Phillip Fulmer helps restart football at East Tennessee State

Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer holds his award for being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame before a game between Alabama and Tennessee in Knoxville on Oct. 20. On Tuesday, Fulmer joined former Miami coach Jimmy Johnson, former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum and 14 former players in getting inducted to the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in New York. "We just had a fabulous time, Fulmer said." (Wade Payne, File/Associated Press)

Photo by Wade Payne

Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer holds his award for being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame before a game between Alabama and Tennessee in Knoxville on Oct. 20. On Tuesday, Fulmer joined former Miami coach Jimmy Johnson, former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum and 14 former players in getting inducted to the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in New York. "We just had a fabulous time, Fulmer said." (Wade Payne, File/Associated Press)

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer is returning to college football to help restart the program at East Tennessee State.

Fulmer, 62, will serve as a consultant and special assistant to athletic director Richard Sander as East Tennessee State relaunches a football program it had shut down for financial reasons in 2003. The recent College Football Hall of Fame inductee doesn’t expect to coach the new team, which could begin playing at the Football Championship Subdivision level as soon as 2015.

“I never say never on anything, (but) it’s not likely,” Fulmer said Tuesday after a news conference announcing East Tennessee State’s plans to bring back football. “Nobody expects that, that I’ve talked to within the administration. I was really clear and frank, and they were grateful for that. That wasn’t the place in life that I wanted to be. It’s a great opportunity for somebody to come in and make their own legacy.”

Fulmer said the idea that he might coach East Tennessee State came up when university officials first told him the school might bring back football. Sander has indicated he would like to have a coach in place by mid-May.

“When they approached me about being the coach, it was very flattering, but I’m just at a different stage in life where I’m enjoying my children and my grandchildren and I’m enjoying the business that I’m in with some partners I’m dedicated to as well,” Fulmer said. “However I can help in this process, I will. I’m thrilled they’re talking about doing it the right way.”

Fulmer coached Tennessee to a 1998 national title, posted a career record of 152-52 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last year. He coached three games for Tennessee on an interim basis in 1992, took over the program in 1993 and remained in place until getting fired in 2008.

He faces a different type of challenge at East Tennessee State.

“Phil will kind of fill the role of ‘football expert,’” Sander said. “He’ll help in everything from hiring a coach to helping us identify architectural firms that we need to build facilities. He’s run a total football program, so we’re going to listen to him in every phase.”

East Tennessee State had an 80-year football tradition before shutting its program. A bid to revive the program during the 2006-07 school year failed when students voted down a $200 fee increase.

The decision to restart football came after a $125-per-semester student fee increase was approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents last week and by East Tennessee State’s student government association in January.

“I always thought (the return of football) would happen,” said Brock Pittman, an offensive lineman on East Tennessee State’s 2003 team who attended Tuesday’s news conference. “There’s never been a doubt in my mind. I just didn’t know when. I’m just happy it’s here. You couldn’t ask for a better person and a better football mind than Coach Fulmer. He knows how a program should be run. He’s proved that. They did a really good job getting him on board.”

East Tennessee State president Brian Noland worked on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission when the school dropped football and supported the decision at the time.

“But this is a different time, and we have the opportunity to build on the work that’s been done in the past and to move forward and do this the right way.” Noland said.

Noland said approval of the student fee increase makes a major difference. The fee is expected to generate about $2.5 million annually.

School officials still must choose a coach, decide on a site location for a future stadium and work toward finding a conference. East Tennessee State’s athletic teams currently belong to the Atlantic Sun, which doesn’t compete in football, though Atlantic Sun member Jacksonville plays football in the Pioneer League. Stetson and Mercer, two more Atlantic Sun members starting football programs this year, will also compete in the Pioneer League.

The Atlantic Sun issued a statement Tuesday saying “we look forward to working with East Tennessee State and the A Sun membership as a whole in fully developing the opportunities for maximum competitive opportunity.”

