published Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Wiedmer: Fulmer not good fit for UT AD job

“Out with Hammy ... In with Fulmer.”

That was the opening line on a message-board post regarding a column I wrote last week on Mike Hamilton’s job security as the University of Tennessee men’s athletic director.

The post also observed, “[Phil Fulmer] brings integrity and stability to the Big Orange Trainwreck by railroad conductor Hamilton. Plus, Fulmer bleeds so much Orange he’d jump off a Neyland Stadium light tower for the good of the school.”

The number of people jumping off the Hamilton bandwagon appears to be substantial in light of continuing updates on basketball coach Bruce Pearl’s growing problems with the NCAA.

A quick glance at Big Orange message boards will underscore the anger many UT fans have toward Hamilton, though the AD’s worst mistake may have been to believe that Pearl couldn’t possibly break rules because he was always too willing to turn in other folks for that behavior.

But Fulmer’s CBS interview during the Florida-Tennessee game last Saturday also underscores how happy Fulmer might be to replace the man who canned him near the close of 2008 season after 16 years atop Rocky Top.

“Tennessee is a very proud program, with great traditions, and the people of Tennessee felt betrayed [by Fulmer successor Lane Kiffin], to be honest with you,” Fulmer said.

“They were embarrassed, felt jilted with all the cost of the change there was. ... The bigger question, in my opinion, is how does a guy like this end up with two jobs with historic football teams like Tennessee and USC?”

In other words, how could Hamilton — in Fulmer’s opinion — have fired a son of Tennessee, a former Big Orange player, a man who spent nearly 40 years of his life tied to the Volunteers program in some form or fashion to hire someone with, in Fulmer’s words, an “arrogant attitude”?

Left unsaid was Fulmer’s apparent belief that he would be the perfect candidate to replace Hamilton, should the AD ever need replacing.

And it is an interesting argument here in Big Orange Country during a week when there seems so little interest in picking apart Saturday’s nonconference game against Alabama-Birmingham.

No one loves the Vols more than Fulmer, who richly deserved one more season to turn his program around. No UT coach except Fulmer over the past 59 seasons has won a football national championship. Moreover, the Vols never seriously ran afoul of the NCAA during his tenure as head coach, though — much like Pearl — Fulmer appeared to revel in turning others in, especially Alabama.

Speaking of the NCAA, Fulmer also couldn’t wait to note during his CBS appearance that Kiffin “left Tennessee with a bunch of compliance issues.”

But for all the good Fulmer might do in soothing a few boosters’ feelings, two words should keep the Big Orange Nation from ever seriously considering him for athletic director: Fulmer Cup.

An Internet creation of longtime Florida fan and sports blogger Orson Swindle, the Fulmer Cup is given annually to the FBS program that collectively had the worst criminal record.

Swindle started the dubious award in 2006 after 20 UT football players were arrested for varying degrees of criminal behavior during a 16-month period from 2004 to 2005. Of course, Alabama won the Fulmer Cup in 2008, then won the national championship last year, so maybe a few punks and thugs are necessary.

Fulmer would not necessarily be as lenient as an AD as he was as a football coach, but past behavior is normally a fairly reliable predictor of future behavior, so one would have to think Fulmer might be as slow to run a tight ship now as then.

Thankfully, replacing Hamilton is neither necessary nor eminent at this moment. Some may argue that the only reasons he still has a job is that (a) UT has no permanent president at this time, and (b) powerful booster Jim Haslam is too focused on his son Bill’s gubernatorial campaign to push for Hamilton’s ouster.

Yet Haslam has never been like Auburn’s Wizard of Oz, Bobby Lowder. He may support a UT administrator’s desire for change — Fulmer and Jerry Green come to mind — but he rarely suggests or pushes it.

So no one should expect Hamilton’s job to become more tenuous after the election. But just in case the school ultimately finds itself looking for a new AD, another Big Orange coach with national championship credentials would do the job quite nicely.

And if Pat Summitt were in charge, NCAA charges would be a thing of the past, as would any coach committing them.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273.

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Livn4life said...

I need to know just who is accountable for the fact that the men's basketball team, the football team, and baseball team are all under investigation. Who is charged with maintaining some level of order and control? When does it become more eminent or necessary to consider Mr. Hamilton a little out of control? Will it take major sanctions? How many more embarrassing moments with coaches or cowardly schedule changes are required before someone at UT takes a hard look at it? I am not suggesting the successor be former Coach Fulmer. I just wonder how far we will go.

September 22, 2010 at 6:30 a.m.
Lefty said...

