthing about how they didnt have a chance. By the end they were really hoopin' it up....I was really miserable.

Dalton writes:

in response to listentothemusic:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

There was nothing emphatic when it came to Coach Phil and recruiting....They either signed or didn't care enough to comment about the Vols...Coach Phil could recruit especially early but it became evident he couldn't build in players what wasn't already developed....Peyton and Al Wilson were great and the best thing he did was not try to make them better because he would have ruint what was great in them.

BAFO writes:

in response to listentothemusic:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Did you forget about tight-ends and kickers going to Auburn, LB's going to UA, receivers going to ND, all-purpose players going to UK, OL going to Ole Miss (The Blind Side), QB's playing in the NFL going to Marshall???...give me a break. Better yet, get your facts straight. I could go on and on about Tennessee HS players chosing other universities over ours. Do your homework before inserting subjective opinions. Facts, like records, don't lie! Quit listening to music and start doing some homework. Maybe that can be your New Years resolution. :)

BAFO writes:

in response to shoelessvol#236864:

I also agree with CrankE. The number 1 story line of this decade was the loss to LSU in the 2001 Championship game. A win there and a possible National Title and who knows what might have happenned? The downward spiral from that game has I believe got us to where we were at Fulmer's firing. Now I see us slowly inching back up off our feet. I see with this coaching staff a willingness to work hard on the field and in recruiting. I see the players giving their all in each game. We aren't were we want to be, but were getting there! GO VOLS!

Losing games was only the "result" of not "developing" players and "changing" on-the-field play calling. We had top 10 recruiting classes the first half (2000 - 2005), yet look at the "results." The times past Fulmer by unfortunately, and he began 'playing not to lose'. What's the difference between JoePa vs. Bowden? When you don't develop players and change with the times you're going to lose games - including those against Wyoming!?!?!?!?

DennisVols writes:

This Past decade is one to forget in many aspects. It had its moments, the last second FG in ’04- Knoxville to beat UF following a missed PAT that sent many fans to their cars was one I’ll never forget. It was like Thursday before I could speak clearly.
The disappointments outnumbered the cheers though. I will always respect Fulmer for the accomplishments during his time as HC. The ‘90’s, especially the 96-98 was some of UT’s finest, but this decade seemed to always be filled with promises not fulfilled. The last 4 under Fulmer saw UT have a losing record against UF (0-4), Bama (1-3), Auburn (0-1), LSU (1-2), with a 2-2 record against GA and USC. That’s a 6-14 record against the teams in this conference you have to beat if you expect to be a champion at either the conference or national level. Since 2000 the 3-5 bowl record also supports the fact that UT failed more often than not to beat the competition it needed to when it needed to under Fulmer this decade.
I don’t put any weight into UT’s prior record inside the GA Dome going into tonight game. Different players, different coaches and a different system suggest different results. I understand why the trolls want to knock Kiffin, why they want him gone. I understand that Kiffin has ruffled a few feathers since his arrival with things he has said or done. This is a vast change from anything or anyone in control of a UT football program. You can’t deny though the improvements in just one year. A 7-5 record with convincing wins over GA & USC, a major Bowl in prime time against a ranked opponent with a team that was thin in most areas, a QB most wanted gone at the beginning of the season and a lack of confidence I have not witnessed in my 49 years following last year. Things are looking better and yes there are going to be some bumps in the road to recovering national recognition. Here’s to a better decade.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!

utvolz#637682 writes:

If memory serves, didn't we take back to back beat downs in a bowl game vs. Neb?

volsoutlaw writes:

in response to listentothemusic:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You might wish to re-read some statements made by recruits recently. They stated they would never have thought about UT if Fulmer was still coaching. I take that as a emphatic rebuke. We also lost just as many recruits during Phil's heyday, several from in state.

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