What I hope happens if Phillip Fulmer isn't Tennessee's coach after this season

Smarter people than me will make the decision of whether Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer should keep his job or not. I will say I think Athletic Director Mike Hamilton's approach of evaluating at the end of the year is the right one. A mid-season firing accomplishes nothing other than to placate the torch and pitchfork crowd and to cause even more tumult than there already is, which is a terrible precedent to set.

With that said, we have to face facts:

  • When Neyland Stadium is full of Alabama fans because Tennessee fans don't care enough to attend a game against our fiercest historic rival...
  • When concession sales are down...
  • When the athletic director is openly discussing having the cash on-hand to pay for a large buyout of Coach Fulmer's contract...
  • When, at midseason, a Tennessee offensive series can be compared to driving through a small town: blink and you might miss it...
  • When there have been no championships for a decade and there are obvious deficiencies in the coach's record, both overall and against rivals...
  • When there is no evidence that the current coaching staff has answers to turn any of this around...

Coach Fulmer probably isn't going to be Tennessee's coach next year. If the athletic department decides to make a coaching change, I hope:

  • Coach Fulmer will step aside rather than having to be forced out. It would be preferable if he turned down the buyout money as a gesture of putting the university ahead of himself (or donated it to a scholarship fund), but I understand that might not be realistic.
  • The athletic department offers Coach Fulmer a ceremonial position that will allow him to maintain a visible presence in Tennessee football. This position would be a non-binding advisory role, and not a role with decision-making authority (I'm not a fan of Vince Dooley's tenure as AD at Georgia, and don't want to see that happen to us).
  • There is a public ceremony at halftime of the first home game or homecoming next season thanking Coach Fulmer for his years of service and contributions he has made to Tennessee football.
  • The athletic department makes a good decision about Coach Fulmer's replacement. It's important that the new hire not be a Ron Zook type, but it's much more important that the new hire not be a Bill Callahan type: a cancerous presence who scoffs at the great traditions of our university.
    Someone young and energetic who can breath some fresh air into our (arguably) stale program would be nice, but again, smarter people than me will make that decision if it's made.
  • Only the head coach is replaced at first, and that the new head coach gets to make decisions of which assistants to keep and which to release.
  • Fans who are angry with Coach Fulmer now will learn to appreciate the level he raised our program to, and that the high expectations built around it are almost entirely attributable to his work (with some help from the great players and coaches who have come through over the years).

In other words, I hope that if this decision is made, a way can be found to do it peacefully in a way that doesn't leave any lingering resentment of Coach Fulmer; that can allow him to remain a welcome fixture around Tennessee football; that can allow the program to move on without acrimony and ongoing controversy; and that would get Tennessee back on the path to winning championships.

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