Q&A: Fulmer believes Blackburn would be 'outstanding' athletic director for Vols

Q&A: Fulmer believes Blackburn would be 'outstanding' athletic director for Vols

December 14th, 2016 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Former head coach Phil Fulmer greets referees at halftime of the Tennessee homecoming football game in Knoxville in mid-November, 2015.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/22/15. Former UT football coach Phil Fulmer speaks during a groundbreaking event for Erlanger East Hospital's new $50-million expansion that will include a new patient tower with additional beds, operating rooms and a cauterization suite. The hospital also plans to launch a mile long walking trail which they are calling a "pathway to better health".

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Tennessee's football team halted an 11-year losing streak against Florida, beat Georgia on a Hail Mary and got to No. 9 in the country before losing four of its last seven games, including stunning setbacks against South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Former Volunteers coach Phillip Fulmer discussed year four under Butch Jones and more Tuesday afternoon as a guest of "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 FM.

Q: So, how should Tennessee fans feel about this season?

A: "It just depends on whether you want to look at it as the glass being half full or half empty. Eight wins in a season is good. It's not great at Tennessee, but it's good. They could end up with nine wins, and that's good. We had the East basically locked up if we beat two teams that we were better than — at least we were at the beginning of the season — but the truth of it is, injuries played a tremendous part in this football season.

"I don't think it's an excuse, but it's a reason that you have to look at. I'm sure Butch is going through all you have to go through to evaluate your team and coaches. They didn't achieve all that they wanted to achieve, but I had some seasons like that. I had some seasons where winning eight may have been your best coaching job."

Q: Do you attribute injuries to just catching up with the defense and it falling off the table the last three games?

A: "Injuries were certainly a part of it, but it's not the total reason. We lost our punch there at the end of the season for sure. Maybe the offense could have run more clock and slowed things down for the defense a little more, or maybe they could have played more base defense and not allowed so many chunks and chunks of yards.

"We allowed almost 2,000 yards in the last three games. That's a lot of yards, and as much as it bothers all of us as fans and former coaches, it bothers our coaches and players a lot more. They'll work on getting that fixed."

Q: Is there a disconnect with Butch Jones, who can be robotic in news conferences, and passionate Tennessee fans after tough losses?

A: "Everybody has to be their own personality, and you can't be something you're not. As a coach you get guarded, because you get ambushed so many times. One thing you may have meant one way can get construed differently sometimes. I have not listened to or watched his postgame stuff, but I would just encourage him to be himself.

"I've seen him plenty emotional before, but I don't know what happens in the postgame things. There are so many things running through your mind after a tough loss, and I think he has owned up to losses. In the end, it's your responsibility as the head coach."

Q: How amazed are you by what Nick Saban has accomplished in the last decade at Alabama?

A: "It is amazing. They have a process that they are very proud of, and we all better pay attention to that. From the president to the athletic director, Coach (Bill) Battle, and all the way through the system, they all have one purpose. Honestly, we were there. We didn't win three out of four national championships, but we were 100 percent on the same page, from the president to the athletic director to the coaches to the support staff.

"We were all in tune, but then we melted internally, and I think we're just now getting back to that. To answer your question, what he's done is amazing."

Q: Where would you rank Josh Dobbs among Tennessee's all-time quarterbacks?

A: "He's one of the better ones, certainly. You would like to think he could throw the football a little bit better, but he's certainly made a lot of plays. If we don't have Josh Dobbs, we may win three games. He had a great year, particularly after we got beat up a little bit. He carried the whole football team on his back.

"There are a couple of teams I would have loved to have had Josh Dobbs on."

Q: Tennessee was picked to win the East and obviously didn't. Do you think the Vols can challenge next year?

A: "I think the East is not very good right now overall. It will be better next year, and we should be as good. We'll miss our quarterback, and we'll miss (tailback Alvin) Kamara, who'll probably go out early, but Tennessee should be in the mix most of the time. Florida and Georgia are going to be better, so it will be interesting."

Q: You and David Blackburn go way back. Would you like to see him as Tennessee's next athletic director?

A: "I love David, and he did a great job for me here, and he's done a great job for Tennessee and now UT-Chattanooga. He would want me to say that he's got a job right now that is very important to him, and as far as the process, I just want to help if I can or if anybody asks. I think David would be a good candidate.

"I'm sure there are other people out there, and the chancellor will have a lot to say about all of that, but I think David would be outstanding."

Q: Have they asked you for input?

A: "I've had lots of conversation around, thank goodness. I've said this before, but everybody who fired me got fired, so I'm really engaged with the university again and glad to be that way."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.