Phillip Fulmer’s Tennessee tenure didn’t end on good terms. It ended in 2008 following a 5-7 season with mounting pressure being put on then-AD Mike Hamilton to make a change.
Fulmer attended SEC BeachFest this weekend and seems ready to tell the Southeast why Tennessee’s program has fallen into hibernation, via AL.com.
“What happened to us basically was our leadership. We had four presidents in six years. We ended up with an athletic director that wasn’t prepared for the job. Not a terrible guy or anything like that. He got twisted like a pretzel by the middle management of the university. We lost a lot of the edges that you have to have. (Current athletic director) Dave Hart’s very aware of those, and he’s working to change things. We didn’t get dumb or lazy all of a sudden. There were obviously some things that were different.
“When you have a great president and a great athletic director and you replace them with substandard people that have no idea, what do you expect is going to happen? And you do that three other times? It’s crazy.”
Fulmer is right: Hamilton wasn’t prepared for the job. But Fulmer was doomed after Doug Dickey left in 2003; we just didn’t know it at the time. (Hamilton replaced Dickey, and then resigned in 2011).
While the majority of the blame should tilt Hamilton’s way, Fulmer never implicated himself as having a hand in the downturn. In my mind, there are two blames Fulmer should at least put on himself. First, the 5-6 2005 season was a nightmare, and that ultimately falls on the head coach. 2005 is what got the ball rolling that led to his dismissal in 2008. The second was hiring Dave Clawson to run his offense in 2008. The Clawfense averaged just 17.33 points per game. Even Randy Sanders averaged 27.51 points per game during his coordinating tenure.
The first ballot hall of famer and national championship winner says he’s not interested in coaching anymore, but he did give a vote of confidence to Butch Jones, saying “I like Butch Jones a lot.”
Photo Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports