John Adams: Phillip Fulmer could get by as athletic director

John Adams
Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer hugs athletic director Mike Hamilton following the Vols 27-24 victory in overtime against South Carolina in Knoxville in 2007.

Photo by Michael Patrick, © 2007 Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer hugs athletic director Mike Hamilton following the Vols 27-24 victory in overtime against South Carolina in Knoxville in 2007.

Did you hear about the hotshot former athletic director who has purchased land in East Tennessee?

Of course you didn’t. Administrators don’t spark rumors like coaches.

So just because there has been speculation about the job security of Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton, the administrative equivalent of a Jon Gruden isn’t suddenly a topic for conversation on local talk shows. Actually, there is no administrative equivalent of Gruden, whose alleged real estate pursuits became talk-show fodder when former UT coach Phillip Fulmer’s job was first in jeopardy.

Quick, name five top athletic directors at mid-major programs. OK, name one.

See what I mean?

Even if you did know one, do you think the very mention of his name would prompt your most affluent booster to declare: “We’ve got to get him, whatever it takes”?

Boosters don’t even say that about Florida’s Jeremy Foley. They’re just as likely to know the name of Boise State’s equipment manager as its athletic director. But the same boosters are apt to become giddy at the possibility of landing the latest coach of a non-BCS team to take a chunk out of the powers that be.

Casual fans aren’t much different. If they’re ready for a coaching change, they can easily tick off the names of worthy replacements. You might as well ask them to list their top five candidates for U.S. surgeon general as to list five top prospects for athletic director.

That lack of awareness helps explain why I get so many emails and calls, saying: “Fire Hamilton and hire Fulmer.”

So what if Fulmer has never been an athletic director or even served in UT’s army of associate athletic directors? And never mind if he has dabbled in duck hunting as much as business. At least fans know him.

They know him as a “Tennessee guy,” a former UT football player and coach. They also know him as the coach who led UT to an unbeaten season and national championship in 1998.

I first heard the Fulmer-for-AD speculation less than a year after Hamilton had fired him as football coach in 2008. I responded with a snicker, which gave way to laughter and a coughing spell.

But so much has changed since that snicker. Football coach Lane Kiffin, Hamilton’s hire, left for Southern California after a year. Basketball coach Bruce Pearl, Hamilton’s best hire, was fired for his involvement in major NCAA violations.

Baseball coach Todd Raleigh, another Hamilton hire, has taken the program from decline to free-fall.

UT’s athletic director has changed his mind as often as he has changed coaches. He gave Fulmer a pay raise and contract extension before firing him. He staunchly supported Pearl in September, then questioned his job status during a radio interview just before the team entered the NCAA tournament.

Hamilton gets credit for fundraising and keeping UT’s athletic department in the black. But that’s as much of a tribute to UT’s passionate and generous donors, who might as well have forked over millions to Bernie Madoff for the return they have gotten on their investment this school year.

You think Fulmer couldn’t raise money on UT’s behalf? He probably could get $100,000 by just flashing his national championship ring.

A possible counterpoint at this juncture: Football coaches no longer are qualified for a job as demanding as an athletic director’s.

Please.

The job is so demanding, Vanderbilt doesn’t even have an athletic director. The job is so demanding, UT football coach Derek Dooley did it in his spare time while coaching Louisiana Tech’s football team.

Granted, UT’s athletic department is a much bigger operation than Vandy’s or Louisiana Tech’s. But with the help of the department’s 800 or so associate and assistant athletic directors, a former major-college football coach probably could get by.

If the possibility still sounds too outlandish, check the property records. I’ve heard that Fulmer already owns land in East Tennessee.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 148

LiveToRide writes:

God no.

alvol writes:

Must have run out of something to write about. Things that slow at KNS?

huckabee writes:

MOST IGNORANT ARTICLE EVER BY ADAMS! At times I have given him a pass. No more. How bout an article about how anyone could take your position Mr. Adams. You are spineless. Fire the idiot.

drgreear writes:

YES YES YES YES YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GreerVol22 writes:

Willie Gault can still run, heck hire him....801

clvolfan writes:

Do we have to go through this cr@@p again?We do not need this,and especially tha good ole boy regime,and loyalty to your buddies.I say no,and don't think mr Ckeek would let this happen...period.

dvols writes:

Yes, I can think of no one who has given his all for TN more than Phil Fulmer....

RoadTrip writes:

When in the doldrums, incite the Fulmerites. Typical rag journalism.

UofTNVol writes:

Fulmer would be a disaster. The biggest part of an Athletic Director's job, which Adams oddly fails to mention, is HIRING AND FIRING. Fulmer can't do either, and Hamilton can do both, not to mention their respective adminstrative and organizational management skills. It's really not even worth talking about AGAIN.

