Passion for UT, longevity part of Phillip Fulmer's claim to Fame

Coach to be inducted into college Hall on Tuesday night

Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer and his and his wife, Vicky, left, just after they ran through the "T" prior to the Vols Nov.  29, 2008, game against Kentucky. It was Fulmer's last game as the Vols' coach. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Michael Patrick

Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer and his and his wife, Vicky, left, just after they ran through the "T" prior to the Vols Nov. 29, 2008, game against Kentucky. It was Fulmer's last game as the Vols' coach. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

NEW YORK — Phillip Fulmer's Hall of Fame journey started at Tennessee in 1968, ended there 40 years later and included only six seasons in between in which he wasn't directly involved in Vols football.

Fulmer will be inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame at a ceremony Tuesday night at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

It's a black-tie affair, so he probably won't be wearing orange, but there is little doubt that he enters the Hall as a Vol.

Fulmer spent 17 years as Tennessee's head coach, compiled a 152-52 record before being let go in 2008, and was selected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot this summer. Tennessee honored him in October at Neyland Stadium when it recognized the 15th anniversary of the 1998 national championship team.

"I'd like to have everybody go to New York, but I'd have to have 10,000 tickets — there were that many players and coaches and fans and administrators that were so supportive," Fulmer said in an interview with the News Sentinel earlier this year.

The NFF Awards Dinner will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com at 8 p.m. A morning news conference featuring inductees and award-winners will air at 9 a.m.

The Vols won a second consecutive SEC title in 1998 and capped an undefeated season with a victory in the Fiesta Bowl to win the national championship. It was the apex of one of the best stretches in modern college football history, as the Vols went 45-5 from 1995-1998. Overall, Fulmer's teams finished the season in the AP Top 10 six times and in the Top 25 13 times.

Among current head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision, only two (Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer and Troy's Larry Blakeney) have been at their current jobs longer than Fulmer was at Tennessee. (Kansas State's Bill Snyer and Nevada's Chris Ault have longer stints, but not in consecutive years).

"The consistency is what we were all about," Fulmer said. "We tried to surround the team with a family kind of atmosphere. We did it all together — one for all, all for one." That kind of longevity — and a core of assistant coaches with similar experience — helped Fulmer build a national recruiting base that aided the team's dominance in the mid- to late-90s.

"When you're invested in a place the way Coach Fulmer and his coaches were, it's so easy to sell a school and make players feel like they want to play for you," All-American linebacker Al Wilson, a captain of the 1998 team, told ESPN.com. "He had a passion for Tennessee. It's so different nowadays with coaches going from school to school. There's very little loyalty in the college game. Coach Fulmer's one of the last coaches who really had that loyalty."

"I had a fantastic career at one school, which is unheard of," Fulmer said. "It being my school made it even more special."

Fulmer's family and some of his former assistant coaches — like Steve Caldwell and Dan Brooks — are in New York for the ceremony. The ballroom will be filled with colleagues from the coaching profession and he'll be inducted alongside former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum, a good friend, and Jimmy Johnson, who is best known in college football for his time at Miami (Fla.).

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Comments » 168

Govols1995 writes:

We should have never got rid of him. The recruiting was still good we just didn't get the results. Now look where we are getting 3 star recruits left and right. Wrong move VOL nation.

shipperman#280095 writes:

I hope Walt is there

cyclonevol87 writes:

Congarts to Fulmer he deserves it a true VFL.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

"'I'd like to have everybody go to New York, but I'd have to have 10,000 tickets — there were that many players and coaches and fans and administrators that were so supportive,' Fulmer said in an interview with the News Sentinel earlier this year."

Coach, you would have to have a hell of a lot more than 10,000 tickets. Congratulations for a much deserved honor, for you and your school.

MikeInTN writes:

1998 sure seems like a loooooooong time ago!!!!

GloryDays writes:

Great coach, great recruiter, great Volunteer. A lot of great memories. He owned stinking Alabama! Great 1998 season, sitting in the stands as the Vols beat Arkansaw. Coach Fulmer put Tennessee on the map! The players loved him, Congradulations Coach Fulmer on a well deserved award! Go Vols!

dvols writes:

CONGRATS! Glad my glory days were the 80's and 90's

the good ole days!

volman2008 writes:

in response to Govols1995:

We should have never got rid of him. The recruiting was still good we just didn't get the results. Now look where we are getting 3 star recruits left and right. Wrong move VOL nation.

your words not mine........he started it all. how many linemen did we have when he left.SUCKS...

