Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Look Ahead At Next Possible UT Football Coach

Fulmer, in his 16th season as head coach, is under fire after a 2-3 start. With games remaining at Georgia, Alabama, at South Carolina, Wyoming, at Vanderbilt and Kentucky, it's possible the Vols could have their second losing record in the past four seasons. Conceivably, they could lose all but the game against the Wyoming Cowboys and I can't even be too certain about a win over them either. I do know coach Joe Glenn will have them ready to go. I think Phil Fulmer's chances of coming back after this year are 50/50 with the way things are going now. It has become so bad that now the Athletic Director is making the call on who is to start at quarterback and they are also lying about their attendance figures at games and even then those figures are below what one would expect at UT games. If public pressure becomes enough, Mike Hamilton may have no choice but to concede and buy out his contract.

While the Vols won the SEC East last season, Fulmer hasn't guided Tennessee to an SEC title since 1998, the year the Vols also won the national championship. Since then, Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Auburn have won SEC crowns.

But remember that Fulmer signed a contract extension in the offseason, and he has a hefty buyout. Published reports indicate Fulmer would be owed $6 million, payable in 48 months. The first payment would be due the month after he is let go.

If Tennessee does replace Fulmer, among the early names being bandied about are recently fired Oakland Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly, Missouri's Gary Pinkel, USF's Jim Leavitt, and Boise State's Chris Petersen to name a few.

Given Kiffin's connections to the West Coast, I think he would prefer to stay there particularly if the Washington or Washington State head coaching position were to become available at season's end.

Brian Kelly in my opinion of this group is the most likely candidate for the Volunteers head coaching position given his proximity to Knoxville and his proven track record of turning around programs.

Gary Pinkel is also a good possibility, but I'm certain Missouri will up the ante to keep him.

Leavitt signed an extension this past Spring that would pay him $12.6 million from the 2008–2014 seasons, with the annual starting salary of $1.5 million increasing by $100,000 each contract year.

Chris Peterson also is under contract through 2012 with a salary of around $850,000 a year.

Another possibility is Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen. He's the architect of a Tigers attack that arguably is the best in the nation with quarterback Chase Daniels leading the way. And he soon figures to be a head coach. Christensen interviewed for the Washington State job last season, but the position was not appealing to him. He was on an early list for the SMU job but never got seriously involved. All of that will change this offseason for Christensen.

A distant possibility would be Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, who was a graduate assistant in Knoxville in 1986-87 and whose wife is a former Tennessee cheerleader. But a distant possibility nonetheless.

In any event, it will take millions to buy-out Fulmer's contract and millions more to bring in a halfway respectable head coach. All the great ones will not be coming here since their current school would simply give them a bigger raise if they aren't under a long-term contact already. So forget Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll, etc...

I would like to have a coach who respects UT's history and traditions, but will bring new ideas and not be afraid to buck the system when such a situation warrants it. My major concern is that even during the coaching search, UT could screw it up. Suppose the administration doesn't properly prepare in searching for prospective candidates and they end up being played like a classic carrot and stick story. In the end, we may have to settle for a second rate coach that was overpaid due to not getting "our guy" in the first place especially if a new coach isn't selected before national signing day.

Of course, they are always free to contact me. I'm interested in a career change and understand the nuances of football as well as anyone around. I just didn't get to play much in high school due to my small size (5'5", 130 pounds at the time) and usually coaches get their starts because they played in high school and/or college. Who knows! Only time will tell how things go, but whatever happens happens.


Anonymous said...

For all of you who are so enamored with a head coaching change in Knoxville, please remember that it took Alabama 6 coaching changes to get it right, Georgia 3 and Florida 2. Getting rid of Phil is no guarnatee of championships. Blow it up and you may not get what you want any time soon.

Chris F. said...

There are no guarantees in life. Of course, Tennessee hasn't won a SEC Championship in ten years. So there you go. But Phil has done about all he can. His refusal to adapt to the changes in today's game not to mention his complacency has this team unprepared from week to week and unable to even do anything halfway decent against small colleges like Northern Illinois.

He is like John McCain in that he always brings up the past as why we should be content with his present results.