As his players carried Fulmer off the field following his final 20-10 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats, it became clear that the Phillip Fulmer era had officially ended. Many people had questions about where the direction of the Volunteer football program would be going, as well as about Phil Fulmer and his staff’s future endeavors.
Fans didn’t have to wait long to find out about the team’s new direction, because the next Monday, Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton formally introduced Lane Kiffin as the new head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
Many former Vol legends, such as Peyton Manning, have adopted a wait-and-see attitude towards the hiring of Kiffin, while many fans, especially those who were advocating Fulmer’s departure in the first place, are ecstatic about Coach Kiffin’s hiring.
Sports management major Chase Woodfin reacted by saying, “When I heard Kiffin would officially take over the job, I was excited for the future of our program and was happy with the decision our athletics director made.”
Kiffin brings many changes to the football team. He quickly dismissed most of the assistant coaches, including longtime defensive coordinator John Chavis. For now Kiffin is retaining four of Fulmer’s assistant coaches on the offensive side: Stan Dayton, Latrell Scott, Doug Adkins, and Jason Michael.
Kiffin is going to evaluate and continue to interview the coaches before he makes a final decision on whether to retain them or not.
John Chavis has not made any public comments on if he plans to continue coaching or not. However, several sources have let it known that he tops Clemson’s wish list at defensive coordinator.
Phil Fulmer has refused to rule out returning to coaching in the future, but it does not seem likely now that he has officially taken an administrative position with the university. Coach Fulmer will serve over the next three months as a “special assistant to the president.”
It is unclear what exactly his role will be to UT president John Peterson, but the position begins immediately and is effective until Feb. 28.
While the players made it clear they were upset with the forced resignation of Coach Fulmer, they for the most part have warmed up to Lane Kiffin.
Before the press conference announcing him becoming the new head coach, Kiffin met with the team for 41 minutes and told them that no starting job is safe, saying they will have to earn everything in practice regardless of what they have done in the past.
“He is a different coach than what we are used to. He is all about discipline and is younger, so he approaches us differently,” offensive guard Jacques McClendon said.
When asked if he thought Kiffin’s NFL experience could help in the SEC, McClendon said, “I think the experienced staff he will bring in will help us tremendously. Being at the NFL and at Southern Cal, I believe that he has seen everything that there is.”