For the good times: Vols celebrate 1998 championship game

Fulmer, Bowden, former Vols relive 1998 championship

photos by saul young/news sentinel
Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer, right, and former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden speak at the Tennessee Theatre on Friday in the 15th anniversary celebration of the 1998 Fiesta Bowl national nhampionship and fundraiser to benefit to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
(SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Saul Young

photos by saul young/news sentinel Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer, right, and former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden speak at the Tennessee Theatre on Friday in the 15th anniversary celebration of the 1998 Fiesta Bowl national nhampionship and fundraiser to benefit to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer and former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden sign autographs backstage at the Tennessee Theatre Friday, August 9, 2013 in a 15th anniversary celebration of 1998 Fiesta Bowl National Championship and fundraiser to benefit to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. 
  
 (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Saul Young

Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer and former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden sign autographs backstage at the Tennessee Theatre Friday, August 9, 2013 in a 15th anniversary celebration of 1998 Fiesta Bowl National Championship and fundraiser to benefit to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Al Wilson, a player on Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team, meets with fans at the Tennessee Theatre on Friday.

Photo by Saul Young

Al Wilson, a player on Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team, meets with fans at the Tennessee Theatre on Friday.

At Haslam Field on Friday, Butch Jones was laying another brick on the foundation to rebuild Tennessee football.

Downtown at the Tennessee Theatre, however, no rebuilding was required. It was 1998 again.

“It gives me chills and goose bumps all over my body,’’ ’98 cornerback Dwayne Goodrich told a crowd of several hundred as highlights of UT’s national championship season blazed across a screen.

Goodrich wasn’t the only one.

The official beneficiary of the fundraising event “An Evening for Champions” was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The evening was also a temporary salve for a fan base fallen on hard times.

The current mission is trying to

avoid a fourth consecutive losing season. Thus, observing the 15th anniversary of Tennessee’s national title — and most recent SEC championship — brought back a flood of heartening images.

The Vols capped a 13-0 season with a 23-16 win over Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl. The Sears Trophy and crystal football gleamed prominently from the stage.

The two head coaches from that game swapped anecdotes. Phillip Fulmer, 62, and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, 83, are both Saturday spectators these days.

“Tennessee had a great football team,’’ said Bowden, who won titles in 1993 and 1999. “They played good enough to win and they did.’’

“That team,’’ said Fulmer, “was unselfish, took to coaching and it was one of the hardest working teams I had my entire time at Tennessee.’’

About a dozen members of the ’98 team shared memories of the magical season and the cathartic ending in Arizona.

“It was a great night,’’ All-America linebacker Al Wilson said. “Tennessee fans traveled well.

“Going undefeated in the SEC is a tough thing to do, so our confidence was very high.’’

The highlight clips served to not only remind the fans how confident — and talented — a program Tennessee had in ’98, but also offered a chance to razz some of the Vols’ contemporary nemeses.

A pained Steve Spurrier on the sideline in UT’s 20-17 win over Florida in September got a cheer. So did a solemn Florida State offensive coordinator Mark Richt in the Fiesta Bowl press box booth after Goodrich took an interception 54 yards for a touchdown.

By the time they got to Arizona, the Vols had been steeled by a series of close calls in the regular season.

“It was all business,’’ said Kevin Gregory, who snapped for kicker Jeff Hall. “It was all about doing your job and everything else will take care of itself.’’

Will Overstreet, then a freshman defensive end, said the real pressure was winning the SEC championship game against Mississippi State.

“A lot of the stress had come off us (for the Fiesta Bowl),’’ he said. “We didn’t have to worry about computers (for the BCS rankings). We didn’t have to worry about anything.

“We just have to be good this night, better than those guys.’’

They were.

The Vols never trailed. Tee Martin hooked up with Peerless Price on two long passes. UT’s stout defense contained a Seminole offense playing with backup quarterback Marcus Outzen.

But the game’s best tackle came from punter David Leaverton, who bowed up and prevented FSU All-American Peter Warrick from scoring on a punt return.

“David paid for his scholarship for four years with that tackle,’’ said Fulmer.

“If Warrick breaks left, he’s gonna score,” said Bowden. “He broke right.’’

The Vols got their share of breaks in 1998. But they were both resilient and talented enough to take full advantage of them.

