An Open Letter to the Vol Nation: A Manifesto on Past, Present, and Future

No Pass Out Checks | Gate21
[Note:  This post is exceptionally long—even for me—and I apologize for this.  I simply felt that a lot of these things needed saying, and I really haven't heard them elsewhere.  Thus, if you'll forgive my long-windedness,  I promise there is a point to this.  I just felt this that this isn't a simple issue, and thus I needed to explain.  -Lawvol]

Of all the posts I have ever written as a blogger, all the comments I have ever posted on message boards and other blogs, all the public professions I have ever made regarding the Tennessee Volunteers, this one is by far the most difficult one for me.  I’d really rather not be in the position of feeling it necessary to write this.  To fail to address the issue, however, would be to ignore the giant looming cloud over the heads of all of the Vol-faithful, regardless of their thoughts or position., I am talking about the “situation” with the Tennessee Football coaching staff.

For the record, I am a Phillip Fulmer fan.  I believe that he has done more for the Tennessee program than anyone else over the last fifteen years.  I credit him with taking Tennessee from the mish-mash of the middle tier of college football and propelling the Vols to the very pinnacle of success.  I credit him with bringing the program into the modern era.  I credit him with making many of the things to which we as Tennessee fans have become accustomed possible.  I like Coach Fulmer, or the “Great Punkin” as I routinely refer to him (with no slight or insult intended).

I guess that makes me a homer

To the best of my recollection, the only time I have ever openly criticized the Tennessee coaching staff was during the past off-season when off-field incidents involving Vol footballers were escalating alarmingly, by my mind calling into question the integrity of the program and the University of Tennessee itself.  Aside from that, I have always refrained from going after the coaches like so many seem to want to do.  I wrote a little about this after the UCLA game, stating:

… I would say that I am more appropriately a Homer for all coaches across the landscape of college football who are constantly questioned, rebuked, and derided by tens of thousands of come-lately armchair geniuses.

It is a peculiar characteristic of so many fans that they believe that simply being a follower of a team for a given length of time makes them an expert on how things should be done.  Make no mistake, as a sports blogger, I am as guilty of this offense as anyone—at least to some extent.  There are things that anyone with a brain can assess and analyze based purely upon common sense, life experience, and the fluff that resides between our ears.

* * * * *

These sorts of basic truths are fairly and frankly within the grasp of us all, and thus the rightful ability to comment on such profundities resides with each and every person who follows college football.  In much the same vein, I think it is reasonable for many (note, I did not say “all”) long-term fans of the sport to comment on what a given team does, or in most cases, did.

Beyond that, however, it seems to me that trying to profess what the best way to coach a football team—a team to which most have no access except through their televisions—is an endeavor which necessarily makes the speaker feel smart and important, while simultaneously making them look foolish and arrogant.

I have absolutely no idea about what it takes to coach a major college football team.  I’m completely clueless.  Furthermore, I have no idea what it is like to play on such a team.  Again, clueless.  I am also willing to bet that most who are attacking Phil Fulmer and the Tennessee coaching staff at present share my level of experience and insight.  So, at a minimum, I guess I am among equally-ignorant equals when it comes to assessing the coaches.

Unlike many others, however, I am not going to attack the Great Punkin, Dave Clawson, John Chavis, or any of the other coaches.  I am simply going to speak about what I do know and speak from the heart:

Though I first watched Tennessee under Coach Majors, most of my life as a Tennessee fan, student, and alum has been during the tenure of Coach Fulmer.  I think he is a man of integrity, a man of honor, a skilled and adept football coach, and a great leader and teacher for the young men he coaches.  I have such deep respect for what he has done.  In his 17-year career as Tennessee’s head coach, Fulmer is 148-47-1 (.759), he has won 10 or more games in a season nine times, he has won or tied for the SEC East title seven times, he has won 2 SEC Championships, and the 1998 National Championship.  I remember all of these “good old days” like they were yesterday.

Coach Fulmer has done a lot, a whole lot…

By the same token, things simply have not been good for the Vols for some time now.  Here are a few statistics:

  • Last SEC Championship: 1998 (No Coach in UT history had a longer drought and retained their job)
  • Last BCS Game Appearance: 1999
  • Only one Top-10 finish this decade (2001)
  • Last 50 Games 32-18 (.648) [Johnny Majors was 39-9-2 (.780 wins only / .820 wins & ties) over his final 50 games]
  • Failed to finish in the Top-25 twice this decade in any poll and finished 25th in the AP in 2000 (unranked in Coaches Poll)
  • Signed a recruiting class outside the Top-20 in two of the past three seasons
  • 5-12 versus Florida all-time
  • 14-13 in the last 27 SEC Games
  • 28-27 (.509) versus Current SEC Coaches
    • 0-4 versus Urban Meyer (Florida)
    • 1-2 versus Les Miles (LSU)
    • 3-4 versus Mark Richt (Georgia)
    • 1-3 versus Nick Saban (LSU & Alabama)
    • 5-8 versus Steve Spurrier (Florida & South Carolina)
    • 3-3 versus Tommy Tuberville (Ole Miss & Auburn)
  • Coach Fulmer has a winning record of 15-3 against Rich Brooks (Kentucky), Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State), Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt), and Houston Nutt (Arkansas only)

Over the last decade (since 1998) the Tennessee Volunteers under Fulmer are:

  • 1-8 (.111) at home versus Top-10 Teams
  • 17-23 (.425) versus ranked teams
  • 13-21 (.382) versus Florida, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, and Alabama
Statistical Analysis Courtesy of: Tony

These numbers speak volumes…

Of course, I am enough of a realist to understand that no team—whether Tennessee, Southern Cal, or the Green Bay Packers—can have a championship year every year.  Every great team has bad years.  It just seems that it has been a long time since Tennessee has had a truly good year.  I freely acknowledge that in 2007 Tennessee had what, on paper, looks like a good year.  In 2007, the Vols went 10-4 and won the SEC East.  That said, even the most stalwart Vol fan would have to admit that Tennessee won the SEC East in a highly unorthodox manner.  Tennessee was beaten in the 2007 season opener versus California 45-31.  Two weeks later the Vols were annihilated by the Florida Gators 59-20 and were subsequently thumped by the Alabama Crimson Tide 41-17.  The only reason that the Vols made the trip to the  SEC Championship Game was that—under league rules—the tie went to Tennessee since the Vols defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in head-to-head competition.  In other words, the Orange and White backed into the Eastern Division title.

Prior to that, really since the 2001 season, the Vols have underperformed versus SEC and national rivals, and have—at best—been a mediocre team from a statistical perspective.  During that time, I cannot recount the number of times that the Vols have barely beaten teams that were wholly inferior in terms of talent.  What’s more, the Volunteers have regularly failed to meet the expectations of fans and analysts when considered against teams with similar recruiting classes and resources.  Then of course there was the 2005 season, or—as Joel at RTT describes it—“The Season of Which We do not Speak in which Tennessee recorded a 5-6 record.

It seems that Tennessee has struggled at every turn since winning the 1998 Championship…

Jump forward to this year and the UCLA game, in which Tennessee loses to a UCLA team which the Vols were projected to beat handily.  As I and others have said, there is absolutely no reason that the Vols should have lost that game.  To make bad matters worse, since defeating the Vols, the Bruins have gone on to lose two more games in which they failed to score a single touchdown for the first time in 44 years. (HT Get the Picture)  Tennessee then managed a lackluster win over a clearly out-matched UAB team before playing the Florida Gators.  As I said in my “Marching Orders” piece earlier this week, that game was one of the poorest displays I’ve ever seen from a Vols squad.

Although I cannot really recall when it all started, the Tennessee fanbase began growing restless as early as 2002.  Even then, there was a small but vocal minority of fans that felt it was time for Fulmer to go.  Those voices of criticism were largely ignored by the masses until now.  After the Florida defeat, those voices have swelled to the point that they can no longer be ignored.  Just looking at the Vol-blogosphere, there are fewer and fewer that support Fulmer and even more voices criticizing than ever before—including 3SIB’s Ghost of Neyland, SouthEastern Sports Blog, YMSWWC, Curveballs for Jesus, BasilioMoonDog, the absurd Coacho Ocho, and Gate 21’s own HSH.

