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"Nine wins is OK at Tennessee": Reassessing fan expectations once again

Earlier, Joel pointed out a GoVolsXtra article that quotes Phillip Fulmer as saying:

Nine wins is okay at Tennessee. It's okay.

Let me ask you: Is nine wins okay at Tennessee? Personally, I bristled when I read that. I thought it sounded defeatist and complacent, and I'm sure many Vol fans feel the same. But before you make up your mind about Fulmer's quote, let me ask another question: Are you happy with Tennessee's football performance historically? If so, you may be surprised how accurate Fulmer is with his statement.

Since 1926, General Neyland's first year, Tennessee has won more games than any other college football team (631) and has the second-highest winning percentage (.728). If you're curious, Ohio State has the highest winning percentage at .738 (the Buckeyes have also played 59 fewer games than UT during that time period).

For Tennessee to continue that historically significant winning percentage, playing a 13-game schedule (12 regular season games + a bowl game), they need to win 9.5 games/year. Obviously, that can't happen, so some years UT will need to win 10 games and others 9. But to ask more than that is to ask the Vols to do something they haven't been able to do historically.

All of this reminds me of something CFR pointed out a while back: Stewart Mandel's College Football Equilibrium Theory:

What I'm saying is, while every program has its good years and bad years, most have a natural equilibrium point to which they will eventually return, no matter who the coach is. Oklahoma had its rough years in the '90s but eventually returned to its more natural state in the top 15. Michigan and Ohio State are at equilibrium when they win Big Ten championships. USC is slightly above its equilibrium point right now, but that balances out all those pre-Pete Carroll years below it. Unfortunately, Duke is at equilibrium when it goes 3-8.

So whether he had thought about the actual numbers or not, Fulmer might have been close to finding Tennessee's equilibrium point with his nine wins comment. There is another component to Tennessee's equilibrium point that I want to get to later: winning championships.

But first, let us know: What's your reaction to Fulmer's quote? Considering the information presented here, is a nine-win season good enough at Tennessee?