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Comments » 40

allvol32 writes:

This was a very nice event for a great cause, St Jude's Children's Hospital. Something like $115,000 was raised to support St. Jude's.

Vol great Al Wilson mentioned to the audience that his son had brain cancer but did not go into great detail. Can anyone shed any light on how his son is faring?

Pat Summitt was there in all of her graciousness and the players spoke glowingly of her influence on this great TN team.

ActualUTAlum writes:

in response to allvol32:

This was a very nice event for a great cause, St Jude's Children's Hospital. Something like $115,000 was raised to support St. Jude's.

Vol great Al Wilson mentioned to the audience that his son had brain cancer but did not go into great detail. Can anyone shed any light on how his son is faring?

Pat Summitt was there in all of her graciousness and the players spoke glowingly of her influence on this great TN team.

Does EVERYTHING have to be about Pat Summitt? I assure you, the girls basketball coach had nothing to do with anything that happened on any football field, anywhere, at any time.

Mr_Bandman writes:

in response to ActualUTAlum:

Does EVERYTHING have to be about Pat Summitt? I assure you, the girls basketball coach had nothing to do with anything that happened on any football field, anywhere, at any time.

That may be the most classless post I've ever seen on this site---that's quite an accomplishment!

vol98champ writes:

in response to Mr_Bandman:

That may be the most classless post I've ever seen on this site---that's quite an accomplishment!

+1. Classless and beyond stupid.

Go4Two writes:

Good to see the man that lead us to the mountain top back on stage

dillpic writes:

in response to ActualUTAlum:

Does EVERYTHING have to be about Pat Summitt? I assure you, the girls basketball coach had nothing to do with anything that happened on any football field, anywhere, at any time.

If you are actually a UT Alum and you were there during that time and you paid just the tiniest bit of attention to what was going on around you, you would know that Pat did, IN FACT, influence the 1998 team. The ActualUTfootball team says so.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Actual Vol griper always has something to gripe about.

Apparently he forgets all the coaches support each other. Someone who was winning national championships was worthy of the encouragement she gave the football team, just as Fulmer was in sitting in TBA supporting the women's basketball team.

Grow up griper

tovolny writes:

Class is for people like Bobby Bowden. This guy, knowing he lost, was gracious enough to come to Knoxville to help celebrate the 98 NC. He knew by his attendance a lot of money could be directed to St. Judes. Fulmer showed a lot of class also by being there.

And to the guy on the previous post dissing Coach Summitt...don't let me catch you in the Wal-Mart parking lot....I know who you are...and there will be a battle right there on the pavement. In Tennessee, you don't just knock Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, James K. Polk, Davy Crockett, Alvin York, Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl, Elvis Presley, Peyton Manning, AND Pat Summitt without receiving some feedback and retaliation. So to you I say: quit sucking those big sour pickles from up north.

Southland writes:

in response to tovolny:

Class is for people like Bobby Bowden. This guy, knowing he lost, was gracious enough to come to Knoxville to help celebrate the 98 NC. He knew by his attendance a lot of money could be directed to St. Judes. Fulmer showed a lot of class also by being there.

And to the guy on the previous post dissing Coach Summitt...don't let me catch you in the Wal-Mart parking lot....I know who you are...and there will be a battle right there on the pavement. In Tennessee, you don't just knock Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, James K. Polk, Davy Crockett, Alvin York, Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl, Elvis Presley, Peyton Manning, AND Pat Summitt without receiving some feedback and retaliation. So to you I say: quit sucking those big sour pickles from up north.

you left out John Ward. No one ever is allowed to dis John Ward

chattabluetick writes:

in response to Southland:

you left out John Ward. No one ever is allowed to dis John Ward

And the late great REGGIE WHITE from Chattanooga, The Minister of Defense.

Pompey writes:

...to celebrate the National Championship in this manner is always appropriate. Sadly however; it also points up the fact that several teams have more National Championships in one decade that Tennessee has in its entire football history. Until UT adopts a championship attitude mediocrity will continue to reign from the administration, to the alum, to the fans.....all have let this fine program down.

CantStandCantStandSaban writes:

I'm not trying to be a wise guy, but I thought Goodrich was still in prison. He get out early?

