>Changing of the guard

>After seventeen years as head coach as the University of Tennessee, Phil Fulmer will be gone at the end of the season according to reports.

I found the news both expected and unexpected. For some reason, I felt like the team and the university would stand behind Fulmer until the end of the season when his retirement would be announced. Of course, one more loss and those already looking for blood would have been screaming from any tent pole they could find.

Forget the fact that Fulmer has a great winning percentage. Forget that he took us to a national title a decade ago. Forget that LAST YEAR he put together a ten win season, facing overwhelming odds. No, in this day and age, it’s all about “what have you done for me lately.” And there are just too many Monday morning quarterbacks out there who think just because they can lead a team to a perfect season on their NCAA videogame that they know more about coaching and how to lead than the guy on top does.

Fulmer’s decision to leave brings up a lot of questions. Who will be retained from the current staff? Will any of the current staff be kept on? What will this do to a solid recruiting class we had coming in, one that was ranked in the top five in the country? How long will it be before various departments within the UT system are screaming at the $6 million buyout for Fulmer’s contract during a year in which there have been cuts to the overall UT budget (they’re separate funds, mind you, but cold hard facts have never stopped English majors)?

Then, of course, comes the question of just who will come in that everyone thinks is so much better?

I’ve not heard any rumors yet and I’ve not looked to see how everyone has decided is the “odds on” favorite to take over the job. I sure hope whoever takes the job can do what Nick Saban has done at Alabama and turn it around in two seasons. Otherwise, these same people who are rejoicing today that Fulmer is gone will be calling for his head in a few years.

As for Fulmer, I’m sad to see him go. I was a student at UT when he took over the job and I recall the wave of outcry for him to take over the reigns from Johnny Majors. Fulmer helped take the Vols’ to a new level of competitiveness, bringing in Peyton Manning, competiting in the SEC East and having a winning record against Alabama. Fulmer understood what it meant to be part of the UT athletics program and ran his program with pride, class and distinction. He may not be the “greatest” coach who ever lived, but he was a good one. And he was a good guy who was proud to be working at his alma mater.

I’m sorry to see him go. It has to be a terrible burden to have every Tom, Dick and Harry on call in radio knowing how to do your job better than you can. But he did it and he did it with class and distinction for seventeen years.

Thank you for the good work, the great memories and some huge wins, Philip Fulmer. You’ll be missed…at least by me.


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