Category Archives: The Glass is Half Fulmer

Today, in asking for a friend

John Adams is just brainstorming here, but… well, I’ll let you ponder where this came from.

… In fact, I would be in favor of increasing UT’s football support staff even further. And I have an idea of how to do it at no additional cost.

My proposal: all athletic department employees except coaches should be required to devote at least five hours of their work week to football.

Tennessee’s 2017 football press guide lists 32 senior athletic staff members. If they each gave five hours a week to football, that’s 160 more hours of manpower. And that’s just the senior staff members.

Those 160 hours could be devoted to recruiting, which is basically all about making high school seniors feel important. Think “handwritten notes.”

But the head of Tennessee’s athletic department could do more than write notes.

I thought about that when I saw a photo taken by News Sentinel photographer Caitie McMekin. The photo, taken at a Tennessee football practice, shows athletic director Phillip Fulmer looking like a football coach, which he used to be.

Since Fulmer is a regular visitor to practice, new coach Jeremy Pruitt should take advantage of his presence.

Fulmer once was one of the best offensive line coaches in the SEC. And last season, Tennessee had one of the worst offensive lines in the SEC.

I realize Fulmer wouldn’t be allowed to instruct players during practice. But he could observe. He could study video. And then, he could pass along suggestions to Pruitt and offensive line coach Will Friend.

If you think that Fulmer has more important things to do as athletic director, you haven’t been paying attention. There’s nothing more important than fixing UT’s football program.

That’s why chancellor Beverly Davenport fired athletic director John Currie and replaced him with Fulmer in December when the Vols were trying to find a new football coach. Fulmer found her a coach.

That’s just the beginning, though. Now, he needs to help that coach anyway he can.

Sure, he could spend his time making the department more fiscally responsible. For example, is it really necessary for the softball team to take trips to Arizona, California and Hawaii in the same season? And what’s the point of the baseball program traveling out of state before it begins SEC play?

But is fiscal responsibility really that important when you’re raking in the big bucks like Tennessee?

Answer: Not nearly as important as fixing the offensive line.

No doubt Jeremy Pruitt is simply thrilled by this.  I almost expect that Fulmer thoughtfully left a copy of the paper outside his office door.

Every head coach is under pressure to win.  Pruitt needs to win just to get Fulmer out of the coaches’ room.

**************************************************************************

UPDATE:  Holy crap, another media suggestion?

Would Fulmer be willing to coach if the situation called for it? Yes.

The man is working this.  Hard.

I can’t wait to hear the first question about this at a Pruitt presser.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, The Glass is Half Fulmer

Rewarded for his noble sacrifice

Fulmer’s about to get a multi-year deal from UT that will pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $900 thou a year, but it’s the spin that makes it special.

Stepping up during his alma mater’s desperate time of need, with national public backlash and punchlines surrounding Currie’s failed search rampant, Fulmer – in short order – not only hired Jeremy Pruitt away from Alabama to be the Vols’ next head coach, but did so while earning a salary far below what is typical for an athletic director atop a program the scale of Tennessee’s and roughly half of Currie’s seven-figure pact.

He engineered a palace coup for peanuts, in other words.  Such is greatness in Knoxville.

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He’s just here to he’p, mane.

The selflessness of Phil Fulmer knows no bounds.

According to Tennessee President Joe DiPietro’s phone records as part of documents obtained by The Daily Times, Fulmer told prominent Tennessee donor John “Thunder” Thornton “all they would have to do is ask” for him to become the Vols head coach once again.

Thornton told DiPietro in a text message on Nov. 29 about a “long talk” he had with former Alabama athletic director Bill Battle the day before.

Thornton said that talk involved whether or not Fulmer would return to coaching. Thornton’s message said he “doubted it.”

But, Thornton’s talk with Battle prompted him to ask Fulmer, and his message to DiPietro references former athletic director John Currie and booster Jimmy Haslam.

“Bill, Phillip and I hunt and fish a good bit together,” Thornton wrote to DiPietro. “We talked about Bama’s loss Saturday and our search. Bill asked me if Phillip would consider coaching UT. I told him I doubted it because I didn’t think he’d work for Currie. This morning I asked Phillip that question and he replied ‘all they would have to do is ask.’ So, there’s another option for you but probably not one Jim would go along with. Thunder”

DiPietro replied that he was, “surprised by Phillip’s interest in coaching again.”

Thornton then told DiPietro that Fulmer, “was feeling bad for the university that he loves,” and would only return to coaching if it was at Tennessee.

How convenient is it now for Tennessee that Fulmer is the AD?  He doesn’t even need to leave his office to find a head coaching candidate.

Have a great day, Jeremy.

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Five-star video board

(Photo by David Cobb) Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Okay, it’s not exactly like the standard Stalin-era USSR’s go-to erasing history moves, but UT wants to move on.

Work is scheduled to begin Monday on the project to remove an image of Butch Jones from the back of the video board at Neyland Stadium, Tennessee athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak said.

The project’s timeline will depend on weather conditions.

One roadblock is that the Russians were more competent in going about their business.

