It was with teary eyes and a heavy heart one year ago that that Phillip Fulmer told a televised audience that his tenure at Tennessee was at an end. I don't think there were any Vol faithfuls that didn't mourn his passing. He was the Dean of SEC coaches, loved or hated he was respected by a host of college fans nation wide. Wait a second, I'm talking like he was dead.
He's not dead and more so he's chomping at the bit. More often than not he told us that coaching was still in his future, but he's already turned down two offers because "it just wasn't the right fit."
He has visited other colleges and NFL teams during their practice camps, including Ohio State where he rubbed elbows with his buddy Jim Tressel, taking notes and names. He also visited Bill Parcells at the Dolphins camp down in the Sunshine State again taking notes.
In an August interview with Connor Ennis he verified his coaching intentions by saying "Believe me, I've got the bug." If it looks like a duck it must be a duck. Right?
Where does Phillip Fulmer fit? There are plenty of coaches this year that have dusted off their resumes because of continued issues with performance and failed expectations. The disgruntled fans and alums called for their respected heads leaving the athletic directors no choice but to sharpen the axe. Sound familiar?
It should sound familiar; helplessly an entire school and Vol Nation watched as Fulmer was lead to the gallows over two losing seasons out of seventeen. I won't get on my soapbox but there have been quite literally dozens of NCAA coaches allowed to pull themselves back up by their bootstraps with records that couldn't hold a candle to Fulmer's stats.
A host of them didn't have nearly the prestige or respect that he had either. Ooops, that soapbox got closer. In any regard he has a resume himself that could land him a bushel worth of job offers.
Hypothetically, where could or would he go?
I'm sure he would love to stay at home, that being said. What about Vanderbilt? God knows they could use a "FOOTBALL COACH." That might be cruel but poor ole Vandy, along with Mississipi State have been the butt of SEC jokes for as long as I can remember. How many runs have they had where they were better than .500?
No offense, to any Commodores you guys have one of the premier academic institutions in the nation but when it comes to sports I think it's all about finishing with grace under the point spread. I don't think Fulmer would go here from the shear absence of athletic dedication.
Truthfully, they would have to fire at least two professors before they could justify his salary to the faculty board, not to mention they would have to committ to winning seasons rather than waiting for seasons with weaker teams to beat up on.
Maybe a little run at Memphis? As ridiculous as this sounds Fulmer has mentioned on more than one occasion that he would like to take a fallen program and rise it from the ashes and you couldn't pick a better school at this point.
He would replace fellow Volunteer alum Tommy West, who has had dismal results with the exception of a couple of standout seasons in his 10-year run finishing somewhere around 84-93 (give or take a game) and five winning seasons. It could be done but there would have to be some big time spending, satisfying his minimal standards to bring in better athletes and greater applause from the cheap seats.
Okay here's the good one, Michigan. You don't go to Michigan and finish your first season 3-9, the worst record in school history and not go bowling for the first time in 33 years(make that 34 counting this year's 5-6/1-6 Big Ten). Michigan has all of the collegiate tools to be a nationally ranked team but not under Rodriguez.
Oh boy, this one actually makes me nervous thinking about it. Fulmer could build a football machine right under the NCAA noses and within one and a half years he could be BCS bowling all the way home. All of the necessary resources are there and they are limitless, and they could write the right kind of check.
Then there's Notre Dame, just kidding. They'd hire Rudy before Phil...maybe.
Let's go west for a minute. Mark Mangino has won a few awards that merit listing; 2007 Associated Press Coach of the Year, Woody Hayes National COY, the George Munger award and Big 12 COY. He also took Kansas to their first BCS bowl and he also gave them their first 12 win season.
So far in 2009 he is just barely over 500 after eight seasons, not embarrassing but not domination either. This season Mangino is 5-6 and could very well lose their last game to Mizzou, this after a respectable 2008 7-4 season beating Minnesota in their bowl appearance.
Now, you may not think Mangino is in danger but when the athletic director meets the players without the coach it doesn't sound like a pep talk. All B.S. aside I have no idea how Phil might be received here but reputation has it's advantages and his is advantageous.
Last but not least, let's skip back across the Mississippi river to Louisville. Now this is where there are genuine rumors and I think he could "fit". 2007 didn't bring satisfaction going 6-6, 2008 finished 5-7, 2009 may likely be the same providing they beat Rutgers in their last game.
Steve Kragthorpe, after three seaons is most likely packing boxes as I write this. This could be a good fit for Phillip Fulmer; the fanbase is there and they also could write a very hefty check. Would he go?
He has said that he only wants to go where winning is a dedication and any of these programs can exclaim they want to win. In my opinion Fulmer will only be happy coaching in the SEC where everybody wants to win national championships and not just finish with a winning season. I won't preach his stats anymore 152-52 speaks for itself.
Over the last year he has put together a list of staff that he wants, many of which we may have already seen (maybe Les Miles should put an ad in the paper). Recruiting is still a strong point for him, it was even highlighted in the recent movie The Blind Side depicting his failed attempts to recruit Michael Oher but don't let that fool you.
He has built a reputation in parents homes closing the deal on a handshake and southern charm. Just reflect on the talent that has come through Tennessee in the last two decades.
Where does he go? I really hope for all our sake that it isn't in the SEC.