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to ActualUTAlum:

Does EVERYTHING have to be about Pat Summitt? I assure you, the girls basketball coach had nothing to do with anything that happened on any football field, anywhere, at any time.

Any actual alum/fan/booster of UT should bow down anytime that woman's name is mentioned.

formervol1950s writes:

in response to chattabluetick:

And the late great REGGIE WHITE from Chattanooga, The Minister of Defense.

And my former roomie and teammate the great Doug Atkins from Humbolt,Tennessee . By the way, a few years back they named Humbolts football stadium after Doug .

murrayvol writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Any actual alum/fan/booster of UT should bow down anytime that woman's name is mentioned.

Anyone making that comment and claiming to be a Tennessee fan simply isn't BB.

murrayvol writes:

Lots of fond memories associated with 1998. Looking forward to reprising a few of them in the not too distant future. GBO

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Anyone making that comment and claiming to be a Tennessee fan simply isn't BB.

Sounds about right..

bUTch_please writes:

Good Sport of the Decade title goes to Coach Bowden.

The "they played just good enough to win" comment shows it still burns, but he stepped up for a great cause on the victors turf. Kudos, sir.

Navaloranges writes:

in response to Pompey:

...to celebrate the National Championship in this manner is always appropriate. Sadly however; it also points up the fact that several teams have more National Championships in one decade that Tennessee has in its entire football history. Until UT adopts a championship attitude mediocrity will continue to reign from the administration, to the alum, to the fans.....all have let this fine program down.

...sadly, some don't realize that ALL top 10 programs have their years where they wade through the weeds. All of them. UT is an all time top 10 program for a reason. They bounce back from their down turns. All indications are that CBJ will be the catalyst for this up swing. It would help if TRUE Vol fans would use a little insight and remember the times that Michigan, bama, Oklahoma, etc., have gone through, and realize that those teams are still big time programs, and always will be. UT is no different. That's why it's ridiculous to here the young and old alike compare UT with programs like vandy. Those folks are not living in the real world, just a wishful one. Make no mistake, UT WILL BE BACK, we've paid our dues and done our time throught mired in the muck. IT IS TIME. Better days are just ahead.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Navaloranges:

...sadly, some don't realize that ALL top 10 programs have their years where they wade through the weeds. All of them. UT is an all time top 10 program for a reason. They bounce back from their down turns. All indications are that CBJ will be the catalyst for this up swing. It would help if TRUE Vol fans would use a little insight and remember the times that Michigan, bama, Oklahoma, etc., have gone through, and realize that those teams are still big time programs, and always will be. UT is no different. That's why it's ridiculous to here the young and old alike compare UT with programs like vandy. Those folks are not living in the real world, just a wishful one. Make no mistake, UT WILL BE BACK, we've paid our dues and done our time throught mired in the muck. IT IS TIME. Better days are just ahead.

N/O

Very well said !

chattabluetick writes:

in response to formervol1950s:

And my former roomie and teammate the great Doug Atkins from Humbolt,Tennessee . By the way, a few years back they named Humbolts football stadium after Doug .

Right you are! So many greats sometimes you miss a few. Doug was a great Vol.

Tao_of_Tennessee writes:

Big Al Wilson, I was one of those who traveled well and was at that game. I was skeptical that you guys could beat the mighty Noles, but as I watched YOU warm up before the game from row 16, I changed my mind. You carried your self like you were going to win that game. What a great leader you were for the Vols!

And Bobby, don't take anything away from Leaverton's tackle on Warrick. It was the best open field tackle by a punter on an All American I have ever seen...he decked him.

BTW, Phil is looking good these days...tan, trim(mer), and a big smile on his face...good to see.

eduardo writes:

Ditto my friend. I am so sick and tired of hearing about lousy and fake basketball and basketball coaches. The later being extremely overpaid in a lousy sport. The real champions are the '85 and '98 football teams. Thats what real champions teams look like not some lame brain lousy sport like womens basketball!!!!!!

eduardo writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Any actual alum/fan/booster of UT should bow down anytime that woman's name is mentioned.

