On Tuesday, former Tennessee head football coach Phillip Fulmer was announced as a first ballot inductee into College Football’s Hall of Fame. What we all knew, all along is now official. Fulmer who put together an amazing 152-52 record as head coach at his alma mater, will join Former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum and former Oklahoma State and Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson as the coaches enshrined. “I’m obviously elated to join such an elite group of players and coaches, it’s such a real honor, and you feel grateful to a lot of people, starting with my family,” Fulmer said. “My wife and my children made some considerable sacrifices , because we did not do it as a job, but as a lifestyle.”
Coach Fulmer, who guided the Vols to the very first BCS National Championship in 1998, will be honored at the induction ceremony in New York City on December 4th. Fulmer and former LSU running back Charles Alexander are the only representatives from the SEC in this year’s class. The fact that Fulmer was elected on his very first ballot, speaks highly for the Winchester, Tennessee native. “That just makes you feel better about what we accomplished. We had so many great players and we won a lot of games, but we did it the right way. We didn’t cheat,” Fulmer added.
Coach Fulmer’s win total of 152 is second only at Tennessee to the late General Robert R. Neyland who won 173 games. Both Neyland and Doug Dickey, one of the two coaches Fulmer played for in Knoxville are already in the Hall of Fame. It obviously took little if any discussion on the selection committee to select Phillip Fulmer. All they had to do, was look at his record, which included two SEC Titles and five SEC East crowns, and the vote should have been a piece of cake.
Since Coach Fulmer prowled the sidelines in Knoxville, things have certainly changed. No longer are the Vols chosen to be a favorite to win the SEC East, in fact, the last time Tennessee won an SEC Championship was in 2007, under Fulmer. The 2012 U.T. squad returns a total of seventeen starters from the team that claimed just one league win in 2001; a hard fought win over Vanderbilt in Knoxville was the only one Coach Derek Dooley’s squad could find in the midst of a 5-7 campaign. Still, one of the first people to call Coach Fulmer to offer congratulations for his Hall of Fame selection was Coach Dooley. Dooley is like just about every other person associated in any way with Tennessee football; he wants to have Coach Fulmer around a lot more. It certainly couldn’t hurt at all.
One thing Tennessee football is missing is having more born and bred Volunteer state players on the roster. Players like Phillip Fulmer, Johnny Majors, and more recently the likes of Spencer Riley, Al Wilson, Chad Clifton and many more. The young men who come to Tennessee, already knowing what it means to put on the orange jersey; young men who value what the University of Tennessee stands for, and young men who will fight to the finish and really, “give their all for Tennessee.”
Phillip Fulmer was one of those young men when he came to U.T. in 1969. After wrapping up four great years as a true Volunteer, he soon began a coaching tenure in Knoxville that would cover twenty-nine more seasons. Former ABC sportscaster Keith Jackson once called Fulmer, “Tennessee to the core.” I am proud to call Phillip Fulmer my friend. Congratulations coach, on a job well done.
Contact Randy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 42 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer, author and is also a media concepts teacher at Red Bank High School in Chattanooga. He is currently teaching an "Intro To Sportscasting" class at Red Bank, the only class of its type in Tennessee. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 10 years. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry Davey and Alison Smith). They also have one grandchild (Coleman).