Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post A battle Fulmer doesn’t really want to get into

Friday February 22, 2008

I know that the Internet has turned the whole "never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel" aphorism on its head, but I still don’t know if it’s the wisest move for Phil Fulmer to get into a war of words with columnist John Adams.

Make no mistake, he’s in a fight to remain in control of the program. Let’s not forget that early in the 2007 season things were so shaky in Knoxville that former players had to take out a full-page ad in support of Fulmer. Though a much-needed win over Georgia placated the masses, an embarrassing loss at Alabama got the torches fired back up. Had the Vols not pulled out close wins against South Carolina, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt and won five straight games to win the SEC East, there’s no telling how ugly things might have become.

Now with his offensive mastermind gone to Duke and arguably his best recruiter gone to Oklahoma State, Fulmer is left to rebuild his staff with a new quarterback while fending off increasingly loud dissenters like Adams.

You can tell that Fulmer is struggling to keep it together when he goes right to the "doing it for the children" defense of his program. That’s often the last refuge of a coach who has little else to lean on.

It’s a mistake that while defending his character and leadership he seems most secure in his on-the-field record. Every coach is a mentor. Every coach wants to see his players graduate and go on to wonderful careers in law enforcement. He isn’t feeling heat because of his track record educating and mentoring his players. Since Linda Bensel-Meyers came forward, the portrayal of the Tennessee football program as anything but a football factory is good comedy, and Tennessee fans were more than willing to look the other way while things were going well.

Tennessee might have won more games than 95% of other teams as Fulmer says, but he is feeling heat because the perception is there of a program in decline. Though they have three SEC East titles in the 2000s, they haven’t won an SEC title since 1998. They haven’t been in the national title picture since 2001. Fulmer might want to think twice about inviting criticism of his on-field performance. Coaches aren’t replaced in the SEC because they don’t mentor well enough.

UPDATE: In the meantime, we have news about another future Knox County sheriff’s deputy.

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