I was a senior for the "Season That Never Was" two years ago so I think that qualifies me as being a credible enough eye witness for what was definitely the worst year of Fulmer's career. I grew up on Tennessee Football in the early 80's and entire 90's and have been lucky enough to be in a family that has had season tickets since 1969. I got to see the glory years of the 90's in person. I have watched, lived, and read everything Tennessee Football for a long time. For all these reasons I consider myself a grateful and lucky Volunteer Fan. Hell I got me a Bluetick Coonhound named MarmaDuke Moysek (MarmaDuke is my favorite cartoon dog and Moysek is a anagram of well...you figure it out).
Out of all these years as a Volunteer Fan, only one thing has really annoyed, and now angered, me about my fellow Big Orange Fans: We have turned on Coach Phillip Fulmer in a very nasty way.
Why? Because somewhere along the line, we, as in Tennessee fans, lost our humility. How did we get there? Two things really. We were spoiled by the tremendous career of Peyton Manning. We were spoiled by a magical season in 1998...The kind where two questionable pass interference calls and one inexplicable Clint Stoerner fumble literally saved our dream season. These two things, in my opinion, have caused fan expectations of the Volunteers to unrealistically go through the roof every year. Folks, we will never see another Peyton Manning. Fans, seasons like 1998 are magical BECAUSE they are so rare. How in the world did we lose sight of that?
In Coach Fulmer's first ten years (not counting his interim stint in place of Johnny Majors where he as 4-0), Coach Fulmer lost 28 games. 99-28! And after that he has notched two more 10 win seasons and one 9 win season. That is simply amazing. It's not as if National Championships grow on trees. To my knowledge, among all active coaches only Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden have two consensus national championships. Steve Spurrier, Mack Brown, Jim Tressel, Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll, Dennis Erickson all have one consensus national championship. Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, Lloyd Carr, and Dennis Erickson have a share of a(nother) National Championship. What is my point? We've got a great coach, Vol Nation. Sure things have been up and down lately but I think Coach Fulmer has earned the opportunity to run his course. I can't believe how much hatred is directed, by Vol Fans, at Coach Fulmer after all he has done.
You know, people may be right. Maybe league parity and new offenses like the spread, spread option, etc. have passed by Coach Fulmer's conservative philosophy. But have you ever seen a fan base turn so quickly on their national championship winning coach? It took two or more decades for Paterno and Bowden to get there. Have any of those fan bases turned on their coach? Isn't it ironic that, quite possibly, Coach Fulmer's inability to recreate his wildly successful 90's run is the very thing that will force him out of the coach's seat? I think that's ridiculous.
Give Coach time folks. He's proven he can do it. Or do we want to turn the Tennessee Coaching Job into the orange version of the pressure cooker hot seat of schools like Notre Dame or Alabama? Do you want to see Tennessee go through four or five coaches like ND and Bama did? We, the fans, are going to make the Tennessee job look way too daunting and miserably tough for a young hot shot coach to take as he looks to get into a big time program. Why do you think Urban Meyer passed up on his dream job at Notre Dame? Maybe it was because he took an objective look at how demanding and ruthless the ND job is and decided that he would rather seek greener pastures.
Fans, stow the hate. Stop calling into the talking radio heads and telling them what a bum Fulmer is. How about you support the team and staff we got and bring back the homefield advantage to Neyland Stadium. Out of all the games in the 2000 era, only California in 2006 and Georgia in 2007, have come even close to the hostile environment we displayed in the 90's. Being a fan is about team support and pride. Being a fan is NOT about griping about the team and staff. What good does that do? All it does is hurt recruiting, hurt the staff's confidence, and, most importantly, hurt the players' confidence. We've come a long way since 1993, Vol Fans. Don't screw up this program now because, if we do, it will only get worse on the future. Trust me, Urban Meyers don't grow on trees either. And I don't want to think about how many years or coaches we might have to go through before we find one of our own.