KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Over the past decade, Tennessee football has been down and the athletic department has been in constant transition.

Since 2007, Tennessee has seen four head football coaches, four men’s basketball coaches, two women’s basketball coaches and three baseball coaches.

It wasn’t always like this. And former UT offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe is calling for the Volunteer family to come together.

One way? Hire Phillip Fulmer — a former Volunteer player, assistant coach, head coach, and father of a Lady Vol softball player – as athletic director.

“I have no idea what else is happening,” Cutcliffe told Saturday Down South. “Whatever does happen, hopefully they have a great love for Tennessee.”

Cutcliffe coached alongside Fulmer from 1980-1998 and again in 2006-2007. Although he has been away, as the head coach at Duke, during the demise of Tennessee athletics over the past decade, the long-time Tennessee assistant coach is well aware of the AD search.

Cutcliffe also realizes with the likes of Todd Helton and Peyton Manning now being retired and involved with the UT athletics program, it is a perfect time for a circle of prominent former Tennessee athletes and coaches to repair the athletics department that has been dismantled.

“I’m really happy for Todd and I’m happy for Tennessee,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s such a wise person and not just when it comes to baseball. When things come to a stop, as it did for his playing days, working with young people is perfect for him and for the university.

“Then there is Peyton being involved in the process for the athletic director search, he’s involved with Tennessee in a lot of ways. If they end up hiring Coach Fulmer, those are two guys that played for him and it certainly brings him back in the loop. Tennessee has done well for a long time with the Tennessee family people.

“I haven’t been involved in any of the conversations and I do not have any idea in what’s going to happen, but Phillip is a natural leader and that is what the athletics director job comes down to and he will be in the center of the leadership mode – coaches play off of that and work off of that.”

Another element of the job is understanding what the Lady Vols means to the university — and Fulmer certainly does, Cutcliffe said. Outgoing athletics director Dave Hart made headlines and created division in removing the name Lady Vols in all sports besides women’s basketball.

“The model is athletics as a whole. I was close with Pat (Summitt), Holly (Warlick) and the Lady Vols and any time you have a great leader and somebody at the forefront that can bring people together, that’s what leaders do – develop other leaders,” Cutcliffe said. “Right now, it’s a perfect time for that to happen at Tennessee.”

How former AD Mike Hamilton parted with baseball coach Rod Delmonico in 2007 and with Fulmer in 2008 helped create the instability. Hamilton’s decisions were accompanied by Bruce Pearl’s NCAA wrongdoings that cost him his job and shortly after came Pat Summitt’s retirement.

“There have been a lot of issues off-and-on with more changes in personnel than Tennessee has been used to,” Cutcliffe said. “Any time you have that, it becomes unsettling. So whatever they do, and Tennessee is very near and dear to my heart, whatever they decide in the end, that it does bring some resolve with a lot of years with the same people moving forward – that has always been the Tennessee mode.

“I was fortunate to be there with Bob Woodruff (1963-1985) then Doug Dickey (1985-2002) as athletics directors, that era with them was pretty strong. When the dust settles, let’s hope it brings a lot of people together for the right reasons.”

Lastly, Cutcliffe said, there shouldn’t be any concern that Fulmer would be in a position that he is not accustomed in handling an athletic department’s financial matters. Cutcliffe envisions Fulmer having the right people in the right place to run and manage the department as a whole while having everyone on the same page.

“You run a budget when you are a football coach, which is the largest budget in the department, but what you do is no different than hiring somebody to coach a defense, offense, kicking game, etc.,” Cutcliffe said. “That portion of it for the athletics director is to raise money. The running of the day-to-day operations, that is why you hire good people for. Athletic directors monitor if money is being spent well and properly. You do that as head coach by managing funds responsibly.”