So here I am…

I have thought long and hard about this, and as HSH here at the Gate and Joel at Rocky Top Talk would attest, I’ve struggled with this.  In the end, I have reached a conclusion that is sad, but unavoidable:

It’s time…

Those were the words that longtime Voice of the Vols” John Ward used to announce his retirement.  Ward said that he’d rather leave years too early than stay one minute too late, thus he retired while still at the top of his game in 1998.  Coach Fulmer is hardly at the top of his game lately, but he is also not out of the game.  The reality is that the furor among the fans is tearing the Orange Nation apart as fans attack the coaches, the team, and anything else they can think of (including the concession vendors at Neyland Stadium).  All of Big Orange Country is in an uproar.  As a result, the only thing anyone seems to want to talk about is whether Phil Fulmer should be fired.  It’s not about the game, whether the Vols can win this weekend, or the beautiful agony that is college football season.  For this and a bevy of other reasons, I am increasingly beginning to believe that it is time for Coach Fulmer to seriously consider whether it is time to step aside.  I hate the thought that someone who has done so much for Tennessee would be forced out, but until some sort of resolution comes, I wonder if the program can possibly move forward.

I have reached this conclusion not necessarily based upon my personal belief that Coach Fulmer cannot and would not turn this season and future seasons around.  The sad conclusion I have reached is that—in the minds of many—it does not matter what he does going forward, their minds are made up and they want something new.  I for one have not yet decided whether I think Coach Fulmer can turn things around, but that is really irrelevant.  This is not about my complaints on his performance.  It is about the constant turmoil that has subtly, and now openly, surrounded the program for some time now.

It’s just not fun anymore…

Until the current whirlwind settles, it’s not going to be fun any time soon.  Rightly or wrongly, the fan base has lost faith and along with it hope that the Vols can get back on the right track both this year and for the future.  Of course, don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that a man’s career should be decided by whether or not it’s “fun” for me to go to football games.  The larger issue I am pointing to is the lack of direction and the complete feeding frenzy that is currently surrounding the Tennessee program.  I’m not going to pass judgment on whether the fans should be blaming Coach Fulmer because I don’t have the experience or knowledge to decide whether he or others are to blame.  All I know is that something must change. I have followed Tennessee football since I was a kid.  I have closely followed the Vols since the mid-1980s.  I grew up watching Coach Majors lead the Vols.  I still remember wanting his autograph back then.  When he was ousted as head coach in 1992, all hell broke loose and a war of words began which—to some extent—still goes on today.  There was such controversy over Coach Majors being fired and Coach Fulmer being tapped as the Vols new head coach, that both sides of the issue started digging-in and flinging allegations at one another.

For the record, I believe that at that the time naming Coach Fulmer as the new coach was the right thing to do (it was, and is, rare for me to agree with the Big Dickey, but he got that one right).  While I do not want to re-open the arguments surrounding Coach Majors’ dismissal, I believed then and continue to believe now that it was time for Coach Majors to step aside, not because he had not been a great coach and representative for the university, but because it was simply time for a change.  Majors, however, wanted to stay.  Thus, when Coach Majors did finally leave, it was as a result of his being fired as opposed to him stepping down—and his departure occurred under a cloud of innuendo and harsh words.  I still remember watching him loudly complain of having been “shanghaied” as he described his firing in an interview televised during the halftime of the 1993 Hall of Fame Bowl, which Phillip Fulmer was in the process of coaching.

As a result of this debacle, to this day, little has been done to honor Coach Majors’ legacy and his contributions to the University of Tennessee, its athletic programs, its alumni, and beyond.  This is a man who compiled a record of 116-62-8 (.645) as head football coach, and to this day he is spoken of very … carefully … by the athletic department, alumni, and boosters.  That is just plain wrong.  You know what, I still want Johnny Majors’ autograph.

I do not want all of that to happen again, this time to Coach Fulmer and his legacy…

I personally believe that Coach Fulmer rightly deserves to be counted among the greats at Tennessee—along with General Neyland and Johnny Majors—and I hope that he always will be.  What I fear more than anything is that the protracted dispute over Coach Fulmer remaining as head coach will lead to another round of what played out after Coach Majors left—especially if Fulmer is ultimately fired as opposed to simply resigning.  Both of these men—who have given so much to the university—deserve more than that.

We as fans deserve more than that…

Do I hate the thought of Coach Fulmer being forced—either directly or indirectly—from the head coaching position?  You’re damn right I do.  I am a huge Fulmer fan, but I simply do not think that the program, the fan base, the University of Tennessee, and Coach Fulmer’s legacy can survive this continued civil war.  Now some would say that I am essentially talking out of both sides of my face—engaging in an attack and hero-worship.  This is not a wholly unfair criticism.  Still, it is what I believe.

