Posts Tagged ‘Discretion’

It’s Official, Fulmer has Lost the Support of the Fan Base…

Tennessee FootballI'm sure that Phillip Fulmer knew that things were not going to be easy when he found out that rising-Senior Britton Colquitt was arrested for DUI and fleeing the scene of an accident on Sunday. I doubt even Fulmer thought they would be this difficult.

I, along with many others, have come out publicly to decry the fact that Colquitt was not dismissed from the team. I stopped just short of saying that Fulmer should resign or be fired as a result of the off-field incidents which have plagued the Tennessee Volunteers football program over the last five weeks.

The Knoxville News Sentinel's John Adams did not stop short.

Adams writes:

The University of Tennessee football program desperately needs new leadership. And I’m not suggesting that the next quarterback needs to be more vocal or the team captains need to be more demonstrative.

UT’s leadership problem is at the top.

Maybe you’re way ahead of me on this. Maybe you realized as much after Florida beat the Vols by 39 points last September, and a mediocre Alabama team beat them by 24 in October.

Memphis Commercial Appeal sports columnist Ron Higgins didn’t need to see the Alabama game. After the Florida game, he wrote that longtime UT football coach Phillip Fulmer should be fired.

Was his assessment premature? Maybe.

Was it wrong? No.

I reached the same conclusion Sunday night for a different reason. It’s not just about the won-loss record. It’s about the arrest record.

More significantly, it’s about how Fulmer has responded to the arrests of his players.


You can’t blame Fulmer for the crimes committed by his players and former players. But he is responsible for disciplining players while they’re on his team.

And he has failed miserably at that.

Two different people have e-mailed me in the last week and wrote that they will no longer donate money to the program because of the succession of embarrassing off-the-field incidents. Maybe they’re serious; maybe they were just venting.

But it’s just a matter of time before a major contributor decides he has had enough and refuses to throw good money after bad players.

When a football program is winning big, virtually everything is forgiven. This just in: UT isn’t winning big. It hasn’t won an SEC championship since 1998. It hasn’t been to a BCS bowl since 1999. It hasn’t finished in the top 10 since 2001.

Combine that with what’s happening off the field, and it’s apparent UT needs to make a change. Athletic director Mike Hamilton and Fulmer should work out a deal by which the coach resigns after the 2008 season.

Fulmer has had a good run. He has won a national championship and two conference titles. In 15 seasons, he has won fewer than eight games only once.

But when you weigh what he’s done against what’s going on now, the conclusion is obvious. UT football has a serious image problem, which will affect fundraising and recruiting. If you want to change that image, you need to change the coach.

Many UT fans get squeamish at the thought of hiring a new coach. They’ve seen other successful programs drop off significantly after changing coaches. They’re afraid they might get the wrong guy.

In fact, they already have the wrong guy.

In my last post on this subject, I expressed my extreme displeasure over the fact that Colquitt was not dismissed. Unlike Adams, I said that if there is any other incident in the near-term, then Fulmer should leave. I suppose that makes me a "homer" or an excuse maker. It is my position, however, I cannot fault Adams for his conclusion. While he and I would disagree as to what the immediate outcome should be, our disagreement is one of degree, not one a fundamental conflict of opinion.

I have been a strident Fulmer supporter for many years now. There are numerous people -- especially middle-aged males who think they know everything about everything when it comes to sports -- who believe that they know what it takes to coach a major college football team. As a result, they feel imbued with an entitlement to demand Fulmer's ouster after every loss. I suppose that is their right, but it does not mean that they come across as being anything but overzealous blowhards.

I make no claims to know what it takes to coach a college football team (or even a mini-mites community team for that matter). I have zero football coaching experience, and still have a hard time reading blitzes in man coverage. I don't understand all of the X's and O's beyond a purely superficial level. I am not a football genius, guru, or expert. I would say that -- when it comes to my understanding of the real nuts and bolts of football -- I am somewhat akin to a highly-advanced mouth-breathing half-wit.

Knowing right from wrong and what the law will and won't allow you to do, however, are things I do know a pretty fair amount about...

I have no qualms with Coach Fulmer when it comes to his on-the-field performance as a coach, and I stand by my post of several months ago defending Fulmer. That is not what this is about -- it's about controlling the bad behavior of the players who wear the name of my alma mater on their shirt as they go around creating havoc and getting themselves arrested.

Adams was dead on, writing:

How could Fulmer not dismiss Colquitt from the team after what could be fifth alcohol-related offense? Answer: Colquitt is a starter. Remember a couple of years ago when three UT players were arrested following a disturbance at a local bar? The two backup players got one- and two-game suspensions. Arian Foster, the starting tailback, was suspended for half a game. Fulmer’s explanation: Foster served as a peacemaker. But that’s not what the police report said. What kind of message does that send? It sends the same message that Fulmer sent with his disciplining of Colquitt: “It’s what you do on the field that matters.” Fulmer can’t stop his players from breaking the law. But he can stop them from doing it more than once.