Noland said the university also would have to add about three new women’s sports to go along with football in order to meet Title IX requirements. As they announced plans to bring back football, school officials also started a kickoff fund asking alumni, fans and former players to donate $250 to receive priority toward future season tickets.

“They’re not necessarily going to be Virginia Tech or Tennessee in three years,” Fulmer said. “Nobody should expect that. But we can be a viable program in four or five years and make it exciting for the students, make it exciting for the community and make a difference in this university.”

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Comments » 107

formerflgranny writes:

Good to see Fulmer working like heck again.

brokendownoldvol writes:

Only job he could get.

rickyawcurtis writes:

This is a win-win. CPF gets back in the game, and if he wants to coach again, it gives him the opportunity on his terms. It also instantly gives ETSU more credibility than their football program has had since they beat Terry Bradshaw & LA Tech in the 1969 Rice Bowl. GO VOLS! GO BUCS!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Don't schedule Wyoming..

The_Power_T writes:

Before y'all even start, it is totally uncalled for and classless to take shots at Fulmer. He did a hell of a lot more for our university than any of you trolls or haters. His performance started to suffer and for that he was fired. That's good enough for me. I'm very thankful to have had him as a coach, but I am also very happy with the direction of our program. Just lay off the insults to the guy who brought us the only championship in my lifetime. Just not called for and is seriously a bad look for our fan base. I bet that any of those coward that insult him would kiss his butt in person so just lay off. Congrats on the new job coach and I wish you well. That's the response of a logical fan with a bit of class

plainspeaker1 writes:

I see it did not take long for the cockroaches to crawl out of their cracks. As an upper east Tennessee Vol fan, our area is tickled to death to get him. Why don't you and your ilk crawl back where you came from!

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

Im just curious why the website and link say "govols" and we continually get news about other schools.

I understand who Fulmer is and was, but he is not here anymore, and this story has nothing to do with extra "vols" news.

How about all stories have to do with current "vols" sports news, let the other schools get the attention through their news organizations, and sports departments.

CantStandCantStandSaban writes:

Good for Phil! Does this mean we get any of our buyout money back?

The_Power_T writes:

No need to take shots at Phil. He did an amazing job at our university, and when his performance slipped, he was fired. I can tell you he's done more for this world than any negative troll taking jabs at him. Get a life! Show appreciation for all the great things he did, and get over the bad towards the end. Good luck Coach Fulmer, a true Vol fan wishes you the best

agohn writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Don't schedule Wyoming..

You're about as mature as my immature 7th graders I teach. That man has more coaching and class in his little finger than you have in your whole body. Get a life.

laraccoon writes:

in response to plainspeaker1:

I see it did not take long for the cockroaches to crawl out of their cracks. As an upper east Tennessee Vol fan, our area is tickled to death to get him. Why don't you and your ilk crawl back where you came from!

i know the students are stoked that is pretty much all that matters . Hope it works out , ETSU seems like an outstanding university ,and much cheaper than U T .

SummerfieldVol writes:

I would be willing to bet he would not take the job because if he did he would lose financially. I would say there is a clause in his buyout about if he get another coaching job,he would loose so much or a certain percentage of his buyout money.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

Only job he could get.

You are a stupid,ignorant arss hold of a brokendownvol.Why don't you go play in the middle of a busy highway?

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to The_Power_T:

Before y'all even start, it is totally uncalled for and classless to take shots at Fulmer. He did a hell of a lot more for our university than any of you trolls or haters. His performance started to suffer and for that he was fired. That's good enough for me. I'm very thankful to have had him as a coach, but I am also very happy with the direction of our program. Just lay off the insults to the guy who brought us the only championship in my lifetime. Just not called for and is seriously a bad look for our fan base. I bet that any of those coward that insult him would kiss his butt in person so just lay off. Congrats on the new job coach and I wish you well. That's the response of a logical fan with a bit of class

I couldn't agree more. Those that hate on Fulmer are just plain stupid and will get their just reward someday.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to SummerfieldVol:

I would be willing to bet he would not take the job because if he did he would lose financially. I would say there is a clause in his buyout about if he get another coaching job,he would loose so much or a certain percentage of his buyout money.