There are other things I believe as well…

What I am not going to do is become the attacker, and I am more than willing to assertively address the actions of many of the malcontents and ne’er-do-wells in the Vol Nation.  If you believe that Coach Fulmer needs to move on, that’s fine.  State your case, make your argument, express your opinion, and go from there.  If you have a meaningful point to add to the conversation, please feel free to do so.  If, however, all you are going to do is engage in unprovoked ad hominem attacks against Coach Fulmer, then just keep quiet.  Have some class.  This is especially true for the “faceless” names on message boards, blog comments, and call-in shows. who are quick to pile on harsh criticism behind the shield of “user name” anonymity.  It is for that very reason that, for this post, I am lifting the veil surrounding my online persona as “lawvol,” and signing this post as a “real” person—with my real name.

Regardless of what those of you so loudly attacking Coach Fulmer may think of his abilities, he is a person—not simply an item that UT has bought and paid for—and a man who has tirelessly represented the University of Tennessee for most of his adult life.  He has earned the right to be treated with some semblance of respect and decency.  If a Florida fan were saying some of the things that Vol boosters are currently saying, people would be clamoring for vengeance.  Some apparently feel that now—with blood in the water—they can say whatever they please as they personally attack Fulmer, his staff, and the current Vol players.  That is juvenile and classless.

Don’t get me wrong, I am more than willing to poke fun at sports figures here at the Gate—the Tennessee Home for the Visually Offensive is a temple to that sort of behavior.  What I do not do—at least never intentionally—is vindictively attack another person simply because I can.  The coaches and players are human beings—who work very hard at what they do—and though I realize having thick skin comes with the territory, putting up with asinine attacks should not have to be part of the deal.  That sort of behavior by fans does nothing to help mend or meaningfully address the situation at hand.

Furthermore, there are those that are openly jubilant that the Vols have found the going so rough this year—those who have been dying to let loose on the coaches for years.  To those of you who fall into that category, I simply say this: you are no true fan of anything but your own ego.  No one who is truly a fan and supporter of the University of Tennessee athletics program should wish for this.  No one should ever wish misfortune on an institution they profess to support regardless of the reason.  Wanting change is one thing—wanting conflict, an entirely different one.

I just feel sorry for the coaches having to try to coach a team—working to find a way to get things going in the right direction—while everyone on the outside is screaming for blood.  This is especially true for some of the assistant coaches who have now gotten caught up in this battle through no real fault of their own.  I feel terribly sorry for them since they have gotten caught up in this by simply being here at Tennessee.  In particular, I feel  dreadful for Dave Clawson, Stan Drayton, and Latrell Scott—they came here this season with high hopes, wanting to help build a new future.  They uprooted their families and their lives to make a commitment to Tennessee, and now they are in a firestorm.  That is really unfortunate.

The same is true for the players, who give their all to make Tennessee shine.  They try their hardest.  Even when that is not enough, they still try.  Seeing Vol fans attack them and boo them is something I never thought I would see.

To all Vol fans, speak your mind, speak your heart, speak loudly, but think before you speak…

I may end up regretting this post for many years to come.  To those on the coaching staff—especially Coach Fulmer—please do not take this to be yet another fair-weather fan turning on the program when the going gets tough.  I am not saying this because I hope that the current coaching staff is either fired or resigns.  I am simply saying this because I care enough about the Tennessee Volunteers to speak out.

In all honesty, I hope that I am dead wrong.  I hope with all that I am that the Great Punkin can work his magic, turn the season around, and go on to win a championship next year.  I would never be happier to admit I am wrong—trust me, I want to be wrong.  The fact of the matter is, however, based upon the experience of the last decade, I no longer think that I am wrong.  I still remain hopeful that I am.

Either way, I will support Coach Fulmer and the rest of the coaching staff from here into the future.  I will support this team, and all of its players regardless of what happens this season, or next, or the season after that.  As far as I am concerned, it’s not a question of whether Phillip Fulmer is my coach, whether Jonathan Crompton is my quarterback, or Dave Clawson is my offensive coordinator—though the answer to each of those questions is “yes.”  The only question that really matters to me is “What are your colors?

Orange and White!

I am going to support this team and this staff no matter what.  I am hopeful—as I always am.  Who knows what the future holds?

In the meantime, I’ll keep pulling for the Big Orange and looking forward to the day when Tennessee is once again at the top of the heap.

