Saturday, September 22, 2007


Thoughts on Our Vols

It's been a tough week to be a Volunteer. It's been an even tougher week to be the coach of the Volunteers.

Here are two posts - the second by myself - from, both of which I think sum up the feelings of true Vol fans as we head into the game today with Arkansas State.


From kwyjibo:

Out of curiosity - What is it you folks want from this program?

This is is almost political in tone (which makes a bit of sense, I guess...given where we are and what's involved in the discussion). Everyone assumes an agenda if an opinion or honest critical eye has been run over the situation. The rule of discussing religion and politics certainly applies to Southern football.

For myself, I will find no glee for Fulmer's situation. I think he's done a fine job as coach at Tennessee in the past, and it's obvious he loves this university. Folks often tend to overlook the fact that Fulmer is an alum and lifelong fan, just like so many of us. No one want to see a situation such as Majors' departure arise from this, and I truly believe both coach Fulmer and the university will be careful to see that it doesn't. His efforts deserve better. The university deserves better.

But objective reality is pretty barren here, folks. The trend of this university has been down for several years. We have no titles in the last ten years...and nothing in the last two says this is likely to change. Tennessee cannot win bowl games. Tennessee no longer wins the big game at home. Most recently: Tennessee has completely embarrassed itself on the road, twice, in a two week span. The reality is - UT is in real danger of becoming a second tier SEC program. In fact, I'm not so sure things aren't already there. Folks, this should not be.

I lived through the seventies, remember well the latter part of that decade. Several of the older folks - including myself - have referred to this and the nineties as a point of contrast in the past (See Chris Low's statement on Fulmer spoiling the fans). A reference marker for the current situation. And that might hold water if expectations are now as they were then.

But they aren't. One cannot expect a school to taste the success of the nineties and simply accept that those years were an anomaly. An aberration on the path of Tennessee's historically "moderate" success. Those heights were reached. It can be done again. But the question is: Can the current staff take us there?

Most every university not in Texas, California and Florida will face obstacles to have any real success in the NCAA landscape.

Other schools are having that success. Doing it with recruiting and good coaching. We seem to have plenty of one (So Rivals and Scout's services tell us) and not enough of the other. If a West Virginia, an Ohio State or Oregon can make it happen, there's no reason it cannot happen here.

"Does Fulmer deserve a chance to right the ship?" Low asked this question above. In my opinion, he deserves the rest of this year (he'll get that, anyway...barring a catastrophe). If this program cannot finish the year by winning the rest of its SEC games; If Tennessee cannot find a way to a decent bowl and grab a win there....I believe this university must replace the entire current staff.

My reality is this: I simply do not believe Fulmer can do it. Despite the obligatory interviews to the contrary, this team by most reports is confused and undisciplined. Fulmer has had plenty of time and should have seen the the red flags. If they were ignored, this is a bed of his own making.


From UTLegalEagle:

Excellent post, Jeff.

But I want to answer the question you pose from the outset - "What is it you folks want from this program?"

The answer can probably be summed up in two words - "respect" and "pride." Notice that "wins" wasn't up there, because it really isn't as important. If we had earned the respect of our opponents last weekend, then I wouldn't care if we won or lost. If we could be proud to be wearing the orange and white this week after last weekend's game, then I would consider our program in a positive context. Neither of those two things happened this time around.

Respect must be earned, and we as a program have not done enough over the past 6 years to be respected - either by our opponents or by the national media and fanbase. The younger crowd on this board whines about ESPN not talking about UT. The media is only giving us our just desserts. We have not done enough to be considered with the USC's, LSU's, and Oklahoma's of the country. Quite frankly, UT would have to do more than those schools - and especially the Notre Dame's, Michigan's, and Alabama's of the world - because of the bias that is already present in a media that is predisposed to disrespect UT.

Pride is something that has slowly seeped out of the Tennessee football program. Pride within the program was probably at an all-time high (at least since the days when Neyland roamed the sidelines) when Peyton Manning and Al Wilson were Volunteers in the 1990s. What does it mean to wear the orange & white? Is it special anymore? Yes, there are some kids who play for UT to whom it is obviously more than just a job audition for the NFL. Eric Berry seems to be one of those kids. I thought Jonathan Crompton was one of those kids, and we shall see if that is the case over the next couple of years.

Pride outside of the program will always be a tough one. For whatever reason, the fairweather fan is indigenous to the hills of Tennessee. One can see it most plainly in the Titans crowd. Titans gear is on the backs of their "fans" when they are winning, and it goes into the closet for seasons at a time when they are losing. Those same fans have infiltrated our ranks. These people, in my opinion, weaken the pride that fans who stick with the team through thick and thin have in their program because they create division within the ranks. I've probably gone off on a tangent here...

This past Saturday, for one of maybe 3 times in my life, I had no pride in my bond with the University of Tennessee football program. (1994 vs. Florida would have been another time, as well as the loss to Washington State in 1988, as the 1975 loss to North Texas State was just before my time.) I recovered, though, and proudly wore my traditional UT tie, suspenders, and suit into court on the Friday before gameday this week. Why? Because it's about more than who is coaching Tennessee or who is playing for Tennessee. We are Tennessee, and I'm not giving up on us.

As for our coaching situation, I want someone who can give us pride and earn respect. I would love for that to be someone with a love for Tennessee football and all that it entails. I know that Phil Fulmer loves Tennessee football. I pray that he can turn this around, that we can proudly call him "Coach Fulmer" for years to come. However, like Jeff and so many others, I doubt that he can return the pride, discipline, and identity to Tennessee football. I hope I'm wrong. I hope we run the table, finish the season with 2 losses to Top 10 teams, and play in a quality bowl.

The first step is today. Will Neyland have over 100,000 there today? Will so many people not be proud to be fans of the orange and white? Will so many be so easily dismayed? Will this program take a positive step and take the fight to a team that is certainly not its match? Will they earn the respect of their opponents - today and in the future?

We shall see


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