His buyout has been paid in full. Are you really that misinformed?

movol77 writes:

Any so-called fan disrespecting a former championship COACH should never claim support for any championship TEAM he coached. You can't have it both ways.

tovolny writes:

Hey, there is comedy here that is hard to resist at first thought. However it is so obvious that it's really not that funny. I saw no clever comedic remarks. For comedy to be genuine, it has to be unique and take you somewhat by surprise. The attempts that I read were all very predictable. Besides, Fulmer is doing something very worthwhile, This is Coach Fulmers doing a good thing and showing his good side. ETSU is very fortunate to have a solid, knowledgeable, and serious person to reestablished the Football program.

keepitreal4vols writes:

Package deal with Todd Raleigh going to coach the baseball team?

FanNotSheep writes:

If you only had a brain you'd understand the Wyoming loss is forever at the feet of one Mike Hamilton and his biggest booster at the time. When Fulmer was forced to hold the press conference announcing the end of his UT career before the 2008 season ended, the team came completely apart. Anyone who has ever been a part of any kind of team knows the players play for their coaches. Even players who may not have been close to Fulmer knew the whole staff was about to be obliterated. The Wyoming game was a direct result of the press conference, just like the basketball team's loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament after Hamilton knifed Pearl in the back.

I hope UT will get its act together and regain its status in both big time sports, but the way it treated two great coaches was unbelievably shabby. Even though Hamilton is long gone, Karma has been killing us ever since.

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

Package deal with Todd Raleigh going to coach the baseball team?

That's just stupid. Fulmer won 150 games and a national title.

But since you bring it up, Raleigh was another example of the UT brass doing away with a good coach without having a better plan. Raleigh, Kiffin, Dooley … and while I think Martin is way better than any of those guys, he ain't in Bruce's Zip Code as far as coaching ability.

Fulmer had let things slide. But the program has gotten worse since he left. Baseball is worse than when Delmonico was here and basketball is worse than it was under Pearl. Great job Hamilton, wherever you are.

iowavol writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Don't schedule Wyoming..

Really. That's what you're going with?

iowavol writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

If you only had a brain you'd understand the Wyoming loss is forever at the feet of one Mike Hamilton and his biggest booster at the time. When Fulmer was forced to hold the press conference announcing the end of his UT career before the 2008 season ended, the team came completely apart. Anyone who has ever been a part of any kind of team knows the players play for their coaches. Even players who may not have been close to Fulmer knew the whole staff was about to be obliterated. The Wyoming game was a direct result of the press conference, just like the basketball team's loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament after Hamilton knifed Pearl in the back.

I hope UT will get its act together and regain its status in both big time sports, but the way it treated two great coaches was unbelievably shabby. Even though Hamilton is long gone, Karma has been killing us ever since.

Well said, but as dude said previously, haters gonna hate. Best wishes to a great coach and an even better man.

Sunshine27 writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Don't schedule Wyoming..

Now thats funny.....Thank you for the laugh. I was thinking the same thing.

HooRay_Vol writes:

Randy Sanders for HC. Has ET ties and deserves to be HC somewhere. (And he's not from California!)

brokendownoldvol writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

You are a stupid,ignorant arss hold of a brokendownvol.Why don't you go play in the middle of a busy highway?

Ok , I was wrong he could have gotten a job as a Walmart greeter in a small town in TN.

Sunshine27 writes:

in response to HooRay_Vol:

Randy Sanders for HC. Has ET ties and deserves to be HC somewhere. (And he's not from California!)

Yeah, those Calif really suck A$5.

brokendownoldvol writes:

in response to formerflgranny:

Good to see Fulmer working like heck again.

How in the world did they pry him away from all of those Div I schools who wanted him?

brokendownoldvol writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

You are a stupid,ignorant arss hold of a brokendownvol.Why don't you go play in the middle of a busy highway?

Phil? Is that you?

brokendownoldvol writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

You are a stupid,ignorant arss hold of a brokendownvol.Why don't you go play in the middle of a busy highway?

