Head Coach
University of Tennessee Volunteers
National Champions

Phillip Fulmer

By Sports Stars USA

Year: 2000

Phillip Fulmer's seventh season as Tennessee's head football coach was replete with landmark achievements: guiding his team to the 1998 National Championship, garnering Coach-of-the-Year honors and maintaining his rank for the best won-lost record in the NCAA.

Unwilling to write off 1998 as a rebuilding year, Phillip Fulmer patched some huge holes in the Tennessee football lineup and directed the Vols to an undefeated season and unanimous selection as college football's National Champions.

Phillip Fulmer, who began the year with the best coaching record in the nation, emerged with his first-place standing enhanced by a 13-0 mark that provided a second straight Southeastern Conference Championship.

The Vols, ranked first in both the writers and coaches polls, took their No. 1 position in the Bowl Championship Series into the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and defeated No. 2-ranked Florida State in the first officially recognized National Championship Game, 23-16.

1998 National Champions
Phillip Fulmer says it all, as Tennessee wins the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl by beating No. 2 Florida State 23-16 on Jan. 4, 1999. (AP)

A team with a patented ability to come through in clutch situa-tions, the Vols closed out their perfect year against the Seminoles before a record Fiesta Bowl crowd at Tempe, Ariz., Jan. 4. They had marched into the postseason with a come-from-behind 24-14 triumph over Mississippi State in the SEC title game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Fulmer's seven-year record at Tennessee is a glittering 67-11 for a percentage of .859.

In recognition of the incredible feat of guiding the Vols undefeat-ed through a schedule that included three teams in the top 10 and three more ranked 25th or better, Fulmer was named coach of the year on both national and SEC levels.

When Phillip Fulmer became eligible for NCAA head coach rankings, after five years in charge of the Tennessee program, he debuted in second place behind Nebraska's Tom Osborne. With Osborne's retirement after the 1997 season, Fulmer moved into first place. Coach Fulmer widened the margin over his closest pursuer with the Vols' 1998 all-winning performance.

Most sports pundits wrote off Tennessee's chances for a stellar season when they looked over the depletion-riddled Vol roster last summer. A "rebuilding" project appeared in order with the loss of the All-America quarterback, an All-America defensive end, the team's most accomplished wide receiver and the bulk of the defen-sive unit.

But Phillip Fulmer, exhibiting his trademark patience, saw the recon-struction as an opportunity to expose younger members of the team to the battlefield experience for which they were being trained. Now Tennessee's string of quality recruiting classes would be brought to the test.

Tennessee survived its first two obstacles, nationally ranked Syracuse and Florida, by a whisker. As the young players gained experience and Tee Martin settled in comfortably at quarterback, the Vols' confidence mounted. When the final victory was notched, Fulmer attributed his team's success to the squad's disciplined approach to its work.

"They listened to their coaches, never took anything for granted and determined to find a way to win, even in some games where the situation looked bleak in the closing moments," said Fulmer.

Phillip Fulmer's brilliant coaching record included these other accom-plishments:

Phil Fulmer
Phillip Fulmer leads his troops into battle at Knoxville. Just before the game begins, the Tennessee Volunteers run thru a giant T that the Pride of the Southland Marching Band makes on the field. The noise is so loud by the crowd of 107,000 screaming fans, that you can't hear the fireworks go off as they enter. (AP)

A total of 64 academic All-SEC honorees the past four years, including 19 in 1998.
The No. 1 ranking in the AP poll for the remainder of the season.
The first Tennessee team ever to post 13 victories in a single season, a record in 1998 that included a Southeastern Conference Championship Game and a Fiesta Bowl appearance for the nation-al title.
A record of 45-5 from 1995 through 1998, the most victories over a four-year span in the school's history.
Four consecutive seasons of 10 victories or more from 1995 through 1998.
A total of 27 All-SEC players the past four years, including eight in 1998.
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 seven against Georgia, four against Alabama, six against South Carolina, 14 against Kentucky and 16 against Vanderbilt.

Phillip 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.

Notching a second straight SEC title carries special meaning for Phillip Fulmer, the 48-year-old native of Winchester, Tennessee, who played in the offensive line for the Vols and then came back as an assistant coach before being promoted to head coach in 1992. "Winning championships is always a goal when you're coaching football," Fulmer said.

Phillip Fulmer's Tennessee teams have been uniformly explosive and balanced on offense and stingy on defense. They reflect the coach's dedication to solid fundamentals, including that hallowed Tennessee tradition, the kicking game. Fulmer's sound coaching formula has produced fan-pleasing spectacles that resulted in a sold-out Neyland Stadium for every game in 1998. A school record crowd of 107,653 attended the Sept. 19 match with Florida.

During Phillip Fulmer's years as offensive coordinator, the Vols consis-tently broke team total offense records and were ranked one or two in the SEC. Records have fallen with even greater frequency since he became head coach. While serving as offensive line coach, Fulmer saw 17 of his charges join the ranks of the NFL, including two first round picks, Antone Davis and Charles McRae. Year after year with Phillip Fulmer as head coach, Tennessee continues to stand in the top ranks of college football for graduating players who go on to careers in the professional game. Recent examples include running backs Aaron Hayden, James Stewart and Jay Graham. The 1998 rookie crop found last years seniors, including No. 1 pick Peyton Manning, among the top choices of the NFL talent scouts, along with seven other drafted Vols such as first round picks Terry Fair and Marcus Nash.

Phillip Fulmer (Senior 1971)
Tennessee's Senior Phillip Fulmer 6-1, 215, played offensive guard in 1971. Fulmer is from Winchester, Tennessee.

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

Phillip Fulmer, who served 13 years as a Vol assistant beginning in 1980, is number 20 in a line of Tennessee head coaches that began with the incumbency of J.A. Pierce at the turn of the century. The deci-sion to elevate Phillip Fulmer came five seasons after he was appointed assistant head coach and three seasons after he became offensive coordinator. Long recognized as a molder of premier offensive lines and as a relentless recruiter, Fulmer smoothly made the necessary transition that marks the differences between the duties of a top assistant coach and the man at the head of the program.

Aware that Saturday afternoons are the most important factor in any coach's career report card, Phillip Fulmer regards development of good citizenship attitudes as compatible and consistent with team goals. Oft-field and on-field achievements should go hand-in-hand, he feels.

Phillip Fulmer considers such experiences essential to the education process of Vol football players. "It helps the players become more account-able, more responsible. There are many good things that can be done. I think it's our responsibility to provide our players the oppor-tunity for community service and community involvement."

Almost three decades ago, Phillip Fulmer was a competent blocker on three UT teams that ended their seasons gracing holiday bowl extravaganzas. Fulmer served as a team captain his senior year. Phillip Fulmer spent the next year as a graduate assistant.

As an offensive guard, Phillip Fulmer helped Tennessee to a 30-5 record from 1969-71. The Vols captured the SEC championship with a 9-2 record in 1969, went 11-1 and won the Sugar Bowl in 1970 and fin-ished as the Liberty Bowl champions with a 10-2 record in 1971, a season which ended Fulmer's playing career. Phillip Fulmer began coach-ing as a graduate assistant in 1972. Fulmer 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 him, Phillip Fulmer was employed at Vanderbilt University as an aide to Commodore Head Coach George Maclntyre. Before landing in Nashville, Fulmer had spent five years at Wichita State, where he coached the offensive line in 1974, 1977-78 and served as linebacker coach in 1975 and 1976. former Vicky Morey and has four children: Phillip Jr., Courtney, Brittany and Allison.

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