The fact remains that these young men are wholly subject to Fulmer's authority in one respect -- their right to be members of the University of Tennessee football team is at Fulmer's discretion. Five Vols have been arrested, and two dismissed in the last five weeks. It is obvious that these young men lack the ability to exercise discretion.

It is time that Fulmer begin exercising his discretion...

I stand by my prior statement that Fulmer should be afforded an opportunity to remedy the situation. Unlike the litany of opportunities afforded to Britton Colquitt, however, Fulmer should have but one final chance to fix this problem. I would encourage both Fulmer and Athletic Director Mike Hamilton to reconsider the decision to allow Britton Colquitt to remain on the team. Dismissing Colquitt would send a signal that even starters are amenable to the law and to behaving themselves. If things do not change appreciably, however, I will cease coughing up money to the VASF as I have for the last decade. It is a long drive from Raleigh to Knoxville, and I have no desire to support a a program which lacks respect for its community and the institution it represents.

When the flagship local newspaper calls for your firing, it is never a good thing -- especially when the other major papers in the state have already demanded you be sacked. In the end, I sincerely hope that Fulmer weathers this storm. It will take swift and firm action on his part to do so.

Coach Fulmer, this is not about wins and losses. This is about decency and respect. Right now the Tennessee Volunteers football program is neither decent nor worthy of respect.

I hope that changes, immediately...

-- Go Figure …

Also See: GoVolsXtra

A Valentine Isn’t Always a Good Thing…

Alright, I admit it, this rant has been building up for a while now ... about 23 years. The first time I saw Ted Valentine officiate a basketball game, I was a kid, and it was the Southern Conference Basketball Tournament which used to be played in my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. Up until that point in my life, I never really gave much thought to the referees and their role in a basketball game. Ted Valentine made sure I never neglected to think of the officials ever again... From the moment that game began, it became obvious that Valentine wanted everyone in the Asheville Civic Center to realize that he was there, and he was in charge. He wanted to make sure that no one forgot him. Even to this day, I can hardly remember the name of any of the players in the game, but I still remember Valentine.


Since that game, I've probably seen Valentine officiate close to 20 games in person, and who knows how many on television. How do I know that? In every game Ted Valentine calls, he goes to great lengths to make sure that no one in a game ever forgets him, whether they be players coaches or fans. When Ted Valentine is on the floor, he makes it clear that the players get to compete at his pleasure. His overly-aggressive and antagonistic on-court persona dominates. When Valentine is officiating, it is about him -- God forbid the actual game get in the way of his opportunity to strut. Now, don't get me wrong, I know that officials do have a difficult job. They are charged with overseeing the collision of, often legendary, drive, strength, and egos -- and that's just the fans in the seats. I know they get a lot of lip, and very little credit -- when they do their job right, no one realizes they were there. They are supposed to be cool, objective, and dispassionate. They have to deal with mad coaches, jacked-up players, and fanatical boosters. I know this because my father used to referee high school basketball, and a close family friend is a college official. Still, that is what they sign up for; it's not like a person is required to serve as a basketball official. Ted Valentine has never been accused of being cool, objective, or dispassionate. He has had run-ins with the coaches of almost every major school in the country. Don't take my word for it, a quick Google of "Ted Valentine" will yield a litany of rants and raves -- some from respected journalists. Even I must admit, however, that Valentine is some kind of genius. Valentine is the only person I've ever seen that, the worse he did his job, the more rapidly he moved up the ranks... In my opinion, Valentine has no business officiating any basketball game. Of course no one cares what I think, and the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big XII, NCAA, and numerous other conferences continue to give Valentine choice assignments -- including the NCAA Final Four. So why am I writing all of this now? Valentine officiated the Tennessee vs. Florida game, and yet again he managed to make himself known. In this instance it was a technical foul called against J.P. Prince immediately after getting hammered to the floor by Florida's Dan Werner.  As he slammed Prince to the ground, Werner was immediately called for an intentional foul by one of the other officials. Prince got up -- admittedly -- angry, yet no shoving occurred. Valentine, however, ran all the way across the floor and immediately called a technical against Prince. Now, I wasn't standing there. I cannot say that Prince didn't earn the technical honestly (Yeah, I know that's an odd way of putting it...). In fact, I can guarantee you that -- most likely -- Prince did earn the foul -- I'd have been pissed too if I had just taken an elbow drop the way he did. I have to give all of that to Valentine. Still, sometimes, as an official you have to exercise a little discretion. Sometimes, you have to balance a "technical" violation of the rules against the intent and purpose of the rules. As every official I've ever spoken with has told me, you could call a foul on every single play, but that's not what the referee is there for. You have to let the players play the game. That is, unless you are Ted Valentine...

-- Go Figure …

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