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Saturday, November 29, 2008
Thank you, Phil Fulmer

Phil Fulmer: "I'll always be a Vol!"

Yes, Phil, yes you will. Thank you for 17 great years. In your final moments as head coach, you showed class, dignity and respect. Just as you did for your entire tenure.

You will be missed, sir. You may be gone, but you will never be forgotten.

Congratulations on going out on a win. And for keeping the win streak in tact over UK!

GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/29/2008 08:38:00 PM | |

The End Of An Era
Back in the day, when I started matriculating at UT, the coach of the Volunteers was Johnny Majors. Now some of you may not recall this, but once upon a time, we didn't have seventeen ESPNs and a zillion and one nationally televised SEC games a week. Which growing up moving around in different regions of our country meant I didn't have the opportunity to see Tennessee play every week. (Tragic, I know...)

But I knew who our coach was. I recall vividly my dad taking me to the old Blue/Grey game one year when we lived in Alabama (a fact I refuse to acknowledge each third weekend in October) and that Majors was there on the sidelines, coaching the southern all-stars in the game. I don't recall who won, but I remember being proud that the coach of the college I wanted to attend was the guy leading this all-star team.

One thing I always counted on was seeing UT in bowl games--and I'm fairly certain I saw UT upset Miami in one of the biggest (to that point) games in our history. I also knew that my wearing orange to school really annoyed my senior AP English teacher, who was from Kentucky. I heard about it every time I wore my orange sweat shirt.

When I stepped onto campus, our coach was Johnny Majors.

That lasted one year. In my sophomore years, Majors had some health problems and had to turn the reigns over to his assistant coach, Phillip Fulmer. I know there was some concern in Vol nation about what this might mean, but those were quickly put to rest when we promptly went out and demolished Florida. We them put together a nice little win streak, climbed in the polls and looked set to be ready to go out and cast off the ugly burden of losing far too many in a row to Alabama. And then, Majors got better, came back and lost to Alabama, Arkansas and then South Carolina. I recall being in Neyland the day we lost to Arkansas and realizing that the dream I had of playing Alabama again in the SEC title game probably wasn't going to happen. Then came the nightmare game the next week in South Carolina that I think most Vols fan still wake up at night screaming when it haunts our dream.

And that's when things got ugly. Being in school, I recall letters in the Beacon demanding that the school do something right now about our problem. Johnny Majors had to go. I remember a famous bit of graphiti on The Rock in Fraternity Row that said, "We have a Majors problem." That made the front page of the Beacon.

I wasn't immersed in sports talk at the time, but I can bet it was pretty brutal. If it was around. I can't recall the time line for how and when SportsTalk started, but I have a feeling this little incident could have helped it get on the map or maybe led to it coming about.

Anyway, just like that Majors was shown the door and Fulmer was going to be our head coach. There was much rejoicing around Vol nation--or at least the bits of Vol nation I talked to on a regular basis. Forget losing to Alabama that year, we'd get them next year and boy howdy, would we own them.

Well, it took some time to beat Bama and a certain quarterback you might have heard of named Peyton Manning. I was there for that away game and I still recall that opening play when we scored quickly and never looked back.

Phillip Fulmer came in and took the program to the next level. We got a winning streak against Bama, we continued to own Georgia and we struggled against Florida. Tennessee got a hot QB prospct named Peyton Manning who transformed our program and is still one of the greatest ambassadors of UT out there. We went all the way in '98, winning it all.

And in all of that, we had Fulmer at the helm. In a lot of ways, I really grew into my obsession with UT with Fulmer at the helm and for that reason, among others, I kind of think of him as "my coach." He was there for the majority of the time I was in school and he made us better. He made us a national powerhouse for a while. He loved UT. And the thing was, he seemed like this really nice, humble guy who probably had trouble believing that he had this really awesome job. I often have this image of him at night, pinching himself, as if he can't believe that--wow, I really am the coach at UT.

Which is why today finds me kind of sad. It's Phil Fulmer's last game as coach of the Vols. And while I agree that something needed to happen, I'm still sad to see him go. We've had a lot of success at UT under Fulmer. He's been a great ambassador for not only UT football, but also UT as a whole. I just like the guy and while I may not always agree with every call he's made, he's still won a whole lot of football games in his time and given me some fond memories. We've spent a lot of Saturday afternoons together, though I imagine his were more stressful than mine (though at times it'd hard to tell since I tend to get into the games just a tiny bit....).