Sounds like you should stick to wkend bowling.

brokendownoldvol writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Don't schedule Wyoming..

Or Memphis State.

Tennesseebob writes:

Wish he'd coach!!!!

pvtoe writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

Phil? Is that you?

You are an absolute classless moron. Florida deserves you as a fan!!!

movol77 writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

Sounds like you should stick to wkend bowling.

"Hey Mom, look at me! I have five trash-posts already!"

PHAT_VOL writes:

I would like to see him on the side line again. I'm sure he would work like heck studying the film.

CharlotteVol writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

Im just curious why the website and link say "govols" and we continually get news about other schools.

I understand who Fulmer is and was, but he is not here anymore, and this story has nothing to do with extra "vols" news.

How about all stories have to do with current "vols" sports news, let the other schools get the attention through their news organizations, and sports departments.

What a stupid post....

movol77 writes:

"Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! I can mock a championship coach! I AM SOMEBODY!"

SummerfieldVol writes:

You can tell that he is in great demand. Just keeps turning down the offers. Had offers from let see, no not from ark,not from lets see there is so many can't remember all of them. All you Fulmer lovers know all of the offers he has had,becuse he is in such a great demand. Just to many to remember all of them.

vut5686#1405392 writes:

I guess it will never stop. Yeah, Fulmer had declining years, last couple of seasons. Guess what: Neyland had down years; go check before he gave in and went two platoon. Wyatt slumped but had two or three great years. Dickey did not win year one. Majors was spotty. No one is perfect...so...by some people's standards, Tennessee has never been a "winner," there is no tradition and...what is it we strive to be?

Fulmer is gone and what he accomplished is equal to any UT head coach. Not to respect him is to negate the NC and those conference championships. As others point out..can't have it both ways.

movol77 writes:

in response to SummerfieldVol:

You can tell that he is in great demand. Just keeps turning down the offers. Had offers from let see, no not from ark,not from lets see there is so many can't remember all of them. All you Fulmer lovers know all of the offers he has had,becuse he is in such a great demand. Just to many to remember all of them.

"Look at me too! Look at me too!"

GerryOP writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

If you only had a brain you'd understand the Wyoming loss is forever at the feet of one Mike Hamilton and his biggest booster at the time. When Fulmer was forced to hold the press conference announcing the end of his UT career before the 2008 season ended, the team came completely apart. Anyone who has ever been a part of any kind of team knows the players play for their coaches. Even players who may not have been close to Fulmer knew the whole staff was about to be obliterated. The Wyoming game was a direct result of the press conference, just like the basketball team's loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament after Hamilton knifed Pearl in the back.

I hope UT will get its act together and regain its status in both big time sports, but the way it treated two great coaches was unbelievably shabby. Even though Hamilton is long gone, Karma has been killing us ever since.

I wasn't gonna say anything on this thread, under the auspices of "If you can't say anything good, don't..." But c'mon Sheep, how much Fulmeraide have you been drinking? "... Fulmer was forced to hold the press conference announcing the end of his UT career...?" That is total bull-hockey. Fulmer and Ms. Vicki insisted on holding that press conference, and what a pitiful sob-story disaster they turned it into. Pitiful, absolutely pitiful.

Instead of walking away with his head held high like a real hero would, he had to beat his chest one more time while Ms. Vicki mopped his brow and glowered into the cameras - while they were sitting there with a $6 mil p-note in their pocket.

'nuff said.

movol77 writes:

in response to GerryOP:

I wasn't gonna say anything on this thread, under the auspices of "If you can't say anything good, don't..." But c'mon Sheep, how much Fulmeraide have you been drinking? "... Fulmer was forced to hold the press conference announcing the end of his UT career...?" That is total bull-hockey. Fulmer and Ms. Vicki insisted on holding that press conference, and what a pitiful sob-story disaster they turned it into. Pitiful, absolutely pitiful.