VOLNCAL writes:

You can bash the coach all you want; however, the numbers don't lie. He was a helluva coach that probably just needed a break. I say bring him back..Faced with the alternatives the media is handing out right now, he would be the best choice in my book. Vols fans, now that we've truly seen what rock bottom is, were we really in that bad of shape when everyone wanted him gone? I don't see it...

whatthe84 writes:

in response to GloryDays:

Great coach, great recruiter, great Volunteer. A lot of great memories. He owned stinking Alabama! Great 1998 season, sitting in the stands as the Vols beat Arkansaw. Coach Fulmer put Tennessee on the map! The players loved him, Congradulations Coach Fulmer on a well deserved award! Go Vols!

He owned Alabama, true enough, but to honest he reaped the benefit of a 10 year period in Alabama football when they were terrible and in a mess, similar to where Tennessee is now. All thing are in a cycle and when Nick Saban leaves Alabama then they will be hard pressed to continue his success. He owned Georgia for the most part as well but they had Ray Goff and Donnan (who was a good coach and those wins were not easy). But Florida owned Fulmer and beat his brains out almost every year. Phil had success no doubt but he had his nemisis and that would be the evil genious in the swamp. If not for Florida we would have won many SEC titles. We have a difficult journey ahead of us and many heartbreaking loses and down times. We must prepare for this and hope for the best but understand we still have 4-5 years before we will be relevant once again. GBO

Retiredvol writes:

in response to Govols1995:

We should have never got rid of him. The recruiting was still good we just didn't get the results. Now look where we are getting 3 star recruits left and right. Wrong move VOL nation.

GoVols I beg to disagree with you. His last two classes were rated number 24 and 34. He was part of this whole problem. If you don't believe look it up.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

in response to VOLNCAL:

You can bash the coach all you want; however, the numbers don't lie. He was a helluva coach that probably just needed a break. I say bring him back..Faced with the alternatives the media is handing out right now, he would be the best choice in my book. Vols fans, now that we've truly seen what rock bottom is, were we really in that bad of shape when everyone wanted him gone? I don't see it...

True, but I've learned that people are prone to base their opinions on emotion rather than facts. That's why his record is largely ignored. Most fans would love to have an AVERAGE (9 wins) Fulmer season now, but few will admit it.

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say deserved no doubt.
Bones never lie.

golfman1975 writes:

You could tell this was NOT a J Adams story...Coach PF is a true Vol...Adams is King phooey on turd island.

greatdaysahead writes:

in response to MikeInTN:

1998 sure seems like a loooooooong time ago!!!!

Because it was. Look, if we want the glory days back we need to accept, collectively, that they are over and this is not the same program. As it stands, we have a weak program borne of yearly coaching instability combined with poor leadership. Fold into the mix somewhat delusional fans who hold the same expectations of the height of the Fulmer Era for a program that fundamentally just can't reproduce those results given its current state, and the inevitable resulting pressure that comes with it, and you get an environment into which any prospective hire or recruit would want to avoid.

Anyone familiar with mechanical physics can tell you overcoming static friction is much more difficult than maintaining a constant push. Our program has come to a very slow crawl and it is going to take a lot to get the Volunteer train going at full steam again. It will take powerful leadership and positive mindsets within the program and throughout Vol Nation to get it done.

This is our new reality, and I am hopeful.

orangecountyvols writes:

Several of his games were priceless memories.
The 98' game with the lizards was electric.
It was a magical season, several heart stopping finishes with Jeff Hall involved.

Hope the occasion goes well for everyone there.

brauhuff#295403 (Inactive) writes:

I miss him a hell of a lot and wish they would bring him back as well but it will not happen.

volmike55 writes:

152-52.... WOW, and throw in two SEC titles and a National Championship, then get run out of town by a bunch of dumb hillbilly fans! Love UT but I'm growing old on Vol Nation. We were 1-2 years removed from a SEC championship game when he was fired. No wonder no one wants this job.

ashvol7 writes:

in response to Govols1995:

We should have never got rid of him. The recruiting was still good we just didn't get the results. Now look where we are getting 3 star recruits left and right. Wrong move VOL nation.

Wrong

huntined#565710 writes:

He was a great coach at the place he loved best. He took TENN to being one of the best teams in the country. He is no longer at TENN so lets just let it go at that. He is a V.F.L. and he deserves his award and he earned it..

standfast#211788 writes:

It is a shame that the search for a new coach has diminished the significance of this tremendous achievement. It is a great day for Coach Fulmer, for the University and for all the players who played for him. Great job, Coach Fulmer. We appreciate all you did for the University.

