So much for Phillip Fulmer telling his incredible shrinking fan club that help is on the way. On the same day the Tennessee coach saw his offense gain but 191 yards against Auburn, he learned that prep quarterback Josh Nunes would reverse his commitment to the Vols and cast his lot (at least for this week) with Stanford.
In a somewhat related development, current starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton just threw another incomplete pass 20 yards over his receiver's head.
All of which begs the question: Is it time to start calling offensive coordinator Dave Clawson's attack the Crawl-fense rather than the Claw-fense?
Is it almost time for UT athletic director Mike Hamilton to tell Fulmer thanks for the 1998 national championship, and the three SEC title game appearances this decade, and the 75 percent winning percentage, but we've decided to move in another direction?
Hamilton could even pull a Sarah Palin and say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” on another season to BCS nowhere.
There is no joy in this. The Big Orange Nation will never, ever find a more loyal, faithful head football coach than Fulmer, who grew up in this state, played for the Vols and recently gave the school $1 million to be used for something other than athletics.
And you'd like to believe Fulmer could save his job by a means other than luring David Cutcliffe back to K-town for a third tour of duty as offensive coordinator, because that security blanket has flown.
While Fulmer stands 1-3 for just the second time in his illustrious 16-year career, Cutcliffe is a shocking 3-1 as the new head coach at Duke.
On second thought, maybe Cutcliffe should come back as head coach and Fulmer should stick around as offensive line coach.
But the Nunes announcement is yet another problem for Fulmer as he seeks to assure a nervous and negative fan base that he can still lead the Big Orange back to the top of the SEC, and possibly the nation.
Maybe Nunes is telling the truth when he says he didn't expect an offer from Stanford, and once it came the Upland, Calif., product had to follow his apparent lifelong dream to play for the Cardinal.
And, hey, the kid has a 4.6 GPA. If that isn't Stanford material, nothing is.
But there is another issue here that could get much worse unless the Vols win at Georgia, against Alabama or both. More than a few UT prospects experienced the boos that rang down on both the team and coaching staff during the home loss to Florida. If any prospects were at the Auburn game they no doubt heard similar boos and jeers and disgusted comments from the Vols fan base.
On one side, you can sell recruits that, obviously, you aren't good enough and they can help immediately. On the other hand, it's tough to promote the notion that you come to Tennessee to win championships when you're 1-3 overall and 0-2 in the league with a veteran team.
Beyond that, the more Fulmer looks like a lame duck coach in the eyes of the general public, the less likely he is to land the type of recruits he needs to return to a BCS bowl for the first time since the 1999 season.
So let the rumors begin, Fulmer being jettisoned in favor of everyone from Jon Gruden, to Cutcliffe, to, possibly, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, who could somewhat escape the giant shadow of Alabama coach Nick Saban, as well as stick it to Auburn booster Bobby Lowder, who once tried to fire him in favor of Bobby Petrino.
Yet whatever happens as Fulmer's fate unfolds, let's just hope the information is more accurate than Crompton's passes and more trustworthy than Nunes's commitment.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...