Get that name off of our court. She isnt even married to that guy anymore. geesh!

lstbodeanvol writes:

in response to formervol1950s:

And my former roomie and teammate the great Doug Atkins from Humbolt,Tennessee . By the way, a few years back they named Humbolts football stadium after Doug .

its Humboldt

Orange_Beach writes:

in response to tovolny:

Class is for people like Bobby Bowden. This guy, knowing he lost, was gracious enough to come to Knoxville to help celebrate the 98 NC. He knew by his attendance a lot of money could be directed to St. Judes. Fulmer showed a lot of class also by being there.

And to the guy on the previous post dissing Coach Summitt...don't let me catch you in the Wal-Mart parking lot....I know who you are...and there will be a battle right there on the pavement. In Tennessee, you don't just knock Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, James K. Polk, Davy Crockett, Alvin York, Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl, Elvis Presley, Peyton Manning, AND Pat Summitt without receiving some feedback and retaliation. So to you I say: quit sucking those big sour pickles from up north.

I thought your opinion of people from Alabama are all redneck, sister humping, mullet wearing trailer trash. Bobby Bowden is all Alabama. At least that's the drivel most of the hillbillies on this site spew. And the guy you are threatening to beat up at Wal-Mart wasn't "dissing" Pat Summitt he was only expressing his opinion, so you just need to calm down lady.

Orange_Beach writes:

in response to eduardo:

Ditto my friend. I am so sick and tired of hearing about lousy and fake basketball and basketball coaches. The later being extremely overpaid in a lousy sport. The real champions are the '85 and '98 football teams. Thats what real champions teams look like not some lame brain lousy sport like womens basketball!!!!!!

I'm no fan of women's basketball myself, nor am I a Tennessee fan, and I know you are just being a smart a@@, but you are wrong with your comments. Pat Summitt was the best in her profession and should be commended for her many accomplishments.

orangecountyvols writes:

This eduardo mut be related to the other whiner/griper, the "Actual vol alum".

Best course of action is for them to sponsor a troll site for themselves and the others of their sort.

tovolny writes:

in response to Southland:

you left out John Ward. No one ever is allowed to dis John Ward

Absolutely, he should have been in my list.
THANKS.

vol98champ writes:

in response to eduardo:

Get that name off of our court. She isnt even married to that guy anymore. geesh!

Maybe not, but I prefer The Summitt to The Head. Perfect name for the court as for as 99.9999% of us think. Don't get too lonely out there on that shaky limb.

tovolny writes:

in response to Orange_Beach:

I thought your opinion of people from Alabama are all redneck, sister humping, mullet wearing trailer trash. Bobby Bowden is all Alabama. At least that's the drivel most of the hillbillies on this site spew. And the guy you are threatening to beat up at Wal-Mart wasn't "dissing" Pat Summitt he was only expressing his opinion, so you just need to calm down lady.

I am calm, but seems you might be upset. Try using honey on your Post Toasties, the vinegar is for the collard greens. I hope you have a wonderful, blessed day. I remember you, you're the one that started using Viagra and Rogaine at the same time, and two weeks later started looking like Don King.

ActualUTAlum writes:

Yeah, anyone that doesn't get on their knees for Pat Summitt isn't a UT fan. Good point. Lady Vols are a joke.

Moesart writes:

I lost some amount of respect for Coach Summit when she had to be forced out. She should have stepped down the day she announced her illness. She certainly had nothing left to prove to anyone. It would have been a classy move.

Instead, she thought she was Coach Forever and thus untouchable like Fulmer thought he was. And Fulmer didn't accomplish a fraction of what Summit did.

Fulmer is remembered for usually losing to Florida and Alabama, and a fluke NC win. While pumping up his numbers on second tier SEC teams (like TN now is) and weak OOC schedules.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to ActualUTAlum:

Does EVERYTHING have to be about Pat Summitt? I assure you, the girls basketball coach had nothing to do with anything that happened on any football field, anywhere, at any time.

I'd say you're wrong there, bud. Coaches, specially successful ones, speak to other teams and organizations regularly. They know people. They have wisdom to pass on that is applicable no matter sport, and even if sports isn't involved. When I was in ROTC at UT, we watched a recorded speech by Lou Holtz. It wasn't about football. It was about leadership, responsibility, perseverance, etc.

You can bet your big orange butt Pat Summitt spoke to the football team, probably every year, and oh yeah, the players on that 1998 team said she was a big influence. So there's that.....