For when that day comes—and it will—I can say that I was there all along…


Images Courtesy of: TennesseeFansite.comThe VIB

About the Author: "Lawvol" -- I'm just a guy living in North Carolina who has an unnatural fascination with the color orange. Just because I'm a Tennessee alum and die-hard Volunteer fan doesn't mean that I can't poke a little fun at the Big Orange and anybody else for that matter. Feel free to complain all you want. >> Read more from this author

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33 Responses to “An Open Letter to the Vol Nation: A Manifesto on Past, Present, and Future

  • PatrickNo Gravatar says:

    Man, incredible post. Great words. I’ll be in Auburn as well. I don’t care if we lose five more straight, I’ll still be in the stands.

  • lawvolNo Gravatar says:

    It’s time for the fans to now let this die — let the season play out and see where things go from there. When the season is over we can continue this conversation, for now this team NEEDS the fans behind them.

    That’s why we’re fans, right?

  • BlakeNo Gravatar says:

    Nice post. I too hope that when the day comes that Fulmer is no longer our HC, he’s either out on his own terms, or given the option of hanging around like Joe Pa.

    I am probably one of the select few who actually think the future is looking bright. We’ve brought in a new OC (who is currently taking some licks) who runs a system that big recruits coming out of high school are excited about. Our recruiting is a complete 180 of what it was last year (we are currently ranked 15 on, we’ve got a 4 star JUCO defensive tackle coming. I think unless disaster strikes, Fulmer is around for at least 2 more years, and I have no problem with that.

    In my dream world, I’d like to see Fulmer pull out an SEC championship this year or next, and subsequently announce his retirement. Not for me or anyone else, but for him. I want him to be able to go out on top; he’s earned that right.

  • lawvolNo Gravatar says:

    Blake, I hope you are right. I just want the Vols and the Vol fans to return to the days where we could focus on ball, and not just the coaching issues.

    Go Vols!!

  • Will SheltonNo Gravatar says:

    You guys are raising the bar this week…excellent stuff.

  • Great stuff lawvol… thanks for the comment on my blog, I really do appreciate the welcome. Will you be in Auburn? If so, you should look up Patrick (CFJ) and me.

    Take care and GO VOLS!

  • lawvolNo Gravatar says:

    Unfortunately, I won’t be at Auburn (I live in North Carolina) which is a long way from “the Plains.” Still, I’ll be pulling for them from home, and plan on trying to jump on with the Live Game thread over at Rocky Top Talk (which is my norm now for away games).

    I do think a win is possible. Boy do I hope so.

  • That’s a phenomenal post.

    Seriously, I speak from my heart a little too much when I’m filled with anger or pain or simple sadness. I try to refrain from name-calling (Though I did use “Mountain Moron … oops.” And everybody who reads my blog at all knows I’ve come out in support of firing Fulmer in the past few days. I am passionate and sometimes irrational.

    But I am a Vols fan. I’d never boo my team. I’d never boo my coach. As long as Fulmer is the head coach of the Vols, I will support Fulmer and the Vols. I’ve liked that man my whole life, but I just think it’s time for a change.

    No man is bigger than the program. Majors wasn’t and Fulmer isn’t. But when I say “fire” I’m not sure that’s exactly what I mean. I don’t want Fulmer to ride off in the sunset or be damned to purgatory … far from it. I’m ashamed of the way things have gone and I think that the game has passed him by to an extent, but I want Fulmer to get PROMOTED BY DEMOTION, if that makes sense.

    Reassign him within the athletic department. I want him around Tennessee football. I want him honored when it comes to Tennessee football. I’ve said for years I want it to be Phillip Fulmer Field at Neyland Stadium. He needs to be retired in the rafters with a big ol’ orange doughnut (that’s a joke).

    But there needs to be a change. I stayed until 3 minutes left in Saturday’s game and I saw 40,000 empty seats. I heard boos. I’ve seen decommitted players this week. I see a 1-2 record. I see apathy. And it scares me. This isn’t Tennessee football.

    Whether it’s Fulmer that’s doing it, Crompton that’s doing it, the fans that’s doing it or whomever you want to blame, something has got to change.

    This is not Tennessee football.

    Again, I feel like part of this story was directed somewhat to me, which is an admission of my own guilt. I jump to conclusions sometimes, and I hope I never get petty, though I know I do sometimes. But I take a lot of pride in my Vols, and when there’s nothing to boast about, life just isn’t as fun.

    Great post. Great words. And who cares about the length. You said what needed to be said, and you said it as eloquently and from-the-heart as possible. This is very commendable, and one day, you’ll be proud you reacted this way to this situation unlike some of us.

  • Oh, and I must apologize to Joel in a public forum for stealing his The Season Of Which We Do Not Speak without crediting him.

    My bad, bro.

