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Blog...Ice Could Get Thin Under Fulmer
A second less than stellar season in less than four years finds the ice may be getting very, very thin under Philip Fulmer.
By: BE Coleman
A second less than stellar season in less than four years finds the ice may be getting very, very thin under Philip Fulmer. The Volunteers are off to their worst start since the early 1980’s in Knoxville and the immediate future is not exactly bright.
Apathy is hanging over the football program like a CEO on Wall Street this week, in regards to the status of where the program sits at the very bottom of the SEC East at (0-3) (2-4) and the bottom of the 12 member conference
The tell-tale sign is that fan attention has dropped off significantly since the last week of September. Some fans are giving tickets away to takers regardless of the paid price and are turning away from game broadcasts.
Long time regular season fans are simply opting for ‘one tank trips’ on Saturdays to watch historical reenactments, road trips to numerous the fall festivals in the region or are going out of state instead of watching the Vols.
Numbers of week-end spikes are taking place in Gatlinburg – Pigeon Forge as a more popular destination than Neyland Stadium. UT game day attendance is off nearly 10K per game in two of three home games played.
The firing of Tony Franklin at Auburn and Tommy Bowden’s agreed upon axing at Clemson have forced the hand of UT Athletics Director Mike Hamilton to speak out before more damage is done.
On Tuesday Hamilton spoke with the News Sentinel upon the concept of making a mid season change at the helm of the football program. Hamilton told the Sentinel that’s he was using the “Traditional Model at the University of Tennessee.”
Our traditional model at the University of Tennessee is that we evaluate these kinds of things on a year-end basis,” said Hamilton. In exact regard finds that unless the program falls flat the rest of the year, there should not be an early announcement.
That’s a lot to do considering the Vols face Mississippi State this week, Alabama next week and South Carolina the week after to conclude the Vols 3rd quarter of the 2008 season.
When Hamilton was further questioned upon what is would take exactly before the athletics department would engage action; “would be a 6-6 final campaign.” It is a record that in all likelihood would see the Vols sitting home for post season.
There has been great rhetoric from program boosters already speaking quietly to Hamilton about a list of candidates. The Vol booster’s comprise the biggest dollar amount to the self sustained program. UT does not rely on the school to fund the school athletics.
An average of 80% of total football revenue supports the entire campus sports programs. With the nation headed into a tail spin, less booster contributions are another sign Fulmer must almost win out.
If fan and booster apathy hits at a critical time; the program lifestyle could hang in the balance and force Hamilton to advance the model. Hamilton is Clemson alum for those not aware of his background.
Hamilton said, “I think there’s some fan apathy out there, yeah, without question, but I do think there’s a lot of people that still want to be a part of that experience,” of UT Football.
There is a reported $7 million dollar reserve now in place to cover such unforeseen expenses such as a buyout of the staff and Fulmer. Hamilton added, “We’re very well aware of some discontent in the marketplace.”
On Wednesday Fulmer met with Hamilton to discuss their weekly updates on the state of the program. Fulmer said, “Mike has been very supportive. We meet every so often to talk about different things. Obviously, (the program) has problems that we are working through. But he’s showed great confidence and we are looking to the future.”
Fulmer acknowledged there is a level of great concern right now, “I mean, there’s concern,” Fulmer said. “I’m not going to sit here and say there’s not. There’s concern by everybody who loves Tennessee football and Tennessee athletics about where we are, and having an opportunity here to still turn the season around and so on.”
Whatever happens for Tennessee and Fulmer will be seen over the course of the next three games, it won’t take a full season unless the Vols can come out 2-1 before the break at homecoming. Fulmer is hopeful, his supporters as well, but the rest of the Vols divided house is not. Hamilton is sitting atop his fence post and is watching both sides play their hands out.
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