College Football: Fulmer out at Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. ó An emotional Phillip Fulmer, with his wife at his side and tearful, angry players surrounding him, announced Monday that he had accepted Tennessee’s decision that this will be his last season as the Volunteers coach.
Fulmer, 58, is being forced out after 17 years as Tennessee’s coach, a run that included a national championship. He has a 150-51 record with the Vols, including the 1998 NCAA title ó the school’s first since 1951.
“This is not an easy day for me or my family. It is not a day that I sought or accepted easily,” said Fulmer, his voice cracking as he fought back tears standing next to wife, Vicky.
“Our Tennessee family is united in its goals, but divided in the right path to get there. I love Tennessee too much to let her stay divided. That is why I accept the university’s decision that this will be my last season as Tennessee’s football coach.”
The Vols fell on hard times this season and were just 3-6, including 1-5 in the SEC after a 27-6 loss at South Carolina on Saturday.
“Many fans have been supportive, some have been very angry. All of us are disappointed,” Fulmer said about this season.”
Fulmer signed a new seven-year contract in the summer which was worth $2.4 million this season. He will receive $6 million as a buyout of the contract, payable over a 48-month period.
He is the nation’s third-winningest active coach among coaches with 10 years of experience, trailing only Florida’s State’s Bobby Bowden and Penn State’s Joe Paterno.
Dubbed the dean of the SEC coaches for his long tenure, Fulmer’s teams won two conference titles and seven divisional crowns. But that wasn’t enough to save his job.
Athletic director Mike Hamilton said Fulmer was asked to stay with the program in an administrative capacity, but Fulmer said he has not decided what he will do next.
Hamilton said he and Fulmer spent a lot of time in recent weeks discussing the direction of the program, and the decision was made to make an announcement with three games remaining to give fans a chance to honor and celebrate the coach.
Tennessee will formally celebrate Fulmer’s career on Nov. 29 when the Vols host Kentucky.
“Our discussions leading to coach Fulmer’s announcement today did not come without great consternation or thought, but it is in my opinion the best solution given our current circumstances,” Hamilton said.