Phil Fulmer

Phil Fulmer
The University of Tennessee Volunteers head coach Phillip Fulmer has been coach since 1993 with a record of 76-14.

By Gabe Correa - Smokey's Trail
Jan. 28, 2000

Phillip Fulmer enters his ninth season as Tennessee's head coach with a national title. The 98 season, Fulmer led the Vols to a 13-0 record. The Vols were undefeated going in the Fiesta Bowl as they won the first BCS (Bowl Championship Series), beating Florida State 23-16. Florida State was the No. 1 team in passing defense and the No. 2 in rushing, and scoring defense. The 1998 Tennessee Volunteers were a special team, because they played as a whole on both sides of the ball.

They were underdogs in most of the 7 rank teams they played. They showed how you play football at it's best, with leadership, never say die attitude and with fierce defense each game. Fulmer, 48, became National Coach Of The Year in 1998 and has amassed an impressive record during his nine seasons at Tennessee. His .844 winning percentage is first in active Division 1A coaches .

Winningest Active Div. 1-A Coaches
Coach School Win Lost Tied Pct.
Phil Fulmer Tennessee 76 14 0 .844
Joe Paterno Penn State 317 83 3 .792
Bobby Bowden Florida State 304 85 4 .781
Steve Spurrier Florida 122 35 2 .777
R.C. Slocum Texas A&M 102 31 2 .766

Phil Fulmer Family
Phillip Fulmer and Vicky with
Brittany, Courtney, and Allison

Under Fulmer in 98 season, the Vols recorded their fourth top 10 finish and 10-victory season in a row. In 1998, Fulmer guided the Vols to a No. 1 ranking before the Fiesta Bowl and won the national title by beating Florida State 23-16.

With a 13-0 record in 1998, Fulmer brought his overall mark at Tennessee to 67-11. Only Bob Neyland and John Barnhill posted better winning percentages at Tennessee than Fulmer has at this stage of his career. Fulmer applauded his coaching staff and all elements of the squad who played a role in earning the Vols there second SEC Championship title since 1990. The Vols in 98 ended up with a 8-0 record in the Southeastern Conference.

Tennessee under Fulmer has shattered a batch of Vol records. In 1997, Manning, passed for 3819 yards, second highest single season record. SEC Championship Game MVP after 373-yard, SEC passing four TD performance. Set school record with 523 yards passing with five TD passes against Kentucky earning SEC Player of the Week . Thrown for at least 300 yards in nine games. Ranks third in NCAA history in career passing yards and fourth in touchdown passes. Peyton Manning broke 42 records in the 4 years at Tennessee.

Fulmer's Head Coaching Record
Season School Won Lost Tied Pct.
1992 Tennessee 4 0 0 1.000
1993 Tennessee 10 2 0 .833
1994 Tennessee 8 4 0 .667
1995 Tennessee 11 1 0 .917
1996 Tennessee 10 2 0 .833
1997 Tennessee 11 2 0 .846
1998 Tennessee 13 0 0 1.000
1999 Tennessee 9 3 0 .750
Totals: 76 14 0 .844

    Fulmer’s brilliant coaching record included these other accomplishments:
  • A total of 45 academic All-SEC honorees the past three years, including 18 in 1997.
  • The No. 1 ranking in the AP poll for the remainder of the 1998 regular season starting with the balloting of Nov. 7.
  • The first Tennessee team to post an 11-0 record since the 1938 team went through the regular season and a bowl game undefeated.
  • A record of 52-8 from 1995 through 1999, the most victories over a five-year span in the school’s history.
  • Four consecutive seasons of 10 victories or more from 1995 through 1998.
  • A total of 19 All-SEC players the past three years, including eight in 1997.
  • A winning percentage that is the highest for any head coach in Vol football annals, putting Fulmer ahead of John Barnhill, who had held the top spot until the 1998 season.
  • Reaching the 50-victory mark earlier in his career than any coach in Southeastern Conference history.
  • Outstanding performances against traditional foes that have seen UT compile victory strings that have reached eight against Georgia, five against Alabama, seven against South Carolina, 15 against Kentucky and 17 against Vanderbilt.

Fulmer’s record becomes all the more remarkable because of the rugged gauntlet of opponents faced by the Vols. Tennessee’s schedule is ranked among the toughest in the nation in a variety of ratings. In addition to the demanding SEC slate, the Vols stray far from home to meet such traditional national powerhouses as Notre Dame, UCLA and Syracuse.

In 1993, Fulmer's first full season as head coach, Tennessee's offense smashed a ton of team records and wiped out even some storied Southeastern Conference standards. Fulmer's coaching colleagues named him NCAA Region III Coach of the Year and in 1998 he was National Coach of the year (FWAA, AFCA, The Sporting News, Maxwell Football Club); Southeastern Conference Coach of the year 1998 (Coaches, Associated Press); State Farm Eddie Robinson National Coach of Distinction Award 1999.

Long recognized as a molder of premier offensive lines and as a relentless recruiter, Fulmer made the necessary adjustments that mark the differences between the duties of a top assistant coach and the man at the head of the program. During Fulmer's years as offensive coordinator, the Vols consistently broke team total offense records and were regularly ranked first or second in the Southeastern Conference.