  • Home Sweet HomeNo Gravatar says:

    well said

    I can’t lie, this post is gonna get me a little fired up for the game this weekend. this team needs support, and they’ll have mine from Section 37 Saturday!

    GO VOLS!

  • lawvolNo Gravatar says:

    Actually, Ghost, I wasn’t meaning to point to you. I felt your statement the other day that you were going to continue to support Fulmer as long as he was coach more than made it clear where you stood. I can honestly say that — maybe with the exception of the cite to Coacho Ocho none of the blogs I pointed to demonstrated what I was complaining about.

    I mean, we all use snide little comments, humorous catch-phrases, and what not. After all, even I felt the need to show that my referring to Fulmer as “the Great Punkin” was not intended as an insult. The type of people I was targeting are more along the lines of the ones who tend to flame out of control on call-in shows and message forums — the kind that Jai has battled with over at LWS who hate his site for some reason. I’m talking about the people who just get online and attack without any thought about what they are saying (or use of complete sentences) and the morons who painted the rock the other day to read “Fire Phil!

    So please don’t think I was aiming at you.

    Along these same lines, Hooper published a great post over at RTT this afternoon along these same lines that you should check out as well: The Greatest Enemy of the Vols: Us

  • I will check it out. I love Hoop. Another phenomenal writer.

  • And any calling me out is warranted. Seriously. I get too caught up in it sometimes. I just want to be successful because I’m used to success.

  • lawvolNo Gravatar says:

    See Ghost, that’s your problem.
    You’re used to “success.”
    I, on the other hand have always been publicly associated with “suck.” (And that comment was in no way directed toward the more substantive discussion we are having here — only aimed at one person: me)

  • hooperNo Gravatar says:

    Well written.

    Thanks for putting a lot of thought into your response and for taking the time to word it with reason and compassion.

  • No, you haven’t. You’re a terrific writer, have an excellent site, and you’re a Tennessee fan. Nothing about that sucks, and the Vols haven’t sucked sans one year in a long, long time.

    I’m afraid we’re headed that way without a change.

  • MoonDogNo Gravatar says:

    I, unlike most, have played this game and I do know what it takes to coach at the college level. There’s no question it is an incredibly demanding job.

    Like any coach, this is they’re chosen profession. With it comes pitfalls, some of which you pointed out.

    I’ve been following the Vols since the late 60′s, when Bill Battle was the head coach. You’ve mentioned Fulmer having done more for the program than any other coach, but I’d disagree with you.

    Granted the national championship in ’98 was a defining moment, but Majors was the man responsible for putting Tennessee back on the map. Let’s not forget, if it weren’t for Majors, Fulmer would have never gotten this opportunity.

    I don’t blame the players. But here’s the problem: Fulmer has had more talent at UT than any Vols’ coach in history. Yet, he’s won only one NC and has had several sub par seasons.

    That’s coaching, period, or a lack thereof. I say only one NC because he could have won more with the level of talent he’s had.

    Just like the Commanding Officer aboard a ship, Fulmer is responsible for EVERYTHING, whether he likes it or not. If a Petty Officer 3rd Class runs the ship aground, it’s the C.O.’s fault.

    When Arian Foster fumbles for the umpteenth time, it’s Fulmer’s fault because it’s obvious someone – a coach – hasn’t taught the boy how to carry the ball properly.

    I admit being frustrated like other Vol fans and I apologize for using your site to vent. But I’m tired of listening to excuses. I’m tired of listening to “poor Fulmer” arguments.

    I, like all of other Vols’ fans, want this program back where it belongs but it isn’t going to happen with Fulmer as the coach.

    If Mike Hamilton has any balls or brains – and I’m not sure he has either of both – he’d fire Fulmer and get a coach that will lead this program back to its rightful place among college football’s elite.



  • hooperNo Gravatar says:


    I highly doubt anybody would criticize your opinion. It’s well-founded and backed with substantial evidence. I think the big schism is with the mode of expression some Vols fans have used (not you, as far as I know). And there is no “poor Fulmer”; he’s paid far too well for that.


    Thanks for the compliment. As someone who’s jealous of your writing skills, that means a lot.

  • lawvolNo Gravatar says:


    I have to say that I had you in mind when I wrote the “most” in the line about people not playing football. I would, obviously, defer to you on what it takes to actually run a program or play for one.