Satkowiak declined to reveal what will replace the image of Jones. In January, Fulmer told WBIR-TV that swapping images on the video board is “not an easy process.”

The Vol Network has the multimedia rights to the video board. Vol Network general manager Steve Early told the Times Free Press in January that one of the problems in replacing the images is finding files high enough in resolution to be enlarged to the 35-by-30-foot dimension required.

On the other hand, don’t underestimate the role personal satisfaction plays in the makeover.

In 2013, Jones’ image replaced one of former football coach Phillip Fulmer holding the 1998 national championship trophy. Fulmer took over as Tennessee’s athletic director in December.

I bet the AD’s got an idea on a holdover to tide things over until they can find a high-resolution replacement.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, The Glass is Half Fulmer

“I hope I can be that kind of help to Jeremy.”

I wonder how many times we’re going to hear a variation on this theme over the next three seasons.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, The Glass is Half Fulmer

“I don’t know about a two-year deal. Maybe I did sign something. But I don’t think so.’’

No doubt Jeremy Pruitt is thrilled to learn there’s no way Phil Fulmer intends to leave the AD’s office in too short a time to avoid having ultimate say so over Pruitt’s tenure at UT.

He added: “I want to do this as long as I am being helpful and if I had to put a number on it, which I don’t have to, I would say five years, six years, something like that.’’

Fulmer said it wouldn’t be fair to new football coach Jeremy Pruitt to leave after two years.

“If I was going to do that,’’ Fulmer said, “I wouldn’t have (taken the job) to be honest with you. I’m committed to being here’’ as long as he’s healthy and productive.

You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Jeremy.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, The Glass is Half Fulmer

Pruitt better win.

A couple of hot takes on the incredible job Phil Fulmer did luring Jeremy Pruitt to Tennessee:

  • Pete Thamel“In the end, Tennessee ended up with an inferior coach, an overmatched athletic director and setting a new standard for a disastrous coaching search. The hires that former athletic director John Currie was on the cusp of making – Greg Schiano and Mike Leach – are exponentially more accomplished and better qualified for the Tennessee job. But Phil Fulmer’s power play ended up with him in control as athletic director and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as coach. Pruitt is just inexperienced enough that Fulmer will be able to keep sticking his nose in the program, which is what he’s wanted since he was run out of the job nearly a decade ago. (The classic clueless Fulmer moment was treating the press conference to dismiss Currie like he’d just been hired as coach again, as his tone – including introducing his family in attendance – showed a stunning lack of self-awareness.) Opposing SEC athletic directors, by the way, are giddy to have Fulmer in charge, as his administrative acumen presents little threat to the rest of the league. Expect Tennessee’s glory to remain faded.”
  • Dan Wolken“Coaching searches are far more art than science, and there are always unique dynamics at each individual school that can complicate matters. But the Tennessee search will be remembered in this industry for years, and not in a good way. Whether Tennessee fans agreed or disagreed with the choice of Greg Schiano after Dan Mullen chose Florida, the idea that a social media fan uprising could essentially spook the school into reneging on a signed agreement is still mind-blowing. Former athletics director John Currie did his due diligence on the search. He knew who was available and who wouldn’t take the job. Right or wrong, he made the determination that Schiano was the best coach he could reasonably hire. And as imperfect as it might have been in the eyes of some fans, he was prepared to make a tough decision and sink or swim with the results on the field. That’s the way it’s supposed to work when you hire people to leadership positions and let them lead.

    At Tennessee, though, the response was different. And for whatever reason, the people who were supposed to have Currie’s back instead decided to sweep him aside and let former coach Phillip Fulmer run the athletics department and complete the coaching search. Maybe the end result may work out for Tennessee — we’ll see — but the process to get to Pruitt was messy. Within college athletics circles, the school’s brand was far more damaged over the last two weeks than Currie’s. He’ll certainly resurface somewhere soon. Whether this fiasco helps make Tennessee a contender again is far more uncertain.”

Sure, Pruitt may work out.  He’s got an impressive work ethic and great recruiting skills on his side.  Then again, Booch’s problems didn’t stem from recruiting.

Tennessee’s decline in football is more than about coaching, though.  The athletic department leadership has been notably substandard going back to the Mike Hamilton regime.  The idea that Phil Fulmer, who’s never been an administrator before, is the guy with the right skills to launch a renaissance, feels like nothing more at this juncture than wishful thinking from a fan base that’s just thrilled to have a real Vol calling the shots.

Even worse, Fulmer’s only got a two-year deal.  If things don’t take off for Tennessee football in that time frame, he’ll sail off into the sunset washing his hands of the affair,  serene in the claim that he did what he believed was best for the program.  Meanwhile, it’ll be up to the next poor sap to deal with a fan base that fervently believes a return to greatness is easier than it is in real life.  For the rest of us, all that’s standing between years of mockery and UT football is Jeremy Pruitt.  And even that may be fleeting if Pruitt sees his time in Knoxville as a stepping stone to a program with more stability at the top.  Enjoy your time there, coach.

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