In a few hours, Fulmer will head out into Neyland Stadium one last time as our coach. He'll finish up a great career as my coach at UT.

So thank you Phil Fulmer for your years as our head coach. And for the time as a Volunteer before that. Thank you for some fun Saturdays and I take back all of those things I said when we didn't do well. Thank you for the fond memories, for one hell of a run on 1998 and for helping our team go to the next level. You will be missed, at least by this fan. I hope the next guy has half the character you do. I doubt we'll ever find a guy again who loves being the head football coach at UT as much as you do. I'm sorry to see you go, but I wish you all the best. Thank you for what you've given all of the fans of the University of Tennesee.

Go Big Orange! Win this last one for Phil!

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/29/2008 03:46:00 PM | |
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
TV Round-Up: The Shield
Just a word of warning. If you've not seen the series finale of "The Shield" or any of season seven and don't want to know how it all ends, turn back now....

(Just do me a favor....and you a favor for that matter. If you've not seen the series, get on Netflix, Blockbuster whatever and get the first disc of season one and start watching. Trust me...the ride is amazing)

You have been warned.

Seriously there is no way to talk about the end of "The Shield" without giving away everything...

Maybe it's still too fresh, but to paraphrase Comic Book Guy from "The Simpsons," "Best....series...finale....EVER!"

I'm still stunned by how good the series finale (and the entire final season of the show) was. In the end, Vic's sins catch up to him. And while it doesn't lead to him being lead away in handcuffs, going to jail or dead, it does lead to him having everything he cares about taken away from him. His family is put into federal witness protection to get away from him, he's lost the job he loves, he's lost his street cred, he's betrayed his only friend left and his protege not only killed himself but his pregnant wife and their young son. Last week Vic got to confess all his sins, unburden himself and get a reset thanks to an agreement for immunity for all his previous sins. But in his confession, Vic created his own fate--he's in a soulless job, cut off from the streets and no longer part of the action. The sequence with Vic getting a tour from the HR rep was perfect as the silence final sequence as Vic ends his first day on the job. One day down, only two years and 364 more to go.

I have to admit I was concerned that the series finale could and would deliver. With such build-up to it and having waited seven years to see how things all played out, there was the huge potental for disappointment. Thankfully, "The Shield" didn't drop the ball. And it didn't take the predictable or easy way out. It's amazing that just a few episodes ago, Shane and Mara were shwon as having fun on the lam, enjoying the romantic side of being fugitives from justice. And then the last two weeks, we see the toll it's taking. Watching the noose slowly tighten around Shane and Vic was fascinating and compelling. And every single episode since it came out that Shane put out a hit on Ronnie and went on the lam has had at least one jaw dropping twist...all leading up to the final two episodes where my jaw hit the floor at least four times per episode.

Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. This is how you have a satisfying series finale.

Bravo to Shawn Ryan and the cast and crew of "The Shield." A fantastic, perfect ending to one of the greatest series EVER.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/26/2008 03:34:00 PM | |
Sunday, November 23, 2008
45 Years Ago...
Forty-five years ago today, around 5:25 in the afternoon, the first episode of "Doctor Who" aired.

Happy anniversary to my favorite TV show of all time. Below is the pilot episode in case you haven't seen it for some odd reason...







Labels:



posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/23/2008 12:00:00 PM | |
Saturday, November 22, 2008
UT vs MTSU basketball
The weekend of all things UT sports kicked off last evening with a visit to MTSU's home court to watch the basketball team take on the Blue Raiders.

I'd never attended a sporting event at MTSU, though odds are I will be attending a few more in the future. I say this because the Lady Vols have a contract to come in and whip up on play MTSU next season. I have a feeling last night's game and crowd was a precursor to what we'll see next year when Pat Summit and the Lady Vols come to town.

