Tennessee Volunteers: Have the Vols Been Crippled by the Curse of Phil Fulmer?

Dr. SEC@thedrsecAnalyst IIOctober 10, 2011

KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 03:  Head Coach Phillip Fulmer  of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates a touchdown with quarterback Erik Ainge #10 over the Louisiana Lafayette Cajuns during the second quarter at Neyland Stadium on November 3, 2007 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

One of the more intriguing conversations that sports fans engage in is that of sports curses. Christians call it “reaping what you sew.”  Pagans call it the “Law of Return." There are several other religions that call it karma. However, sports fans from various beliefs call it a sports curse.

Two of the most recognized sports curses in history are the “Curse of the Billy Goat” and the “Curse of the Bambino.” The curse of the Bambino was finally broken in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918. The curse is believed to have begun in the 1919-1920 offseason when the Red Sox sold baseball great Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.

The curse of the Billy Goat, however, is still believed to be active.  This sports curse is believed to have begun in 1945 when the owner of the local Billy Goat Tavern was forced to leave the game because the odor of his goat was bothering the other fans. In anger he declared, “The Cubs will never win another World Series.” At the time, the Cubs were leading the Tigers 2-1 in the series but ended up losing four games to three.

The Cubs have not won a World Series ever since.

Since the firing of former Tennessee football Coach Phil Fulmer in 2008, there has been a small group whispering of a curse of Phil Fulmer. I do not believe any rational person could argue that it was best for the University of Tennessee and Coach Phil Fulmer to part ways. Yes, he had been highly successful. However, the prisoners were running the asylum and change was needed across the board.

At the same time, few will argue that former Vols athletic Director Mike Hamilton should have handled the situation differently.  

This past weekend I took in my first game at Neyland Stadium under the lights. Up until that point, I had chalked up the Vols recent struggles as the result of bad choices. Perhaps Fulmer should have been asked to resign three years earlier. Lane Kiffin was a risky hire that ultimately burned the Volunteers and the hire of Derek Dooley was questionable at best.

When you hire coaches with questionable resumes, bad stuff can happen.

However, there have been events occurring this season that have raised the eyebrows of even the most skeptic fans. It started with the unexplainable demise of Tauren Poole. Last season, Poole was the SEC’s most underrated running back. This season, he has looked unworthy of a scholarship.

Matters got worse when Justin Hunter was lost for the season with a freak injury. At the time, Hunter might have been playing as well as any wide receiver in the nation. Despite the loss of Hunter, hopes were high because of the play of the Vols highly regarded quarterback Tyler Bray.

All hopes of a successful season might have been broken this weekend with Tyler Bray’s hand. Yes, the Vols were already on their way to losing to a more complete Georgia Bulldogs team, but the prospects of the season were still high until Bray’s hand was injured on a UGA player’s helmet.

Initial reports have Bray missing six weeks and it could not be at a worse time.  Over the next five weeks, the Vols will face No.1 ranked LSU, No. 2 ranked Alabama, No. 10 ranked Arkansas and No. 15 ranked South Carolina.

In other words, without a major upset, the Volunteers could be on their way to another losing season.

If there is in fact a curse of Phil Fulmer, how can the Vols have it removed? Mike Hamilton is gone, isn’t that enough? Unfortunately, probably not. Perhaps the Volunteers could have a Phil Fulmer night where all of the 100,000 fans in attendance wear Fulmer support t-shirts.

The SEC needs Tennessee to be relevant again. As a result, the Vols must do whatever is needed.