Instead of walking away with his head held high like a real hero would, he had to beat his chest one more time while Ms. Vicki mopped his brow and glowered into the cameras - while they were sitting there with a $6 mil p-note in their pocket.

'nuff said.

"Add me too! I AM SOMEBODY!"

GerryOP writes:

in response to vut5686#1405392:

I guess it will never stop. Yeah, Fulmer had declining years, last couple of seasons. Guess what: Neyland had down years; go check before he gave in and went two platoon. Wyatt slumped but had two or three great years. Dickey did not win year one. Majors was spotty. No one is perfect...so...by some people's standards, Tennessee has never been a "winner," there is no tradition and...what is it we strive to be?

Fulmer is gone and what he accomplished is equal to any UT head coach. Not to respect him is to negate the NC and those conference championships. As others point out..can't have it both ways.

Tee Martin and Al Wilson led the team to that '98 NC. It remains UT's championship, not Phil Fulmer's. Phil Fulmer did not create UT football, UT football created Phil Fulmer.

movol77 writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Tee Martin and Al Wilson led the team to that '98 NC. It remains UT's championship, not Phil Fulmer's. Phil Fulmer did not create UT football, UT football created Phil Fulmer.

"I swear. He wasn't the coach! It was a UFO!"

ETownVol writes:

in response to The_Power_T:

Before y'all even start, it is totally uncalled for and classless to take shots at Fulmer. He did a hell of a lot more for our university than any of you trolls or haters. His performance started to suffer and for that he was fired. That's good enough for me. I'm very thankful to have had him as a coach, but I am also very happy with the direction of our program. Just lay off the insults to the guy who brought us the only championship in my lifetime. Just not called for and is seriously a bad look for our fan base. I bet that any of those coward that insult him would kiss his butt in person so just lay off. Congrats on the new job coach and I wish you well. That's the response of a logical fan with a bit of class

Bravo. Couldn't have said it better myself. Good to see Coach Fulmer giving back to the sport and his home state. This is a win-win situation for both parties. Thanks for helping ETSU, Coach!

The_Power_T writes:

in response to ETownVol:

Bravo. Couldn't have said it better myself. Good to see Coach Fulmer giving back to the sport and his home state. This is a win-win situation for both parties. Thanks for helping ETSU, Coach!

Just trying to help take out the trash on this site

traderjoe writes:

Not many coaches have a national championship and a bit part in a movie with Sandra Bullock. Nice career! He's got money and can do anything he wants. Phil's better off than 98% of Amerikans.

Willweb2 writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

That's just stupid. Fulmer won 150 games and a national title.

But since you bring it up, Raleigh was another example of the UT brass doing away with a good coach without having a better plan. Raleigh, Kiffin, Dooley … and while I think Martin is way better than any of those guys, he ain't in Bruce's Zip Code as far as coaching ability.

Fulmer had let things slide. But the program has gotten worse since he left. Baseball is worse than when Delmonico was here and basketball is worse than it was under Pearl. Great job Hamilton, wherever you are.

First,I think that the comment made by Keepitreal was CLASSLESS and IMMATURE!

I agree with you with the exception of Coach Martin not being able to coach. I think that CCM has his best coaching years ahead of him. Obviously, Derek Dooley didn't have it in him to be the head coach of a major college football team. And with his in game decision making, he probably wasn't fit to run a pee wee team. I think that Todd Raleigh just wasn't a good fit at Tennessee. He won at Western Carolina, but obviously couldn't handle the SEC; which is arguably the best conference for college baseball. He just couldn't win here.

Willweb2 writes:

in response to Willweb2:

First,I think that the comment made by Keepitreal was CLASSLESS and IMMATURE!

I agree with you with the exception of Coach Martin not being able to coach. I think that CCM has his best coaching years ahead of him. Obviously, Derek Dooley didn't have it in him to be the head coach of a major college football team. And with his in game decision making, he probably wasn't fit to run a pee wee team. I think that Todd Raleigh just wasn't a good fit at Tennessee. He won at Western Carolina, but obviously couldn't handle the SEC; which is arguably the best conference for college baseball. He just couldn't win here.

