--Embattled coach Phil Fulmer won a national championship in 1998 and took the Vols to two consecutive Fiesta Bowls following the 1998 and '99 seasons. Since then
--The Vols are 19-23 against ranked teams since their national championship season and just 4-7 in their past 11 games against top-25 teams.
--The Vols haven't won the SEC since 1998 and haven't finished in the final top 10 since 2001. In 2002 and 2005, they weren't even included in the final rankings. In 2006, they finished 25th in the final poll.
--For five consecutive years and seven of the past eight
--Since 1998 the Vols are 2-5 in bowl games, with all five losses coming by 10 points or more.
--The overall level of coaching in the SEC has never been higher and Fulmer is 5-8 against
--The Vols are 7-6 in their past 13 games. At 5-3 this season, they could still finish just .500 overall on the heals of a 5-6 finish in 2005 and a 9-4 record in 2006.
--The Vols also closed out their 2006 season with two wins in the last five games, including losses to LSU,
--Since Nov. 4, 2006 , their victories have come against Vanderbilt.
"A lesser team with a lesser spirit would have lost that game tonight," Fulmer said.
"It was good to hear some of them say, 'Coach we got it done tonight,'" defensive coordinator John Chavis said after the
"I don't ever answer critics, and there's a lot of people who said we threw in the towel even before this game. This team will fight, and this is a proud program. I think people need to take notice of that. This team's not going to lay down and hasn't laid down."
Yes, the Vols are confounding, but name one SEC team that isn't at this point.
And those are just of the many examples available. In the midst of increasing uncertainty in college football, not just the SEC, Fulmer also provides a certainty that very few coaches can bring to a program. Since he arrived at
In a business where most coaches have no prior history with their school or city, Fulmer is still coaching at his alma mater and isn't going anywhere – unless they make him leave.
"I understand the passion that people have for this program," Fulmer said. "I love the history of this program. There's not a better job for me."
How long will he get to keep that job? Who knows? Should
But there are other things to consider, primarily: who would replace Fulmer? Is Spurrier going to leave
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton has said repeatedly he won't make any decisions about the future until after the season but he did create quite a stir last week when he spoke more in-depth with longtime SEC and Tennessee analyst Jimmy Hyams on Knoxville's WNML radio.
"Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for,"
"I don't know. I'm too close to the forest sometimes. Most people think
Sometimes that bias makes it difficult for people to see the big picture.
"Phillip has done a tremendous job,"
There's something to be said for a fresh approach. There's also something to be said for stability. It's a tough call for everyone involved and one Fulmer is trying his best to manage without losing his mind – or his sense of humor.
For now, the best thing Fulmer can do is win. His Vols did that Saturday against
Fulmer doesn't, but the Vols do. And that, as coaches say, is all Fulmer can control at this point.
"I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the players. I enjoy the people," Fulmer said. "You take the ups and downs as you have. We've had a lot more ups and downs. You ignore what you need to ignore and worry about what you can control and take that approach. But I still enjoy the game very much, and the people."
Richard Scott is a Birmingham-based sports writer, author and Tiger Rag's featured SEC expert. Reach him at email@example.com.