    I also agree with your chain of command point completely — which is a really good point I neglected to touch on. I think you and I agree in principle — if not in fact. Ultimately Fulmer is responsible. I guess my only point is that if change is to come, it must come through some form other than crazies screaming from the rafters (and I don’t include you in that category for feeling more strongly that Fulmer should go).

    The other day I read somewhere (sorry to whomever I am failing to credit) “When you are a coach and lose in the Midwest they burn you in effigy, in the SEC they burn you for real.” That is the sort of thing I am pointing to that I think is destructive to the program. As Hooper discussed and Will at SESB touches on today as well.

    I just don’t want to have people destroy the program under the guise of trying to save it.

    Still, I think your point is well made…

  • MoonDogNo Gravatar says:

    Food for thought – everyone chime in.

    Would you rather like Fulmer and see the Vols win six games every year or hate the guy and have him win 11 games every year?

    I don’t hate Fulmer, I simply recognize that a popular coach isn’t always successful. A nice guy who graduates his players and runs a clean program can win six games for a few years and he’ll be looking for a job.

    Meanwhile, you can have a guy like Saban, who outside of the Tide fans, everyone hates. But the guy knows how to win. He might even be a cheater like Jai often writes, but he WINS.

    Do you want it all? Of course, we all want a well-run program with no cheating, players showing up to class and no off the field problems. And we want a winner.

    So ask yourselves this: Has Fulmer had issues with player misconduct? Has there been issues with kids not showing up for class? Has Saban? Has Meyer at Florida?

    Whose winning games and who isn’t?

    The prosecution rests.

  • BlakeNo Gravatar says:

    “I can’t lie, this post is gonna get me a little fired up for the game this weekend. this team needs support, and they’ll have mine from Section 37 Saturday!”

    I’m thinking I may be in 36. Do you have any idea which section is better? I’ve never been to Jordan Hare. I think I saw some available in 37 as well.

  • hooperNo Gravatar says:

    MoonDog: Interesting question.

    I’ll be perfectly honest. I didn’t have the opportunity to play organized football (Mom’s wishes) and probably wouldn’t have been any good anyhow. I don’t know the inside of the game like you do. I’m also not from the South, so a lot of the culture of UT football is still new to me. Amongst all of that, I’m terribly uncomfortable making ultimate judgment on whether Fulmer should stay or go. I think I know how I’d respond if I had to, but I’m really glad it’s not up to me.

    I’m staying clean out of the argument of whether he stays or goes, but I’m happy to help analyze. My big hope is simply that the fans don’t make things any harder on the players than they already are. It’s tough enough for them, and they’re not getting paid for it. (I know the arguments about education as the payment, but we all know that they’re horribly undercompensated for their market value.)

    But one thing is in favor of those who call for Fulmer’s resignation: every SEC coach knows what the fanbase demands when they take the job. That’s a part of the reason for the high salaries; the expectations are very high, as is the scrutiny. If Fulmer is chased out, it’s not like anybody would be surprised.

  • Home Sweet HomeNo Gravatar says:


    both those sections are in the corner, and both in the Tennessee section. if you’re watching an Auburn game on TV, it’s to your left on the far side. I think 36 is towards the end zone, but I’m not 100% sure

  • lawvolNo Gravatar says:


    You’re going to call me a goat on this, but I can honestly and sincerely say that winning or being the best is not the most important thing for me. Winning honestly and with class is most important to me. I am not willing to forsake all to win. In my mind the integrity of the University must always come first and foremost — way before winning. That is why I spoke out against the coaches when we had all of the off-field issues back in the spring and summer. My ultimate unbreakable rule is “Never do anything to embarrass or call into question the integrity of the University, its institutions, and alumni.”

    Thus, I guess I’m not willing to sell the farm for a coach who is willing to do anything to win. That said, I do not believe being the best and being honest are mutually exclusive. I would point to Mark Richt (although he hasn’t yet won a championship), Jim Tressel (despite his inability to win the final game), Steve Spurrier while at Florida (the OBC is many things, but I don’t believe he cheats), and Pete Carroll as examples of this. I might also point to Les Miles (who I believe is a bit crazy, but appears honest) but I’m less sure for him.

    Either way, I think your point is well made. You can focus too much on being a nice guy an miss the goal of winning games and being successful. Still, as an alum, the only way that the Vols could ever cause me to turn my back on the program completely would be to disgrace the university (a’la Oklahoma under Switzer, Miami in the 1980′s, etc.)

  • DarthVolNo Gravatar says:

    Well said, LawVol.

