Fulmer agrees to step down as UT football coach

Fulmer agrees to step down as UT football coach

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"I love Tennessee too much to let her stay divided," Coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I love Tennessee too much to let her stay divided," Coach Phillip Fulmer said.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- At a news conference Monday night, Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer said he has agreed to step down at the end of this season.

MORE INFORMATION ON PHILLIP FULMER

Fulmer met with Tennessee officials Monday morning when they reached a mutual agreement that it would be best if he didn't return to his post.

However, he said he'll stay on at UT in "some capacity."

Fulmer at the news conference

"This is not an easy day for me or my family. It's not a day that I sought or accepted easily," coach Fulmer said.

"I am proud of what we've done at Tennessee. We've won a lot of games. We've won championships. We've done it the right way. We've helped a lot of young men grow up and we've been a credit to our university every step of the way," Fulmer said.

"As a young sophomore playing for coach Dickie, that field outside is where I first got my jersey dirty playing in a big game for Tennessee. It was September 27, 1969. I was 19-years-old. We were playing Auburn on television that day, something rare for Tennessee at that time, and we whipped a higher-ranked Auburn team."

"The Tennessee football has been the focus of my professional life ever since. I am a very lucky man. Very few people in this world are fortunate enough to get to pursue their true passions for even a little while. I have been pursuing my passion since that day here against Auburn 38 years ago."

BIG WINS FOR PHILLIP FULMER
  • 1993 post season: Fulmer's first postseason win in Tampa when the Vols beat Boston College 38-23.
  • 1995: Tennessee's 41-14 thrashing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa broke a 10-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide.
  • 1998: The Vols were undefeated and ranked #1 on November 14 but they trailed the Arkansas Razorbacks with time running out. Then Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner dropped the ball. The Vols recovered, went on to win the game and eventually, the national championship.
  • 2001: Fulmer beat his arch-nemesis Steve Spurrier at the Swamp. Florida was ranked #2 in the nation and aiming to play for a national title. But the Vols came home with a 34-32 victory.
  • 2002: 6 OT win over Arkansas, 41-38
  • 2002 post season: Tennessee took a 45-17 win over Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
  • 2003: 5 OT win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa
  • 2003: The 18th ranked Vols were playing the 6th ranked Miami Hurricanes when Tennessee won 10-6.
  • 2004: Vols were ranked 17th when they played at 3rd ranked Georgia. Tennessee came away with a 19-14 win.
  • 2005: OT win at LSU.
  • 2005: Tennessee beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, 38-7.
  • 2007: 4 OT thriller at Kentucky. It gave Tennessee Fulmer's 5th SEC east division title.

"I'm a family man and proud of it. My son and daughters and Vicky mean everything to me, but my family is bigger than just my children and my wife. We have been very blessed to include thousands of players, dozens of coaches and millions of Tennessee fans in our family."

"We just came off a 2007 season that we played for the championship in Atlanta for the fifth time in 17 years. That s an average of three...aAn average of every third year that we were in Atlanta."

"However, this 2008 season has not gone as well as anyone would like. That includes me, our coaches, our players, our administration and our great fans."

"Many fans have been supportive. Some have been angry. All of us are disappointed. Tennessee has high expectations for its football team, and I'm proud that the accomplishments over the last 17 years have been part of such high expectations."

"Our Tennessee family is united in its goals but divided in the right path to get there. I love Tennessee too much to let her stay divided. That is why I accept the university's decision that this will be my last season as Tennessee's head football coach."

"I am more than confident that our staff and players would turn this trend around. Our history proves it. Our recruiting for this year proves it. I have invested a lot of my life into this university and wish nothing but the best for its continued success, and I will help my successor if needed or asked for in any way possible, if he chooses."

"I love this university and hope everyone knows that beyond a shadow of a doubt. I thank my family for allowing me to do this job as an assistant coach for 13 years and as a head coach for 17 years. They have sacrificed much but also have some wonderful experiences and lifetime memories."

"I thank all the young men and families that trusted us to attend UT and proudly wear the orange and white. In almost all cases, our teams have enjoyed success, and just as I did, our young men grew from their experiences on the field as young men and as students."

"I thank all the coaches and support groups that have helped me fight the battles on the field, on the recruiting trail and with the development of our young men. Most are and will be friends for life."

"I thank my close friends who have encouraged me when things are tough and celebrated many great victories with me."

"I thank Doug Dickie and Joe Johnson, two great men who believed in me and trusted me. I hope I've made them proud."

"I thank our fans, who have supported me and our teams at Neyland Stadium, in Tempe, Arizona, with great victories in Athens, Georgia, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Gainesville, at Baton Rouge and at Miami and in Atlanta."

"I'm very proud of all we have accomplished here at UT. We've won more than most anyone at any school ever has. We've had some of UT's greatest teams. We've had many of its greatest players and we've done it right by NCAA rules."

"I will remember fondly the battles we fought to get to 150 victories and wish nothing but the best for my alma mater in the future."

"I am not certain what the future holds for me professionally. I am pleased the university wants me the stay on board in some capacity."

"It is very difficult for me to call this an end to my coaching career. Right now, I'm focused on these young men that I recruited to be here with this football team. They have three games left, and I will give them my full devotion to make sure we finish in a positive way. When those games are over, I will step back and reflect."

"With this decision behind us, I am very hopeful and very confident that the Tennessee people will rally around our young men and start the new road right now. These players have worked hard and deserve it, and the young men out there who will be Vols next year need to see it, as well."

"As I close, I want to thank the Tennessee people for all the opportunities I've been given and earned here. I've been blessed to work hard at a job every day doing something that never fell like a job. I was doing something that I loved. Vicky and my son and daughters are lucky to be Volunteers, and we will say thank you to everyone who loves the Vols. Thank you."

The Vols football team, along with many of Fulmer's former players, attended the news conference. When asked during the news conference what that means to him, Fulmer said, "That's what we're about." A round of applause followed.

When asked how he felt to see his players at the news conference, Fulmer said, "When you're in the homes of these young men and you work 18 hours a day with the coaches and, you know, you sacrifice a lot to, you know... It's in the name of Saturday afternoon, but it's really not about Saturday afternoon at all. It's about the reason we all got into coaching, to have that relationship that we had and feel good about it. A lot of people don't ever get to experience that. I've had it for a long time."

UT athletic director on this season, future

UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton wrote a letter to fans Monday saying, "I personally appreciate everything he has done for Tennessee and look forward to him continuing to be a part of our family. I hope that you will come and show your appreciation for Coach Fulmer at the Wyoming and Vanderbilt games as well as the Kentucky game on Nov. 29 when we celebrate " Phillip Fulmer Day" in Neyland Stadium."

Hamilton also says, "We will begin a national coaching search immediately. We have a great university, world-class student-athletes, a tremendous fans base and first-class facilities. As a result, we will attract some of the nation's best candidates. We will introduce a new coach to you sometime over the next several weeks."

There's been increasing pressure on Fulmer, who took over full time as head coach in 1993.

He's been at his alma mater as a player, assistant coach and head coach for more than 30 years.

The Vols won a national championship in 1998 and were one of the top programs in all of college football in the 1990s.

However, Tennessee has lost 31 games since the end of the 2001 season.

6 News Sports Director Jim Wogan took on the question on Fulmer's future in Wogan on Sports after the Vols' 29-9 loss to Alabama:

"Until Saturday night, I had been firm in my belief that Phillip Fulmer's job was safe this season--even with the wolves moving closer. How, did I say, do you fire a coach who has 200 games under his belt, and has won 150 of them? Fulmer's track record, and the complexity of managing a football program, mandates a more even-keeled approach.  Times are tough. The water is rough. But Fulmer always seems to ride it out. It was a stance I took on a Memphis radio show late last week.

Part of my belief was the notion that Fulmer hadn't lost the team. But after Saturday night, it's obvious he has lost the fans in a way I have never seen before."

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