BornVolDieVol writes:

Congrats Coach! And Thanks!!

RoyaltyVol writes:

Congrats to Phil Fulmer, a true Vol!

alavol writes:

petrino!

VolinVirginia writes:

in response to Govols1995:

We should have never got rid of him. The recruiting was still good we just didn't get the results. Now look where we are getting 3 star recruits left and right. Wrong move VOL nation.

OMg, here we go again.
One word, Govols1995: "Wyoming."

golfman1975 writes:

in response to ashvol7:

Wrong

ashvol7 is VERY correct...you just dont remember all the injuries that last season he coached. Unless you were a healer no one could have done any better. Hard to keep revamping your lineup.

twicevolalum writes:

2012 - 1997 equals 15 years. It was the 15th anniversary of the 1997 SEC Championship Team. Peyton was also on campus. In case you don't know, Peyton was not part of the 1998 NC Team Come on KNS! Get it together!

twicevolalum writes:

Hey VolinVirginia,
How little you remember. It was also the first game after the dismantling of the program. I'm so sorry the 2008 loss to Wyoming after the firing of Coach Fulmer ruined your life. #Getoverit

gobigorange5090 writes:

in response to Govols1995:

We should have never got rid of him. The recruiting was still good we just didn't get the results. Now look where we are getting 3 star recruits left and right. Wrong move VOL nation.

Let me say I am a Fulmer fan. I was tickled to death when Majors was fired and Fulmer became HC. However, after we won the NC, we started a slow slide downward. Fulmer lost control of the players and it appeared at times they were controling him. He also wouldnt change with the times. It was time for a change. With that said, Mike Hamilton BOTCHED it. He should have waited for the season to end. Hamilton also botched the next 2 hires. I hope we can get a big name to come to UT. It wont be Gruden, folks!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Not a big Fulmer guy, but am proud to say he was UT's coach and led the team the right way, with class. Congrats coach.

pingkr62 writes:

Congrats to coach Fulmer for a job well done. By the way, Fulmer DID NOT put Tennessee football on the proverbial map. That honor goes to Bob Neyland!

gobigorange5090 writes:

in response to GlennFordsFoible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

KNS, please remove this hatemongering poster!

ashvol7 writes:

in response to pingkr62:

Congrats to coach Fulmer for a job well done. By the way, Fulmer DID NOT put Tennessee football on the proverbial map. That honor goes to Bob Neyland!

well said and true

orangeman1 writes:

Best coach at UT in my lifetime. I would "settle" for winning 9-10 games a year and competing for the East every 3 years now.

The_Mayor writes:

UT's football program lost all respect by the way the Fulmer release debacle took place and the shameful manner in which Mike Hamilton handled it. I am the first to say that Fulmer was past his prime and ready to retire. He is arguably the greatest Vol to ever don orange in the history of the program. Who has given more of their life to the University of Tennessee than Phillip Fulmer? The number he put up cannot be disputed. The success he had as a leader of the program (not just the coach of the team, but the developer of a greatly successful program, a family, a great business, a wholesome place that we all fell in love with). He deserved to leave on his own terms. I blame the media (John Adams led) and the feeble, spineless decision making by Mike Hamilton for the implosion of our football program. He sold us out to filth...Bruce Pearl, Lane Kiffin. What a joke. And some of these fans never learned a darn thing from it...the ones who would compromise their integrity yet again and solicit Bobby Petrino as our next head coach. I feel sorry for Dooley. I really do. He was not given a fair amount of time to prove or disprove his worth. I do not know if he would have ever been a great success for UT...I have my doubts...but he was short changed and deserved another year. So here we are...2008 to 2012...what the mess. I assure you all that it would have all worked out so much better had we displayed a sense of honor and let Fulmer step down after his final season of 2008. Kept him involved in the front office. The legendary Vol he is and always will be. The head coaching job at UT has lost its luster...its honor. I love the University of Tennessee. I hope we do not continue to compromise what is so great about it. She cannot take much more. I hope Dave Hart will bring in someone with impeccable values...impeccable like that of Phil Fulmer...and his loyalty. We need a great program builder, who can recruit a talent base and can surround himself with genius football minded assistants. Peace

BuckFama writes:

in response to golfman1975:

You could tell this was NOT a J Adams story...Coach PF is a true Vol...Adams is King phooey on turd island.

"...J Adams ... King phooey on turd island."

That's hilarious ... and true. Thank you.

