Fans irate, but Fulmer's calm

The ''trickle-down theory'' doesn't just apply to the world of high finance. It applies to the world of athletics, as well.

Sports teams take their cue from the man calling the shots. In that manner, the overall mood ''trickles down'' from the top. If the head coach is calm and composed, the players tend to be likewise. If the head coach is arrogant, the players tend to be the same. If the head coach makes excuses rather than be accountable, the players tend to follow suit. If the head coach throws in the towel, the players tend to do the same.

That being the case, there's a glimmer of hope for the Tennessee football team. Head coach Phillip Fulmer is remaining composed and optimistic in the wake of last weekend's lopsided loss to Georgia ... even as irate UT fans call for wholesale changes in the staff, the lineup and the schemes.

To his credit, Fulmer seems oblivious to the wailing and gnashing of teeth that seems commonplace throughout the Vol Nation these days. He does not appear concerned by the angry calls to radio talk shows -- many demanding that he fire some coaches, revamp his lineups and change his entire football philosophy.

Deep down, the Vols' head man probably is even more disappointed, angry and frustrated than the fans. He just can't afford to let his players see these emotions. So, Fulmer puts on a happy face, puts his players through their paces and vows to improve from week to week.

Meeting the media following Thursday's practice, Fulmer was his usual self -- part businesslike, part cordial. He admitted that the past two games (a 28-21 loss to Auburn and a 41-14 loss to Georgia) were not what he had in mind. After admitting he was ''disappointed,'' however, the head man suggested his troops are ''on track to be a more consistent football team.''

Maybe that's true. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking. But this much is certain: The Vols won't remain upbeat and confident unless their leader remains upbeat and confident. In a season turned sour, Fulmer's composure is one clearcut positive.

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