But back to this year. After we blew out MTSU at home last year (we won by 60), I was pretty sure we wouldn't do the same on their home court. Though I was hopeful. MTSU and the Vols played an even game for the first half. Every time it looked like the Vols were getting ready to really break it open, MTSU would come up with a play or two to keep it close. In the second half, we had some good runs, made our free throws and pulled away late in the game.

Of course, this wouldn't be a post from me if I didn't say the officiating was terrible. So, I will go ahead and say it--the officiating at last night's game was terrible.

But it was a win and that's what counts. And at least it wasn't a heart attack waiting to happen like last night's Lady Vols' game was. What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on there?!?

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/22/2008 06:09:00 AM | |
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I don't think he expected this
Watching and listening to Phil Fulmer's press conference yesterday, it was hard not to get choked up for a guy who had just been fired from his dream job. And in his comments, we saw that even when the chips are down, Fulmer is classy individual and whatever perceived failings he has as a coach, he is still one hell of a human being and mentor.

I think that is what will be missed the most--the way that Fulmer was a mentor and got to work with some of the guys. I'm sure he won't miss the long days, sleepless nights and constant barrage of idiot callers to sports call-in shows who clearly know more than he does. (That last part was sarcasm).

In the press conference yesterday, Fulmer showed class and dignity. And it was something he didn't have to do. He could have issued a statement, not said anything or left UT out there to hang. But he didn't because he loves the school and the program that he wouldn't embarass it or himself that way.

It was interesting to hear some media members discuss his taking questions and only pointing to certain media members. Of course, those same media people who just yesterday were calling for his ouster are now wondering "What will UT do now that Fulmer is gone?" and painting a woe-is-me picture for UT. Don't you just love hypocrisy?

The pressure now clearly falls on Mike Hamilton. He'd better hope he finds the football version of Bruce Pearl or else the next press conference of this kind will be to announce his decision to step down...

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/04/2008 12:19:00 PM | |
Monday, November 03, 2008
Changing of the guard
After seventeen years as head coach as the University of Tennessee, Phil Fulmer will be gone at the end of the season according to reports.

I found the news both expected and unexpected. For some reason, I felt like the team and the university would stand behind Fulmer until the end of the season when his retirement would be announced. Of course, one more loss and those already looking for blood would have been screaming from any tent pole they could find.

Forget the fact that Fulmer has a great winning percentage. Forget that he took us to a national title a decade ago. Forget that LAST YEAR he put together a ten win season, facing overwhelming odds. No, in this day and age, it's all about "what have you done for me lately." And there are just too many Monday morning quarterbacks out there who think just because they can lead a team to a perfect season on their NCAA videogame that they know more about coaching and how to lead than the guy on top does.

Fulmer's decision to leave brings up a lot of questions. Who will be retained from the current staff? Will any of the current staff be kept on? What will this do to a solid recruiting class we had coming in, one that was ranked in the top five in the country? How long will it be before various departments within the UT system are screaming at the $6 million buyout for Fulmer's contract during a year in which there have been cuts to the overall UT budget (they're separate funds, mind you, but cold hard facts have never stopped English majors)?

Then, of course, comes the question of just who will come in that everyone thinks is so much better?

I've not heard any rumors yet and I've not looked to see how everyone has decided is the "odds on" favorite to take over the job. I sure hope whoever takes the job can do what Nick Saban has done at Alabama and turn it around in two seasons. Otherwise, these same people who are rejoicing today that Fulmer is gone will be calling for his head in a few years.

As for Fulmer, I'm sad to see him go. I was a student at UT when he took over the job and I recall the wave of outcry for him to take over the reigns from Johnny Majors. Fulmer helped take the Vols' to a new level of competitiveness, bringing in Peyton Manning, competiting in the SEC East and having a winning record against Alabama. Fulmer understood what it meant to be part of the UT athletics program and ran his program with pride, class and distinction. He may not be the "greatest" coach who ever lived, but he was a good one. And he was a good guy who was proud to be working at his alma mater.

I'm sorry to see him go. It has to be a terrible burden to have every Tom, Dick and Harry on call in radio knowing how to do your job better than you can. But he did it and he did it with class and distinction for seventeen years.

Thank you for the good work, the great memories and some huge wins, Philip Fulmer. You'll be missed...at least by me.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/03/2008 02:31:00 PM | |
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