KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Phillip Fulmer spoke to a full room of Tennessee fans at the weekly Big Orange Tip-Off club Wednesday at Calhoun’s on the River.
Fulmer talked about how much time has passed since he last addressed the group. Yet, things were still very much the same for the club. It honored the best local athletes from the prior week and the members still do their annual pick-em.
There was nostalgia from the 1990s in the air and a want to get the football team back to its winning ways. The Hall of Fame coach-turned-athletic director made it clear he knows why he was hired for this job.
“Obviously, the reason why I’m here is to help fix football,” Fulmer said.
To illustrate the importance of pulling in the same direction, Fulmer told a story about when he was the coach and a meeting with athletic director Doug Dickey. Dickey told the all coaches to go out the door if they weren’t prepared to be cohesive and win.
He also told a story about the 1994 season and the resolve of a young team, making a comparison to what the basketball team is doing this season. He said that ’94 team was one of his favorites. It was young and started the season 1-3, but finished by winning seven of its final eight games. He credited the team with laying the foundation for successful seasons to come.
Fulmer is in charge of the entire athletic department. Make no mistake, though, football comes first with Fulmer.
It probably should get the most attention from the administration. Fulmer’s tenure will be measured on the success of the football team.
The football program draws around 100,000 fans to campus on six Saturdays each fall. The ticket sales from football account for 21 percent of the athletic department’s revenue.
Fulmer appears to be all about moving the football team forward after “wandering in the desert” the last nine seasons. He obviously feels that his hire of Jeremy Pruitt will bring the Vols back to national relevance.
“I’m not going to be critical of anyone necessarily that’s been here,” Fulmer said. “But it’s great to have someone that knows what it looks like. Between our staff, there are like 11 National Championships there, not me included.”
Pruitt’s résumé stood out to Fulmer. His focus on defense and championship pedigree set him apart from the other candidates Fulmer interviewed.
Pruitt isn’t full of personality and that trait, Fulmer believes, is what Volnation needs.
“He is not a fluffy person,” Fulmer said. “You can take all the fluff out. He’s about football and recruiting and that’s what we need right now.”
Football always will be king on Rocky Top even when times are bad. There is a man in charge who looks like he’ll do whatever it takes to get the program back on track. It’s practically the only job description for him.
“That’s my main responsibility here,” Fulmer said. “To get the engine going that makes everything else work at UT.”
The post Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer clear about his mission: ‘Help fix football’ appeared first on SEC Country.
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