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to Moesart:

I lost some amount of respect for Coach Summit when she had to be forced out. She should have stepped down the day she announced her illness. She certainly had nothing left to prove to anyone. It would have been a classy move.

Instead, she thought she was Coach Forever and thus untouchable like Fulmer thought he was. And Fulmer didn't accomplish a fraction of what Summit did.

Fulmer is remembered for usually losing to Florida and Alabama, and a fluke NC win. While pumping up his numbers on second tier SEC teams (like TN now is) and weak OOC schedules.

Actually, Florida was a monkey on Fulmer's back, but he usually beat Alabama. He was 10-6-1 against them and did something nobody else at any program has ever done -- he beat Bama 7 years in a row.

BTW, you're wrong about coach Summitt. I doubt anybody would have stepped down immediately when given that diagnosis. She did what was best for the program and for herself. As far as the program is concerned, there needed to be a stable transition with time for everybody to get used to the idea that she wasn't going to be coaching the Lady Vols much longer. For her own good, it is vitally important to stay occupied, specially mentally. What was best for the program was also best for her.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

in response to Tao_of_Tennessee:

Big Al Wilson, I was one of those who traveled well and was at that game. I was skeptical that you guys could beat the mighty Noles, but as I watched YOU warm up before the game from row 16, I changed my mind. You carried your self like you were going to win that game. What a great leader you were for the Vols!

And Bobby, don't take anything away from Leaverton's tackle on Warrick. It was the best open field tackle by a punter on an All American I have ever seen...he decked him.

BTW, Phil is looking good these days...tan, trim(mer), and a big smile on his face...good to see.

Big Al was the heart and soul of that Defense for sure!...They seemed to be destined to win that game! You can sense doubt in Bowden's comments; He thinks that if Weinke had played (He was quoted that Tennessee won "by a neck") that he would have another trophy! Well, during the game Tennessee lost several players to injury and others stepped up to meet the challenge! Not to mention, Jamal Lewis was lost with a knee injury earlier during that season and the "Travis Brothers" took up that slack! So, Bowden, injuries affected BOTH teams! Tennessee had the BEST TEAM that year!...Can't argue with 13-0! GBO!

BigBadVol writes:

in response to Mr_Bandman:

That may be the most classless post I've ever seen on this site---that's quite an accomplishment!

Exactly!

BigBadVol writes:

in response to ActualUTAlum:

Yeah, anyone that doesn't get on their knees for Pat Summitt isn't a UT fan. Good point. Lady Vols are a joke.

No chance you are a fan or an alum TROLL!

Noogaorange writes:

in response to tovolny:

Class is for people like Bobby Bowden. This guy, knowing he lost, was gracious enough to come to Knoxville to help celebrate the 98 NC. He knew by his attendance a lot of money could be directed to St. Judes. Fulmer showed a lot of class also by being there.

And to the guy on the previous post dissing Coach Summitt...don't let me catch you in the Wal-Mart parking lot....I know who you are...and there will be a battle right there on the pavement. In Tennessee, you don't just knock Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, James K. Polk, Davy Crockett, Alvin York, Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl, Elvis Presley, Peyton Manning, AND Pat Summitt without receiving some feedback and retaliation. So to you I say: quit sucking those big sour pickles from up north.

You are right on! Great post. I'll be looking for him too! GBO VFL17

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Moesart:

I lost some amount of respect for Coach Summit when she had to be forced out. She should have stepped down the day she announced her illness. She certainly had nothing left to prove to anyone. It would have been a classy move.

Instead, she thought she was Coach Forever and thus untouchable like Fulmer thought he was. And Fulmer didn't accomplish a fraction of what Summit did.

Fulmer is remembered for usually losing to Florida and Alabama, and a fluke NC win. While pumping up his numbers on second tier SEC teams (like TN now is) and weak OOC schedules.

Many tenured coaches have a hard time stepping down. They become larger than life and bigger than the school they represent. Look at Bowden & Papa Jo, both had to be forced out after less impressive careers than Pat Summitt. It's the chance you take when you have a coach sporting 1099 wins and countless league titles accompanied with a 100% graduation rate. So what if she stayed on two extra years? She was good for it and the university was better off because of her not in spite of her.

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