    I think you’ve stated (albeit, a lot more eloquently) what a large portion of the fan base is thinking. Some didn’t even know they were thinking it.

    I think the word “legacy” is key. In my opinion, Fulmer is well aware of where he stands RIGHT NOW in the eyes of many UT fans. At this point, there is no riding off into the sunset a hero. An SEC championship is further from his grasp than Neylands record. I say that and HOPE that is not his motivation to continue to ride this wave wherever it may take him. But I think he wants the wins. He believes (and probably rightly so) that will gain him the honor that he deserves.

    The question is, do the people outside the program (fans, boosters, ADs) want to allow him the few years to get it if it means the program must continue in it’s present state? I don’t know.

    For now, just beat Auburn.

    As always jmo.

  • SauceNo Gravatar says:

    First, I firmly believe that Fulmer and our players need the support of ALL the so-called VOL faithful until the end of the season. We are acting like the idiots from Alabama who suffered for the last 15 years by their own doing. So much for class. However, if things get worse, a change may be in order AFTER the season is over. Secondly, you point out what happened to Coach Majors was OK because it was time for a “change”. IF that is the case, Fulmer should be fired NOW! Two SEC Championships and two top ten finishes in Majors’ last three years warranted a “change”? Doug Dickey failed to deliver a verbally agreed contract extension to Majors because of his sudden surgery. Then, right before the South Carolina game Dickey and Majors agreed again to an extension without a raise. Then after UT lost, the UT Powerbase told Dickey to tell Majors that coaching the next season was not an option. THEN, Majors resigned on principal. This is all detailed in VOLS-Three Decades of Big Orange Football by Russ Bebb. Granted, Majors’ personality rubbed some UT boosters the wrong way. One big booster told me that Majors was acting “differently” at practice because of the surgery. This whole debacle was a dark chapter in Vol history that we invented ourselves. Now, ESPN Gameday has used our current disgruntlement to comment to the nation on our program’s demise,lack of leadership, etc. Here we go again….

  • lawvolNo Gravatar says:

    I agree 100% that any change should come after the season — not now. As for the Majors departure, there are a few details you are omitting which further complicated that situation (i.e. Majors’ campaign via the Big Orange club to get a raise, his ultimatum to the Big Dickey and UT President, the Bissenger statements in Friday Night Lights, etc.) but all of that is secondary to the issue at hand. As I said, I wasn’t trying to re-open the Johnny Majors dispute. My only point is that whether I believe Phillip Fulmer should stay has no impact on the fact that the fan base is killing the program. I never said that I felt Fulmer needed to go, just that the program is in turmoil which won’t subside until we find some sort of resolution.

    No single person is bigger than the program. I am, however, a huge Fulmer fan and I don’t want to see another disaster like the Majors situation. My biggest concerns are always the univeristy first and the program second. I am not going to go after anyone, but do feel obligated to stand up for what I see as a fundamental attack on the program.

    Still, I understand your point and frustrations — we are all frustrated, which is the bedrock principle I was trying to express here anyway.

  • GilNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent, well thought out from the heart article. While I may not agree with everything written, it’s good to read an article that makes me proud to be a Tennessee Vol fan(over 50 years now). Keep up the good work and of course…GO VOLS!

  • Vol-a-tileNo Gravatar says:

    I do agree with many on here, I am a true VOL fan, but hence this gives me the inalienable right to say what I think of the program at hand. True,CPF has done so much for the university,players etc. etc;as pointed out the records speak in VOLumes over the past 5-6 years. CPF could and should of done more with the players,staff he has had. Truth is ,he has not performed like a C.O. or even an alum for that matter;should an alum realise that what you are doing is not for self glory,pity,argumentative aspect of the game, but for the UNIVERSITY itself.It is not a right to coach a school like UT it is a PRIVELEGE to do so,as such a right all though be it a challenge to do so should know when enough is enough.He seen the Battle ,Majors days played and coached in both,knowing good and well what comes from the fan base being up in arms or so divided that the university,program,players, and coaches suffer to a point of no return.I do in all aspects support CPF,players,coaches,fans but not to the point of having our most loyal of loyal supporters asking the question of “what” more than the “why” of the demise of what we considered a proud and feared program.Change,I do feel that we are at that point whether or not CPF or other coaches be the “sacrificial lambs” in the end,but change to clam the storm before we get to the point of no return. Wim or lose “we” can all be true VOL fans,but when fingers start pointing and the indians get restless “change should be” if nothing more than an after thought the “right thing to do” for the University as a whole.

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