Horace writes:

I would like to see Coach Fulmer back in the saddle.

TRUEVOL35 writes:

I would take CFP back rt now! If the powers at UT are smart they hire him back and allow him to put this football program back in order. It is going to take some one who loves UT and will work night and day to get it right. I say we not only hire Fulmer back but soon after we name Holloway the AD.Put TENNESSEE folks back in control of the ship. The so called fans who wanted him gone have got what they asked for. You do not treat people like we treat CPF and it work out for you. We need to rt the wrong that was committed and name him our COACH! From there we work towards stability in the PRES office! We have had such a huge turn over in the past 8 years that led to where we are today. You can say what you want to about CPF but he LOVES UT and spent a lifetime in our program and can turn things around quicker than any coach we could hire now. Those coaches the ALABUBBA AD are going to interview will come here not to stay but to better there chances of moving on. SAY THIS OUT LOUD TO YOURSELF A FEW TIMES ...OUR AD IS AN ALABUBBA GRADUATE! OUR AD IS A ALABUBBA GRADUATE! THAT SHOULD MAKE YOU SICK! GO VOLS!

rbwtn writes:

It's amazing to me how Tennessee just kicked Phillip Fulmer to the curb
and guess what He's still alive and kicking and being ignored. Long term coaches have loosing streaks from time to time It takes a smart Athletic Director to know when to stick with him. What Athletic Director destroyed TN. Football >>>> H-a-m-i-l-t-o-n- <<<<

BuckFama writes:

in response to volmike55:

152-52.... WOW, and throw in two SEC titles and a National Championship, then get run out of town by a bunch of dumb hillbilly fans! Love UT but I'm growing old on Vol Nation. We were 1-2 years removed from a SEC championship game when he was fired. No wonder no one wants this job.

That's the sad truth, mike. Good post.

pingkr62 writes:

in response to Horace:

I would like to see Coach Fulmer back in the saddle.

Me too, at another school.

twicevolalum writes:

in response to The_Mayor:

UT's football program lost all respect by the way the Fulmer release debacle took place and the shameful manner in which Mike Hamilton handled it. I am the first to say that Fulmer was past his prime and ready to retire. He is arguably the greatest Vol to ever don orange in the history of the program. Who has given more of their life to the University of Tennessee than Phillip Fulmer? The number he put up cannot be disputed. The success he had as a leader of the program (not just the coach of the team, but the developer of a greatly successful program, a family, a great business, a wholesome place that we all fell in love with). He deserved to leave on his own terms. I blame the media (John Adams led) and the feeble, spineless decision making by Mike Hamilton for the implosion of our football program. He sold us out to filth...Bruce Pearl, Lane Kiffin. What a joke. And some of these fans never learned a darn thing from it...the ones who would compromise their integrity yet again and solicit Bobby Petrino as our next head coach. I feel sorry for Dooley. I really do. He was not given a fair amount of time to prove or disprove his worth. I do not know if he would have ever been a great success for UT...I have my doubts...but he was short changed and deserved another year. So here we are...2008 to 2012...what the mess. I assure you all that it would have all worked out so much better had we displayed a sense of honor and let Fulmer step down after his final season of 2008. Kept him involved in the front office. The legendary Vol he is and always will be. The head coaching job at UT has lost its luster...its honor. I love the University of Tennessee. I hope we do not continue to compromise what is so great about it. She cannot take much more. I hope Dave Hart will bring in someone with impeccable values...impeccable like that of Phil Fulmer...and his loyalty. We need a great program builder, who can recruit a talent base and can surround himself with genius football minded assistants. Peace

I agree with most of your points and you're the first person who has commented with exactly the sentiments I feel regarding the firing of Coach Fulmer. I went to the 2007 SEC Championship game. UT was absolutely in the mix of that game until Ainge threw an interception. If you look back at the trajectory of the program, it mirrored the retirement of Doug Dickey and the arrival of the mercenary, Mike Hamilton. I said in 2008, and believe today, that the troubles we saw on the field in 05 and 08 were a reflection of deeper troubles stemming from the Athletic Director. I don't think Coach fulmer was "past his prime." He went out and did EXACTLY what Adams, the rabid fans, and other wanted him to do, he went "outside the family" to get an offensive coordinator. It absolutely did not work out. Look at Florida State. That transition was organized YEARS before it happened. I don't think releasing coach Fulmer without a plan similar to Florida State's example was too much to expect or to ask. Yes, I agree, the 2008 debacle by that athletic administration, the fans' ridiculous attitude, and the local media have made UT a far less attractive position for a prospective coach.

