Phil Fulmer played in the Offensive Line for the Tennessee Volunteers and he took over for Johnny Majors as head coach in 1992. In 1998, Fulmer led the Volunteers to the national championship. Fulmer’s Vols posted a 10-3 record in both 2003 and 2004. Problems occured in 2005 when Tennessee only won 5 games while losing 6.
Fulmer was not done yet with the team rebounding and winning 9 games and then 10 in 2006 and 2007. The losing was not over and Fulmer’s Volunteers had to settle for another 5-7 record in 2008.
The Tennessee powers that be had had enough by then and they fired Fulmer.
Was that a mistake? In a 17 year period, Fulmer led the Volunteers to a 152 -52 record.
When Fulmer was gone, they hired Lane Kiffin who only coached in Knoxville for one season before departing for USC when Pete Carroll took off for Seattle. Kiffin’s only year at Tennessee produced a 7-6 record.
The move caught the Tennessee Vols completely off guard and they desperately needed a new coach. But, their next move was rather strange. The Louisiana Tech coach had compiled a 5-7, 8-5 and a 4-8 three year record. Maybe they hired the guy because his name was Derek Dooley and he’s the son of long time Georgia Bulldog coach, Vince Dooley. A legend at Georgia, maybe the Vols figured his son could become a legend as well.
He didn’t, and they fired him after three very miserable years in Knoxville. His best season was actually his first when the team won 6 games and lost 7. From there, it was 5-7 and then 4-7.
From there, they went with Butch Jones from Cincinnati. Jones had a good record with a 27-13 record at Central Michigan and then a 23-14 record at Cincinnati.
At Tennessee, he led the Vols to a 5-7 record in his first season in 2013. But, Jones and his staff could recruit and he started stockpiling talent. But, it takes time for that talent to come in and mature and help turn a program around. Fans don’t like to hear that, but it’s not done overnight.
His second year was better and they finished with a 7-6 record, but it all changed when they inserted Quarterback Joshua Dobbs into the lineup. Tennessee started the 2014 season with a 3-4 record, but with Dobbs they finished with a 4-2 record. One of the losses came against Alabama and Dobbs did not start, but he almost led them from behind to upset the Crimson Tide.
Tennessee hurt the Hawkeyes in their bowl game and the hopes for the 2015 season were sky high.
But, the 2015 season didn’t start off so well. The Vols beat Bowling Green, but then lost to Oklahoma in Overtime. The beat the standard SEC sacrificial lamb, Western Kentucky easily, but then lost to Florida yet again. As if that wasn’t enough, they then lost to Arkansas to bring their record to a disappointing 2 wins and 3 losses.
They beat Georgia, to even their record, and then lost to Alabama in a hard fought battle. That was their last loss of the season and again they pounded a Big 10 team in their bowl game and again their future looked great.
Recruiting was still going well and 2016 was going to be their year.
But, things didn’t quite work out that way.
The Volunteers opened their season at home against Appalachian State and it should have been a walk in the park. However, the Mountaineers outplayed Tennessee almost the entire game before the Vols won in Overtime, 20-13. That’s all right, because Appalachian State is a Sun Belt Powerhouse, right? Wrong, Miami beat them 45-10 just two games later.
The next Tennessee game was one that people had been waiting on for a while. It was the Volunteers of Tennessee against the Hokies of Virginia Tech and it was to be played at Bristol in front of the largest crowd to ever see a football game.
156,990 fans showed up, but as far as I could tell none ofthem could see the game very well.
The Vols beat Virginia Tech, 45-24, but that was new Hokie coach Justin Fuente’s second game.
Ohio was next. There was no State on the end of Ohio, it was just Ohio as in the Bobcats not the Buckeyes. Tennessee had to score late to win, 28-19. A win is a win sometimes.
Florida had beaten Tennessee 11 straight times and the Vols really needed to stop that streak. They did just that after falling behind 21-0. Tennessee came back and earned the victory, 38-28.
The following week, Tennessee advanced to 5-0 on the year with a very fortunate Hail Mary pass to beat Georgia, 34-31. The Bulldogs thought they had just won that game with less than a minute left on the clock, but it was not to be.
The undefeated Volunteers went into College Station, Texas to play the also undefeated Aggies. It was the Vols first loss of the season when Quarterback Josh Dobbs threw a pick in Overtime.
There was never any doubt against Alabama and the Tide rolling, 49-10.
Those 2 losses may have been somewhat acceptable because both of those teams were unbeaten. But, then, the Vols went to Columbia, South Carolina and lost to the Gamecocks of South Carolina, 21-24. The Gamecocks have not been very good this season and the Volunteers expected a win here.
5-3 after 3 losses in a row was just not going to get it done in Knoxville.
It’s been thought far and wide that the SEC is the best conference in the land for a while, but it’s really not right now. Alabama, of course, is still super strong. LSU, Auburn and maybe Texas A%M are pretty good right now, but LSU and Auburn were not good earlier in the year. The East, in particular, is very weak this season with Florida in the driver’s seat and Kentucky as next in line. Yes, that Kentucky that hasn’t had a winning season in a while.
The SEC East title was there for the taking for the Tennessee Volunteers.
They have Tennessee Tech next and will move back into the winning column. Closing out with Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt should bring 3 more wins. But, with this team you never know. Kentucky has more to play for than the Vols. Missouri just wants the season to end mercifully. But, Vanderbilt both doesn’t like Tennessee, and they also want to qualify for a bowl game and they will need that 6th win to get there. The Commodores are sitting at 4-4 right now, with an outside chance .
Is Tennessee head coach Butch Jones in the hot seat? Is he skating on thin ice? I’m sure that most Vol fans think they can do better. He has some talent and his recruiting has been outstanding.
I don’t see Tennessee firing Butch Jones, but stranger things have happened. Nebraska fired their coach after 9-3 seasons twice. The LSU Tigers just fired long time coach Les Miles after a 9-3 season. The
Georgia Bulldogs fired Mark Richt after also going 9-3 last season. It depends on how angry the big money donors are with Jones.
He’s finally beaten Florida, but he’s probably not ever going to beat Alabama. But, neither would any other coach they would hire. There are already articles out on the internet proclaiming that Butch Jones is not qualified for the job and should be fired.
Knoxville, Tennessee is easily the most scenic city where an SEC school is located and possibly they could attract a super coach that could make the Volunteers the powerhouse they were in the past.
I don’t believe he should be fired, but I do also believe that they should have won the SEC East and they apparently have some internal issues. Jalen Hurd leaving with 4 games left indicates something behind the scenes.
If they happen to lose one, or more, of their final games then all bets are off.