What was true three and a half years ago rings even louder today: Phillip Fulmer's legacy as head coach at Tennessee and his legacy to college football are not defined by the way it started or the way it ended, though both were filled with drama. His legacy is not defined by the highest highs of 1998, or the lowest lows a decade later. Fulmer's life, like all of us, is about the whole story. And that story, through its ups and downs, is still our favorite one to tell.
What more can we say about Phillip Fulmer? In 2009, still coming to terms with the fact that he wasn't our football coach anymore, we published The 50 Best Games of the Fulmer Era. All our best memories of him live on there; we're revisiting many of them this month in our Best Plays Bracket, which, honestly, should be called Best Plays of the Fulmer Era Bracket, because that's where all of them are found.
The numbers are great, of course: five division titles, a number that is still only eclipsed by Steve Spurrier's eight. No other coach in the last twenty years - not Saban, not Meyer, not Richt, not Miles, not Stallings - has won more than four. For a man who is all too familiar with "only eclipsed by Steve Spurrier", our favorite stat is once again worth repeating: 1-4 against Florida from October '94 to November '99; 37-0 against the rest of the SEC. And though great Florida teams did get the best of great Tennessee teams more often than not, Fulmer still got his money's worth against the Gators in incredibly memorable and meaningful ways in 1992, 1998, 2001, 2003, and 2004. But there remains no bigger prize than Alabama, and Fulmer walked into a rivalry that had won crimson for a decade and left it colored orange, to the tune of 10-5-1 against the Tide on the field. He also recruited a kid named Manning and won the first ever BCS National Championship. And that's just on the field, because as former players and all of East Tennessee will tell you, Fulmer was more than just a football coach.
We've been through our own lowest of lows without him...but as Derek Dooley now builds his Vol For Life program, we are always reminded that the ongoing story of Tennessee Football will always be built on the shoulders of giants. And none stood taller or loved this place more than Phillip.
Congrats, Coach. Yours is still our favorite story.
(from the Vol Network)