Out to Pasture, or Out Behind the Barn?

This past week I read about Phil Fulmer’s current endeavors. It was like reading about a long, lost friend or relative, because it feels like he coached his last game in about 1988. It’s easy to forget that he coached as recently as November 2008. It’s also easy to forget that he won 152 games as Tennessee’s head coach, second only to Robert Neyland.

In an interview in August 2009, he maintained that he wasn’t afraid of trying new things, presumably like hiring Dave Clawson, and like doing television work as an analyst for CBS.

He looked terribly uncomfortable on the tube this past Fall, and it always appeared as everybody was instructed to steer clear of putting ol’ Phil on the spot when it came to talking about his successor or anything the least bit controversial about the Vols.

He told Tony Barnhart that he wanted to return to coaching, but only if the situation was the right one. He would only return to a school that was committed to winning championships.

    “I think the commitment comes from the administration in terms of facilities, hiring the best possible staff and giving them the tools to succeed,” Fulmer said. “It would be silly for me at this point to go start up a program. Building new programs is very important work. But that is not what I want to do at this point.”

He thought he had earned the right to pick and choose.

No one came knocking, except for a former player who had helped form an investment business in Knoxville. So, Coach Fulmer has become a partner at North Shore Management Co., a holding company comprising a mix of businesses ranging from real estate to document shredding.

Fulmer has been a football player and coach all his life. Everybody moves on to new things. But, as on television, Phil looks like a big fish out of water.

The complete, utter lack of interest by schools in hiring Fulmer makes me think that this time next year isn’t going to be any different, and I don’t see Phil changing his requirements for a coaching position.

Which leaves me with a couple of questions.

Has Phil been put out to pasture in the green environs of a new career where he can use his past accomplishments to lure new business with the sparkle of his name and what it represented to the people of East Tennessee?

Or has he been lured to behind the proverbial barn of what might have been, to be surrounded and suffocated by mementoes of his own glory days?

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3 responses to “Out to Pasture, or Out Behind the Barn?”

  1. TK says :

    YOU HAVE POSED AN INTERESTING QUESTION AND SOMETHING THAT IVE WONDERED ABOUT FOR A LONG TIME FREDDY. WHEN PHIL WAS THE WINNINGEST ACTIVE COACH SEVERAL YEARS AGO AND EVEN WHEN SUCCESSFUL BEFORE THAT HE NEVER SEEMED TO BE APPROACHED BY SCHOOLS LOOKING FOR A NEW COACH. I NEVER REMEMBER A STORY WHERE THE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR WAS ASKED FOR PERMISSION TO TALK TO FULMER. WHY WAS THA? I THINK ITS STRANGE THAT OVER ALL THOSE YEARS NO SCHOOL WOULD SHOW ENOUGH INTEREST TO WANT TO TALK TO HIM. I MEAN YOU ARE AT THE TOP OF THE LIST OF ACTIVE COACHES. SO WHATS UP WITH THIS SITUATION THAT WE ARE MISSING? AND I GUESS BASED ON WATCHING THAT HAPPEN OVER THE YEARS I NEVER EVER THOUGHT THE MAN WOULD COACH AGAIN………….COMMENTS FROM THE EXPERTS????????

  2. DW says :

    Fred – thats some good discussion material for a winter Saturday afternoon at a sports bar. His comment about “not being afraid to try new things” apparently did not apply to recent years and his in-game coaching style…predictable, boring, and no risk. You and TK noted his lack of attractiveness to other schools, so it seems that they saw the same thing Vols fans saw. Certainly he seemed to be a nice guy, he had the career numbers working for him, and loyalty was obvious; but if a program needs a little makeover, facelift or added excitement, they probably wouldn’t ring Phil’s cell. Apparently, his TV analyst work isn’t helping to change those perceptions.

    The last 2 lines of his quote (“Building new programs is very important work. But that is not what I want to do at this point.”) needs a little modification —Building new programs is very important AND HARD work….

    Phil needs a new image and he needs to look comfortable in public… I can visualize him back at work on the sidelines…in a XXXL zebra shirt.

  3. melodygodawgs says :

    You may want to hire ole Coach Fulmer back–now that Kiffin has used you and thrown you away like Kleenex. There is something to say for old time virtues like honesty, loyalty, dedication to the student athletes and commitment. Your program is left in shambles, Daddy will go with Kiffin, you’ll be left with Coach O–a total fool, and you can kiss your recruits goodbye. Call Fulmer asap and beg him to come home.

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