While serving as offensive line coach, he saw 17 of his charges join the ranks of the NFL, including two first round picks, Antone Davis and Charles McRae. He also was part of a staff tutoring such offensive standouts as wide receivers Carl Pickens and Alvin Harper, running backs Reggie Cobb, Chuck Webb and Charlie Garner and quarterbacks Andy Kelly and Heath Shuler. For the 98 draft we see quarterback Peyton Manning, Terry Fair defensive back and Marcus Nash wide receiver going in the first round picks. The draft going seven rounds pickup five more players for Tennessee in 98, they are: Leonard Little (LB), Jonathan Brown (DE), Trey Teague (C), Andy McCullough (WR), and Cory Gaines (DB).

For the 99 draft in the first round pick (Vision leader, All-America) Al Wilson (LB), and going six more rounds pickup (MVP Fiesta Bowl) Peerless Price (WR) 2nd, Shawn Bryson (RB) 3rd, Jeff Hall (K) 6th, Steve Johnson (DB) 6th and Corey Terry (LB) 7th. The total of players in 99 are eight counting two that went to free agents, they are: Jeremaine Copeland (WR) and Jeff Coleman (DE).

For the 2000 draft we see running-back Jamal Lewis and defensive end Shaun Ellis going in the first round picks. In the next five rounds in the draft, are pick seven more players for Tennessee in 2000, they are: Raynoch Thompson (LB) 2nd, Chad Clifton (OT) 2nd, Dwayne Goodrich (DB) 2nd, Cosey Coleman (OG) 2nd, Deon Grant (DB) 2nd, Darwin Walker (DT) 3rd and Tee Martin (QB) 5th.

Tennessee has a total of 13-players in 00 going into the draft counting four players as free agents, they are: Mikki Allen (DB), Phillip Crosby (RB), Spencer Riley (C) and Fred White (DB).

The Jacobs Trophy, emblematic of the best blocker in the SEC, was voted to three of the All-America selections--Harry Galbreath in 1987, Eric Still in 1989 and Antone Davis in 1990.

Aware that Saturday afternoons are the most important factor in any coach's career report card, Fulmer regards development of good citizenship attitudes as compatible and consistent with team goals.

Our staff and players have been extremely involved doing things in our community," Fulmer says. They visit schools, Boys Clubs, retirement homes, civic clubs and hospitals. We have even visited a medium security prison.

Almost three decades ago, Fulmer was a competent blocker on three UT teams that ended their seasons gracing holiday bowl extravaganzas. He served as a team captain his senior year. Phillip spent the next couple of years as a graduate assistant. He was recruited by current Vol athletic director Doug Dickey.

As an offensive guard, Fulmer helped Tennessee to a 30-5 record from 1969-71. The Vols won the SEC championship with a 9-2 record in 1969, went 11-1 and won the Sugar Bowl in 1970 and finished as the Liberty Bowl champions with a 10-2 record in 1971, a season which ended Fulmer's playing career.

Fulmer began coaching as a graduate assistant in 1972. He served as linebacker coach and defensive coordinator for the Tennessee freshman team in 1973 and moved on to Wichita State the following season.

At the time Tennessee hired the Winchester, Tenn., product as offensive line coach, Fulmer was employed at Vanderbilt University as an aide to Commodore Head Coach George MacIntyre in 1979. Before landing in Nashville, he had spent five years at Wichita State, where he coached the offensive line in 1974, served as linebacker coach in 1975 and 1976 and tutored the offensive line again in 1977 and 1978.

Phillip Fulmer Way

In 1980 Fulmer was hired by Johnny Majors, the man he would replace. Majors had heart problems before the 1992 season and Fulmer took over as interim coach. The Vols started 3-0, upsetting Georgia and Florida.

Without telling anyone, Majors reappeared at work after the Florida win, sensing that if he didn't come back, Fulmer might replace him. The Vols then embarked on a three-game SEC losing streak, leading the UT administration to fire Majors. Under difficult conditions, Fulmer took over.

Fulmer has always been a determined recruiter, as evidenced by the steady stream of blue-chip recruits he and his staff have attracted to Knoxville. Since he took over, the Volunteers have produced six first-round NFL draft picks and 34 All-SEC selections, most notably Peyton Manning. For next season, Fulmer has landed A.J. Suggs, another highly touted signal-caller, from Georgia.

98 National Champions

Phillip Fulmer, University of Tennessee head football coach, and Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe talk at the corner of Phillip Fulmer Way and South Stadium Drive following a special meeting of City Council at which it voted to rename a portion of Stadium Drive as Phillip Fulmer Way. Council renamed Stadium Drive between Cumberland Avenue and Lake Loudon Boulevard to honor Fulmer, whose undefeated team was crowned undisputed national champions last year.

Fulmer " moved the UT football team to the next level while maintaining a clean and honest program that all Volunteer fans can be proud of, " Ashe said. " Renaming this street, which thousands of fans use on football Saturdays to get to Neyland Stadium, is a fitting tribute to Coach Fulmer's accomplishments.

Two years ago, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he pulled into a Knoxville gas station where he and an attendant struck up a conversation about the Vols. "Until they get rid of that Fulmer guy, they will never do anything," the attendant said. Fulmer smiled and nodded before speeding away.

Fulmer's philosophy is" Recruit good players, coach them hard with discipline and win football games. That's what we've done. It's worked." Phillip Fulmer said when he took over the head coaching job that he would take the Vol program to the next level and has amassed the best winning percentage of any active Division 1-A coach along the way, he's a player coach of The University of Tennessee. Has he kept his promise? You bet he has!!!

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