Because you have some limited ability to write, you are now qualifed to determine the qualifications for being an AD? This is more of the same old Wiedmer, slow news day, so I'll do something to anger the Vol fans. You could at least attempt to be impartial, or, you know, hide your disdain for all things orange. This is more of the lazy work we have come to expect from you.

September 22, 2010 at 7:20 a.m.
Rivieravol said...

The only organization that fat slob Fulmer could manage is a Donut shop. Hey Flummo, just go away and take Vicky with you.

September 22, 2010 at 7:25 a.m.
WhitePineVol said...

If I were an athletic director I would put as much of my salary as possible in the bank. You just never know what somebody else is going to do when no one's looking.

September 22, 2010 at 8:05 a.m.
TommyJack said...

FHCPF is right where he belongs. In the background.

September 22, 2010 at 8:17 a.m.

Mark Wiedmer could be the Phillip Fulmer of sports commentary. He's schtick is old, worn, and predictable. Yet he must believe that every reader is reading his words for the first time. Very similar to Fulmer's dogged resistance to innovate and adapt when the game around him was quickly changing.

It's time for our new TFP Executive Editor to move in some fresh, insightful, and challenging commentary. Then, perhaps, Mr. Wiedmer and Mr. Fulmer can partner in an all-you-can eat sour grapes buffett.

September 22, 2010 at 9:07 a.m.
mjo2727 said...

"Thankfully, replacing Hamilton is neither necessary nor eminent at this moment"

The "thankfully" part of this statement is highly debatable, and the "eminent" part is tenuous as a heavier NCAA shoe could fall on the basketball or football program at any moment.

Signing Pearl to a contract that provides unprecedented protection from breaking the rules, and following that up with hiring an unscrupulous mercenary like Kiffin should equate to at least two strikes against Hamilton.

September 22, 2010 at 10:41 a.m.
nitpicker said...

"Eminent"? Certainly not.

"Imminent"? Still unlikely.

September 22, 2010 at 11:10 a.m.
hcirehttae said...

NOT WITH MY TAX DOLLARS DO YOU HIRE HIM -- RE-READ QUOTE BELOW.

But for all the good Fulmer might do in soothing a few boosters’ feelings, two words should keep the Big Orange Nation from ever seriously considering him for athletic director: Fulmer Cup.

An Internet creation of longtime Florida fan and sports blogger Orson Swindle, the Fulmer Cup is given annually to the FBS program that collectively had the worst criminal record.

Swindle started the dubious award in 2006 after 20 UT football players were arrested for varying degrees of criminal behavior during a 16-month period from 2004 to 2005.

September 22, 2010 at 4:45 p.m.
Rivieravol said...

hcirehatte,

I agree with your sentiments about Fulmer. However NO tax dollars are used by the UTAD as it is entirely self-funded by ticket sales and donations.

In fact last week at the Florida game the Athletic Dept presented a check for $10 million to the University.

September 22, 2010 at 6:50 p.m.
Chattt_turner said...

If Fulmer WAS such a good coach, why has NOBODY else hired him? He was treated like Johnny before him. He was in with the crowd that helped push Johnny to the curb. I'm not a Majors fan, but everything you do comes back to haunt you.

September 22, 2010 at 8:27 p.m.
hcirehttae said...

Rivieravol, I concede the factual truth of what you say, but I remind everyone in Tennessee -- there would be no UTK football team without a university being there in Knoxville, and that university would not exist without my tax dollars, and yours and yours and yours. Did private donations pay for the $200 million stadium upgrade? Just to keep things in proper perspective: the university does not exist just so there can be a football team. Wave a wand and without the university, the football team disappears: pfftt! However, make the football team disappear, and nothing happens to the university... except perhaps less bad publicity.

September 22, 2010 at 8:58 p.m.
mjo2727 said...

"However, make the football team disappear, and nothing happens to the university... except perhaps less bad publicity"

Uh.....not exactly. There are only two sports that generate any meaningful amount of revenue 1) football and a distant second, mens basketball. Without football the other sports would be out having bake sales on the strip trying to get money for uniforms. Further, significant university fundraising centers around football. How many more fat checks do you think UT would collect from the Haslems if there was no football program.

Tax dollars notwithstanding.......

September 22, 2010 at 9:45 p.m.
Rivieravol said...

You are correct hcirehttae, without the University there is no Athletic Dept. But yes, to answer your question ALL the stadium improvements were made with non tax dollars.

And mjo2727 to answer your question, the Haslams, unlike some, have given much more to the University than they have the Athletic program.

September 22, 2010 at 10:08 p.m.
AlphaVol said...

Message to the Editor:

Spell check ... there's an app for that.

September 23, 2010 at 9:46 p.m.
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