June 30, 2009

Whispers: Fulmer waiting for right opportunity

Even though he has no team to coach, former Tennessee head man Phillip Fulmer still is trying to just "make a first down."

"Football is what I know," he says. "It's in my blood. That's why I want to coach again."

Fulmer enjoys his new lifestyle, which includes hunting and fishing. He also is a partner in an investment firm with one of his former players. And Fulmer is mulling some offers to do TV work this fall.

"I really have a couple of big decisions with what I am going to do with television," says Fulmer, who spent four years as a player, 13 as an assistant and 17 as coach at Tennessee. "I have to ask myself if I want that significant of an obligation for 16 or 17 weeks."

Fulmer says he had some offers to coach after last season but preferred to take time off to evaluate everything. Would he have interest in coaching at a non-Big Six school?

"All of that remains to be seen," says Fulmer, who says he would have no problem coaching outside the Southeast. "I'd like to be at a place that is committed to competing for championships. I have been on a pretty big stage, and I don't know if I could go to a place that's not committed. I want to coach if the right opportunity presents itself."

Fulmer's lengthy run at Tennessee will look more remarkable as time passes. To have lasted and endured as long as he did in a pressure-cooker job in the top conference in America is remarkable. But Fulmer didn't just survive, he thrived, going 153-51 with seven division crowns, two SEC titles and the 1998 national championship. No doubt, Fulmer one day will be in the College Football Hall of Fame.

One more go-round?
Phillip Fulmer isn't the only former head coach looking for work. Here are some others who would love to coach again.
Gary Barnett
Age: 63
Record: 85-82-1 at Northwestern (1992-98) and Colorado (1999-2005).
Tommy Bowden
Age: 54
Record: 90-49 at Tulane (1997-98) and Clemson (1999-2008).
Bob Davie
Age: 54
Record: 35-25 at Notre Dame (1997-2001).
Gerry DiNardo
Age: 56
Record: 60-76-1 at Vanderbilt (1991-94), LSU (1995-99) and Indiana (2002-04).
Jim Donnan
Age: 64
Record: 104-40 at Marshall (1990-95) and Georgia (1996-2000).
Dennis Franchione
Age: 58
Record: 187-101-2 at Southwestern College (1981-82), Pittsburg (Kan.) State (1985-89), Southwest Texas State (1990-91), New Mexico (1992-97), TCU (1998-2000), Alabama (2001-02), Texas A&M (2003-07).
Glen Mason
Age: 59
Record: 123-121-1 at Kent State (1986-87), Kansas (1988-96) and Minnesota (1997-2006).
Tommy Tuberville
Age: 54
Record: 110-60 at Ole Miss (1995-98) and Auburn (1999-2008).
"You always look back at games and wish you had done some things differently," he says. "I certainly was disappointed it ended the way that it did, and I have some responsibility in that. It's always that way with a head coach the buck stops there. I think anyone would be proud of what we did accomplish. You use it as a learning experience. I had a great time and enjoyed a good run."

If Tennessee had reached a bowl last season, would he still have his job?

"I think so, but I am not the one to answer that," says Fulmer, laughing. "We kind of screwed two or three games up."

So, after missing bowls twice in four seasons, Fulmer was ushered out and Lane Kiffin was hired, signaling a huge culture change in the coaching offices. Kiffin, 34, has hit the ground running, racking up myriad NCAA secondary violations. His brash style offers a stark contrast to the more staid Fulmer.

"People have different styles and it's not my place to get into that," Fulmer says.

So, Fulmer watches and listens, plotting his next move.

"I look at what Rich Brooks has done at Kentucky, and there are a lot of other coaches out there who have done extremely well," Fulmer says. "Somebody will be looking for an experienced guy who has accomplished quit a bit, so we'll see what happens."

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.


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