Larry Burton (Syndicated Writer) A lot of things have gone on since the firing of Phillip Fulmer. They have been the darker days of Volunteer history in over 25 years. So now it begs the question, are the Vols better off without Fulmer?
As difficult a question as that is to answer, how about, where would the Vols be now with him never having left?
Had he indeed "lost it"?
To answer, look at history, Fulmer had a ten-win season and tied for first place in the East Division, so it's not like there was a terrible losing streak in effect.
And once before Fulmer had an even worse 5-6 season in 2005, only to come back with nine and ten-win seasons the following year.
In Fulmer's history, whenever there had been a dip, there was always a recovery.
Did he have another recovery in him after this last 5-7 year? We will never know, but the program would have been stable, recruits and players wouldn't have transferred away as they did these last few years and there wouldn't have been the terrible vacuum that occurred when he was fired.
They would have avoided the Lane Kiffin fiasco that led to the build from the ground up years that Derek Dooley is going to have to endure.
He was one good offensive coordinator away from turning things around on offense and John Chavis is about as good a defensive coordinator as there is in the SEC and he would have gone nowhere.
The question though may not be could Fulmer have rebounded the team in the win column, most may feel he could have done that, but were there other reasons that Fulmer was shown the door?
Tennessee had been the poster child of college football players in trouble with the law. They even named the year's most arrested team award, the Fulmer Cup.
That mixed with the idea that perhaps he had gotten a little lazy on the recruiting trail and they saw the quick success that Nick Saban was having and felt that they needed a younger, flashier, more Nick Saban-like coach.
Whatever their reasoning, few coaches had ever done more for their school than Fulmer gave to Tennessee. His winning percentage was up there with the best of coaches and he did bring a national title back to Tennessee.
In hindsight, the A.D. that fired him is gone himself, the coach that was hired to replace him is gone as well. Tennessee has wallowed in an unseemly fashion for a usually great SEC team since they've fired him and there is no hope in sight for a quick turnaround.
You just have to wonder what would things be like now if Phillip Fulmer had simply been sternly chastised but left on the Tennessee sidelines. A coach that was still shy of his 60th birthday, with a 152-52 record with a lot of gas left in the tank may have been let go too soon.
The comparison to this tale and the George Bush tee shirts I've seen that said, "Miss me yet?" have a lot in common. Tennessee's hope and change hasn't worked much better than America's, but let's not politicize a sports report.