pingkr62 writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Jeff Flowers is helping SAVE UT Football? Now THAT'S funny. :):):)

TRUEVOL35 writes:

in response to TRUEVOL35:

I would take CFP back rt now! If the powers at UT are smart they hire him back and allow him to put this football program back in order. It is going to take some one who loves UT and will work night and day to get it right. I say we not only hire Fulmer back but soon after we name Holloway the AD.Put TENNESSEE folks back in control of the ship. The so called fans who wanted him gone have got what they asked for. You do not treat people like we treat CPF and it work out for you. We need to rt the wrong that was committed and name him our COACH! From there we work towards stability in the PRES office! We have had such a huge turn over in the past 8 years that led to where we are today. You can say what you want to about CPF but he LOVES UT and spent a lifetime in our program and can turn things around quicker than any coach we could hire now. Those coaches the ALABUBBA AD are going to interview will come here not to stay but to better there chances of moving on. SAY THIS OUT LOUD TO YOURSELF A FEW TIMES ...OUR AD IS AN ALABUBBA GRADUATE! OUR AD IS A ALABUBBA GRADUATE! THAT SHOULD MAKE YOU SICK! GO VOLS!

The Alabubba folks blame Fulmer and UT for the troubles they got into. Does anyone remember how they acted towards us and the things they done to try and bring us down ERIC LOCKE! amound others...and now we put one of THEM OVER OUR FOOTBALL PROGRAM...HOW DAMN STUPID CAN YOU GET!

BigOrangeRock writes:

"Coach Fulmer's one of the last coaches who really had that loyalty"

And we fired him before homecoming 7 games after winning the SEC East.

BRING BACK FULMER AS THE HEAD COACH OF THE TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS!!!

pingkr62 writes:

in response to volmike55:

152-52.... WOW, and throw in two SEC titles and a National Championship, then get run out of town by a bunch of dumb hillbilly fans! Love UT but I'm growing old on Vol Nation. We were 1-2 years removed from a SEC championship game when he was fired. No wonder no one wants this job.

Who are the dumb hillbilly's?

twicevolalum writes:

in response to pingkr62:

Who are the dumb hillbilly's?

The one's who came to Neyland Stadium to do nothing more but boo on Homecoming Day 2008, on the first game after the dismantling of the program. Those are the dumb hillbillies. The ones who still complain about that game as though their life somehow ended that day. The ones who complain about that game and yet don't seem to realize the last 4 years have been dismal without Coach Fulmer coaching and the ones who seem to think all of the current players were recruited by Coach Fulmer.

pcorange writes:

Congrats to one of the two best coaches in Tennessee history. Many of us thought it was time to shift gears in 2008, but those of us with much sense realize it was a mistake to let him go. We would not have had three consecutive losing seasons under Coach Fulmer.

The_Mayor writes:

in response to twicevolalum:

I agree with most of your points and you're the first person who has commented with exactly the sentiments I feel regarding the firing of Coach Fulmer. I went to the 2007 SEC Championship game. UT was absolutely in the mix of that game until Ainge threw an interception. If you look back at the trajectory of the program, it mirrored the retirement of Doug Dickey and the arrival of the mercenary, Mike Hamilton. I said in 2008, and believe today, that the troubles we saw on the field in 05 and 08 were a reflection of deeper troubles stemming from the Athletic Director. I don't think Coach fulmer was "past his prime." He went out and did EXACTLY what Adams, the rabid fans, and other wanted him to do, he went "outside the family" to get an offensive coordinator. It absolutely did not work out. Look at Florida State. That transition was organized YEARS before it happened. I don't think releasing coach Fulmer without a plan similar to Florida State's example was too much to expect or to ask. Yes, I agree, the 2008 debacle by that athletic administration, the fans' ridiculous attitude, and the local media have made UT a far less attractive position for a prospective coach.

Well thought out input. Thank you. A true Vol, clearly.

BuckFama writes:

Sad thing it is to see some in a fan base stab a man in the back when he delivered many of the best days that the storied program ever knew.

Even if Fulmer should have been shown the door, Hamilton, who was supposedly a good guy, handled it about as badly as it could have been handled. And it ultimately came to be known that Fulmer was 1000 times better as a coach that Hamilton was as an AD. And I'm confident that Fulmer's a better man, too.

Yeah, some will continue to bash coach Fulmer, but the bashing is there merely to mask the embarrassment that comes with getting exactly what they were told they would get if they forced him out: years of chaos.

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