Fulmer finished at Tennessee

This news should sadden BigC Cecil Carr and the Volunteer Boys although they may be glad to see Fulmer on the way out and a new day dawning for UT football. We have the details fresh off the presses from the Knoxville Sentinel and knoxnews.com:

Phillip Fulmer confirmed in a 5 p.m. press conference today at Neyland Stadium that he will step down as the University of Tennessee’s head football coach. Fulmer is scheduled to receive a buyout of between $5.47 million and $6 million.

After several minutes detailing his history with Tennessee, beginning as a player in 1969, Fulmer said, “I accept the university’s decision that this will be my last as Tennessee’s head football coach.”

He will remain through season’s end and may remain at UT in some capacity.

Athletic Director Mike Hamilton said the University of Kentucky game will be designated as “Phillip Fulmer Day,” and he hoped fans will pay tribute to Fulmer for his impact on the university, community, state and beyond.

“Our discussions (about Fulmer’s future) did not come without great consternation or thought,” Hamilton said. “It is time to treat coach Fulmer with the appropriate dignity and class that he deserves.”

Fulmer’s comments lasted about eight minutes, marked by pauses where he struggled to gain composure.

“This is not an easy day for me or my family. It’s not a day that I sought or accepted easily,” Fulmer began. “As a young sophomore playing for coach (Doug) Dickey, that field outside is the first place I got my jersey dirty playing a game for Tennessee.”

It was 1969, he was 19, playing Auburn on TV.

“Tennessee football has been the focus of my professional life ever since,” he continued. Few people get to follow their passion, Fulmer said, but “I have been pursuing my passion since that day here against Auburn 38 years ago.”

He paused several seconds, as wife Vicky stood by.

“I’m a family man, and proud of it. My son and daughters and Vicky mean everything to me, but my family is bigger than just my children and my wife. We have been very blessed to include (in our family) thousands of players, dozens of coaches and millions of Tennessee fans,” Fulmer said.

Today’s announcement marks the end of 16-plus seasons for Fulmer that brought 150 victories, two SEC championships, five division titles and a national championship in 1998.

Since then, however, the Vols have failed to win an SEC championship despite winning the SEC East in 2001, 2004 and 2007.

The Vols are 3-6 and 1-5 in the SEC this season, just the ninth time since 1896 that Tennessee has lost six games in a season. The Vols have only lost seven games in a season once, in 1977.

“This 2008 season has not gone as well as anyone would like,” Fulmer said. “That includes me, our coaches, our players, our administration and our great fans. Many fans have been supportive. Some have been angry. All of us are disappointed.”

Since opening the season with a 27-24 overtime loss to UCLA on national television, criticism and pressure continued to mount on UT’s coaching staff. Losses to SEC rivals Florida, Georgia and Alabama by a combined margin of 85-29 only caused it to grow.

And as happened to his predecessor, Johnny Majors, a 27-6 loss to South Carolina on the road perhaps proved the final straw.

Hamilton said he hopes Fulmer can remain at UT in some capacity and will remain the coach through the season and a bowl game, if any, if Fulmer desires.

“We want him a part of the University of Tennessee,” Hamilton said, in a role that not only benefits the Athletic Department but “one that also he can enjoy and feels he can contribute to.”

Fulmer concluded his portion of the press conference within 15 minutes, leaving Hamilton to answer questions from the press.

Regarding Fulmer remaining at the helm through season’s end, Hamilton said, “I felt … it would give our fans the opportunity to celebrate his career.”

Fulmer is scheduled to receive a buyout of between $5.47 million and $6 million, depending on the interpretation of his buyout clause. That sum is payable over 48 months.

UT is responsible for the entirety of assistant coach salaries for one year if they are not retained and do not find other employment. Coordinators would receive two years’ pay.

If assistant coaches are employed elsewhere, UT is only responsible for the difference between the coach’s salary at Tennessee and his new one.

A team meeting was scheduled for this afternoon to discuss Fulmer’s departure.

Throughout the season, players have remained supportive of Fulmer and his staff.

Sophomore receiver Gerald Jones said following practice Sunday night that players deserve the blame for UT’s 3-6 start, not the coaches.

“It’s our fault … we’re not executing,” Jones said. “Everybody wants to blame the coaches. The coaches aren’t the ones out there playing. Everybody’s looking on the outside in. They’re not watching film. They’re not in our position. It’s our fault. If we’re going to be mad at ourselves. We’re frustrated, but we try to keep ourselves motivated. …

“As far as my opinion goes, none of our coaches deserve it. They do a heck of a job. They come in at 5:30 in the morning and leave at 10 o’clock at night. They do a heck of a job. It’s not them. They’re putting their time in. It’s us.”