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?