Hopefully, UT administrators, trustees, and boosters aren't lamed-brained, incompetent UT haters like John Adams. Adams should become a professional chef. He's terrible at his job, but he's damned excellent at stirring the pot. GBO

Vol_Believer writes:

He sure couldn't do any worse . I say bring in Fulmer as AD and reassign Hamilton as Treasurer !

flatrock writes:

in response to UofTNVol:

Fulmer would be a disaster. The biggest part of an Athletic Director's job, which Adams oddly fails to mention, is HIRING AND FIRING. Fulmer can't do either, and Hamilton can do both, not to mention their respective adminstrative and organizational management skills. It's really not even worth talking about AGAIN.

Hopefully, UT administrators, trustees, and boosters aren't lamed-brained, incompetent UT haters like John Adams. Adams should become a professional chef. He's terrible at his job, but he's damned excellent at stirring the pot. GBO

Never forget: sports editors get paid to stir up the public;
Fulmer as A.D.? Not sure. I doubt that he could do worse than Hamilton's hires. In fact, has any A.D. done worse- and kept his job?

bobbyutvol writes:

Phil would be a great hire

Observer43 writes:

I normally try not to click on Adam's articles, however:

With the decline of Fulmer so is the decline of Adams. John, why are you still trying to attack Fulmer? You are grasping at straws. It is time for John Adams to exit. After all, it is a new era in Tennessee Sports. At least Phillip Fulmer did it with dignity.

Vol_Tilladye writes:

Fire Hamilton the monkey now and get Phil in their immediately.

We've already had turmoil in turnover due to "Hammy" why shouldn't he go?

Plus you know Fulmer has the experience and fan support, plus loyalty to UT. It's a no brainer.

volspaws writes:

It's amazing how the Mike Hamilton saga has taken on a life of it's own...Anyone looking at the question of Hamilton's abilty as AD objectively can come to no other conclusion than to judge his tenure an unmitigated disaster...so he's a good fundraiser? Great..then reassign him to a fundraising position and leave coaching decisions to someone competent...face it, Hamilton made the Kiffin hire in a futile attempt to make himself look like a home run hitter...those who defend Hamilton on this site also thought that O.J. Simpson was innocent

TommyJack writes:

I'm thinkin that most of the posters so far did not read the article.

PennVol writes:

Fulmer could fire Dooley and reinstate himself as head football coach. Then he could give himself a raise as football coach. Then he would have to fire himself to be removed as football coach. Then he could complain that the AD didn't give him enough time to right the ship.

thehunter writes:

As usual, an idiotic article. Where do you come up with this phooey.

BigOrangeSlim writes:

in response to LiveToRide:

God no.

I concur!!! Oh God NOOOOOOOO!!!!

BuckettVolz writes:

in response to dvols:

Yes, I can think of no one who has given his all for TN more than Phil Fulmer....

Amen

CoverOrange writes:

Cheek would not cede any authority that Fulmer would command.

OrangeCrush writes:

Paddle faster, I hear banjos...

stroker writes:

in response to LiveToRide:

God no.

what livetoride said!

KJVol writes:

Well, it's good to see that the real John Adams has shown back up. This was one piece of trash article and an obvious lame attempt to stir up controversy.

dwolfcreek#397971 writes:

FIRE FULMER

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Hey, I thought Adams was moving to the left coast?

OwensboroVol writes:

Phillip Fulmer has all the qualifications required to be the Athletic Director at Tennessee. He is a solid Tennessee Man and he knows athletics. Mike Hamilton is an Accountant and while he has been a good money man, He has absolutely killed us when it can to the Athletic part of the job. Phil knows Athletics. He will hire an Accountant to handle the money thing. Somewhere along the line someone forgot that the Athletic Directors Job is a Sports Job and not a Business position. You hire an assistant to take care of the business part.

movol77 writes:

Who is John Adams? :)

TommyJack writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

Phillip Fulmer has all the qualifications required to be the Athletic Director at Tennessee. He is a solid Tennessee Man and he knows athletics. Mike Hamilton is an Accountant and while he has been a good money man, He has absolutely killed us when it can to the Athletic part of the job. Phil knows Athletics. He will hire an Accountant to handle the money thing. Somewhere along the line someone forgot that the Athletic Directors Job is a Sports Job and not a Business position. You hire an assistant to take care of the business part.

With respect, Owens, that is a horrible idea.

movol77 writes:

in response to PennVol:

Fulmer could fire Dooley and reinstate himself as head football coach. Then he could give himself a raise as football coach. Then he would have to fire himself to be removed as football coach. Then he could complain that the AD didn't give him enough time to right the ship.

Shut up, give your $million and then come back and complain about Fulmer being selfish.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

If Phil Fulmer is hired at athletic director, I promise to forgive John Adams for everything. No questions asked. Let the groundswell begin......

movol77 writes:

in response to movol77:

Shut up, give your $million and then come back and complain about Fulmer being selfish.

