No raise for Fulmer

Apparently, Tennessee's athletics director doesn't automatically rubber-stamp a raise/extension for the head football coach each year, after all.

Vol head man Phillip Fulmer, whose team finished 5-6 after being rated No. 3 nationally in September, is not getting a raise or extension for the first time in his 13-year head coaching career. And he's OK with that.

"I didn't expect a raise, and I didn't deserve one with the way things went this season," Fulmer told The Tennessean. "The only thing I asked for was to upgrade our staff, and I appreciate what our administration has done in helping us to do that."

The "upgrade" reference was to a two-year contract at $300,000 per season for new offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe. Predecessor Randy Sanders, who made roughly $160,000 per year, has resigned.

Two more offensive aides, line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens and wide receivers coach Pat Washington, have been dismissed in the after-shock of UT's first losing season in 17 years.

Fulmer made $2.05 million for the 2005 season, ranking him third behind Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Texas' Mack Brown among the highest-paid coaches in college football. Vol athletic director Mike Hamilton's decision to offer no raise means Fulmer will make $2.05 million again in 2006.

"I view raises and extensions as a reward for meeting and or exceeding expectations, and we didn't do that this year," Hamilton said. "Our commitment now is to support him from a resources standpoint to do what we have to do going forward."

Fulmer recently sent an email to 38,000 Tennessee season ticket-holders thanking them for their support and requesting their continued patience. That email follows:

Dear Tennessee Fans,

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the great support you give our team. Your passion and pride for our program is what makes us special!

This year was a disappointing season for everyone in the Tennessee family. We started this season with great expectations and failed to live up to those expectations. I assure you that no one is happy about our season — especially me, and I know that our fans deserve better than what we produced this year.

Now that the season is over, I am taking a step back and re-evaluating the entire program. We're doing a lot of things well _ especially our defense, but obviously not enough. We grossly underachieved offensively, and special teams were erratic at best. As I've said before, the results this year are unacceptable and accountability starts with me.

My staff and I have great determination to get things back on track. In order to get things turned around, we first have to look at what happened this season. I'm doing a complete audit of everything in our program. No stone will be left unturned and no question left unanswered as to what went wrong.

I've taken some steps already and others are in short order. I have made some coaching changes to move forward. I feel the addition of David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator is a great step forward for us. He is a great football coach, but better yet he's a leader and teacher. He will challenge our thinking, be creative with our offense and very demanding of our players.

I appreciate the support and patience I've received from the administration and Tennessee fans everywhere to make the adjustments I need to make to get back to where I believe we should be. We have had many great moments, games and seasons together and will again. Tennessee football is about pride, and it's my first priority to restore that pride.

Go Vols!

Phillip Fulmer

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