But Coach Martin has proven that he can win in the SEC. Tennessee has the best overall record of any team in the league over the last two years with the exception of Kentucky, and Florida. And he has beaten the leagues two best coaches multiple times. I think that the collapse of this years team in the SEC tournament, and the NIT goes back to CCM's immaturity as a head coach. He's still a very young head coach. Coach Pearl has more that 10 years of head coaching experience than CCM. I think that inexperience really showed with CCM declaring the job done to get into the dance after the Missouri game. I think that he demotivated his players, and that showed in the SEC tournament. And they CLEARLY didn't want to play in the NIT. I think that CMM was right, if this would have been a normal year for the SEC. But this was not a normal year. Every expert out there made it a point to express how weak the SEC was this year in basketball. The selection committee was not going to take any more teams from the SEC than they absolutely had to. That meant that THIS year, Tennessee had to win every game they could in order to just give itself a chance. The job was not done. Coach Martin violated one of the prime rules of Sun Zsu's "The Art of War". And that is to "know the terrain". Coach Martin miscalculated the environment that Tennessee resided in regards to being NCAA tournament worthy. He made a mistake by declaring the Vol's had done their job. As a result; his team did not play hard, and he did not prepare as coach. Bruce Pearl would not have made this mistake. He would have understood that the job wasn't done; and had his team ready to play. But I don't think that is because CBP is light years better that CCM in ability. I think a more experienced CCM would not have made this mistake. CBP has had at least 6 chances to get into the NCAA tournament with two different schools. Plus he has had NCAA tournament experience at the D-1 AA level. CCM has had two years, and is a much younger coach in age, and experience.

Willweb2 writes:

in response to Willweb2:

But Coach Martin has proven that he can win in the SEC. Tennessee has the best overall record of any team in the league over the last two years with the exception of Kentucky, and Florida. And he has beaten the leagues two best coaches multiple times. I think that the collapse of this years team in the SEC tournament, and the NIT goes back to CCM's immaturity as a head coach. He's still a very young head coach. Coach Pearl has more that 10 years of head coaching experience than CCM. I think that inexperience really showed with CCM declaring the job done to get into the dance after the Missouri game. I think that he demotivated his players, and that showed in the SEC tournament. And they CLEARLY didn't want to play in the NIT. I think that CMM was right, if this would have been a normal year for the SEC. But this was not a normal year. Every expert out there made it a point to express how weak the SEC was this year in basketball. The selection committee was not going to take any more teams from the SEC than they absolutely had to. That meant that THIS year, Tennessee had to win every game they could in order to just give itself a chance. The job was not done. Coach Martin violated one of the prime rules of Sun Zsu's "The Art of War". And that is to "know the terrain". Coach Martin miscalculated the environment that Tennessee resided in regards to being NCAA tournament worthy. He made a mistake by declaring the Vol's had done their job. As a result; his team did not play hard, and he did not prepare as coach. Bruce Pearl would not have made this mistake. He would have understood that the job wasn't done; and had his team ready to play. But I don't think that is because CBP is light years better that CCM in ability. I think a more experienced CCM would not have made this mistake. CBP has had at least 6 chances to get into the NCAA tournament with two different schools. Plus he has had NCAA tournament experience at the D-1 AA level. CCM has had two years, and is a much younger coach in age, and experience.

Is BP a better coach than CM? That's arguable. But to say CCM doesn't have the ability to coach with BP is a harder call. Now CCM will have to improve and get into the Dance next year to SECURE his job at Tennessee. And if we have everyone back, along with the recruits coming in; there is NO reason why the Vol's shouldn't be a top 25 team next year and make a run in the tournament. But I think in ten years, CCM will be considered one of the top coaches in the country wherever he is coaching. And hopefully, it will still be with UT.

rsummie#211799 writes:

in response to HooRay_Vol:

Randy Sanders for HC. Has ET ties and deserves to be HC somewhere. (And he's not from California!)

And he could bring Jay Graham with him...

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