"shut up" was a poor choice of words. Sorry.

LaneBrains writes:

Mike Hamilton is the best AD in America (second only to Pat Hayden). We are still getting paychecks every two weeks with Hammy's signature : ))

CLK, Monte & Ed

VOLunTEAR writes:

How about Pat Summitt? Ain't NOBODY gonna mess with Pat!

dwolfcreek#397971 writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

Phillip Fulmer has all the qualifications required to be the Athletic Director at Tennessee. He is a solid Tennessee Man and he knows athletics. Mike Hamilton is an Accountant and while he has been a good money man, He has absolutely killed us when it can to the Athletic part of the job. Phil knows Athletics. He will hire an Accountant to handle the money thing. Somewhere along the line someone forgot that the Athletic Directors Job is a Sports Job and not a Business position. You hire an assistant to take care of the business part.

Fulmer is a idiot and so are you.

onevol writes:

Here we go with the inbreeding again. We continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. This is the 21st century and it is time for a 21st century athletic director not some recycled football coach.

Remember that the football program is at rock bottom because Fulmer made bad hires and virtually refused to fire bad coaches. He also ran off some good coaches because they were a threat to him. He kept Steve Marshall and ran Mike Berry off. How is that for sound decision making?

SummittsCourt writes:

Fulmer would do a better job than hammy!

Either way, fire hammy now! NOW!

veinsoforange writes:

Come on, someone give JA a one-way ticket out of town. He is a TERRIBLE journalist. All he does is write to stir things up. Anything negative & controversial, however it's not even interesting.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

I think Fulmer could and would do a better job than hamilton and i also think my 4 year old could do a better job reporting than johnboy adams!!!

bigkluvsorange writes:

in response to UofTNVol:

Fulmer would be a disaster. The biggest part of an Athletic Director's job, which Adams oddly fails to mention, is HIRING AND FIRING. Fulmer can't do either, and Hamilton can do both, not to mention their respective adminstrative and organizational management skills. It's really not even worth talking about AGAIN.

Hopefully, UT administrators, trustees, and boosters aren't lamed-brained, incompetent UT haters like John Adams. Adams should become a professional chef. He's terrible at his job, but he's damned excellent at stirring the pot. GBO

I agree cpf would try to give his two cents worth about the football program, he would interfer alot does anyone else see this?he would fire dooley and hire his self lol.gbo

VolunteerLifer writes:

Why would we believe Fulmer would hire the right coach for any of our programs?

onevol writes:

in response to Vol_Tilladye:

Fire Hamilton the monkey now and get Phil in their immediately.

We've already had turmoil in turnover due to "Hammy" why shouldn't he go?

Plus you know Fulmer has the experience and fan support, plus loyalty to UT. It's a no brainer.

You would have to be dreaming if you think Fulmer has the fan support. Remember the 2008 Alabama game when most of the stadium was either empty or that ugly color of red.

arkyvol writes:

any change would be for the better. hamilton is the most obscenely underperforming administrator since caligula named his horse as a consul of rome.

TennVol01 writes:

Please say this is a joke.

VolzsFan writes:

John Adams has been a writer with no formal training.

Adams knows this is inevitable and is trying to play nice to get access. The only hope this athletic department has is to hire a former coach that other big time coaches will work for. No name coach would ever work for Hamilton especially after the way he has handled 3 legends.

rabidvol1998 writes:

It doesn't matter. Phil would not want such a low paying pathetic job. We hate our AD if things are bad (bad coaching hires) and we hate him when things are good (he raises prices).

txsvol#372416 writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

Phillip Fulmer has all the qualifications required to be the Athletic Director at Tennessee. He is a solid Tennessee Man and he knows athletics. Mike Hamilton is an Accountant and while he has been a good money man, He has absolutely killed us when it can to the Athletic part of the job. Phil knows Athletics. He will hire an Accountant to handle the money thing. Somewhere along the line someone forgot that the Athletic Directors Job is a Sports Job and not a Business position. You hire an assistant to take care of the business part.

Couldn't say it any better myself! Go Vols! SAVol

traderjoe writes:

Fulmer would be a great AD! Hammy could be his chief fund raiser. Wouldn't that be fitting? Being a head football coach is a lot more demanding and takes more people skills than AD. Let's wrap this up quickly and get the deal done!

trgclychip writes:

Bill Schmidt.

FWBVol writes:

I think Phillip Fulmer would make a good AD. Granted, there might be a little bit of a learning curve, but he couldn't do any worse than Hamilton has with some of his hires.

As others have said, Fulmer is a Tennessee man through and through and would never do anything to tarnish the name of the school.

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