Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer knows the Volunteers’ program better than anyone in the country, and on Wednesday he went on the Paul Finebaum Show to discuss the past, present and future.
Perhaps most interesting was Fulmer’s answer to why the football program stumbled after he left as coach in 2008.
“It’s just a series of bad decisions that ended up being the issue,” Fulmer said. “We had four presidents in six years. There was no continuity on campus. And all of the sudden, instead of everybody communicating and everybody trusting each other and everybody working together to an end like you see at the programs at the highest level now, it became a program struggle. And then a coach would come in. [Lane] Kiffin left quick, and [Derek] Dooley didn’t stay very long. And it was just a constant flow of change.”
Kiffin succeeded Fulmer as coach in 2009 and stayed one season before going to Southern Cal. Dooley was quickly run out of town after finishing 15-21 in three seasons with the Vols. Butch Jones lasted five years, but he eventually hit a ceiling that was hard to overcome.
“You really have to understand the culture of any place that you go, and I don’t think the people that came in for the most part [understood Tennessee’s culture]. Butch Jones tried to,” Fulmer said. “But to be at the championship level, you’ve got to communicate, you’ve got to trust each other, and everybody has got to work together. And we didn’t have that for seven, eight or nine years around here. It’s better now. It’s much better now.”
Now with Fulmer in place as athletic director and Jeremy Pruitt as coach, the Volunteers perhaps can establish some continuity within the program. Fulmer also praised Pruitt in the interview and expressed a great deal of confidence for the future.
“He’s what we need ― a no-nonsense guy,” he said. “Everything that a coach needs to have done to be a head coach, he’d done it… He was prepared. His energy [is] in recruiting. He’s used to getting the players Tennessee is accustomed to getting.”
You can listen to the full interview here. Fulmer’s portion starts at the 5:03 mark.