Neyland vs Fulmer

<dd>Perhaps no coach will do as much for Tennessee's football program as General Robert Reese Neyland but current coach Phillip Fulmer is giving it a good old college try. Furthermore, as amazing as General Neyland's coaching career was at Tennessee, Coach Fulmer is actually on pace to meet or exceed many of the accomplishments of his gridiron predecessors.<p>

General Neyland inherited a program with almost as many losses as wins (129-91-20 .579). What he did, was just North of amazing, transforming a team that could not beat the likes of Vanderbilt and Sewanee into a national powerhouse. Granted, Vanderbilt was much better back then but for the sake of "now-a-days" perceptions, it just sounds better for our story – now let's proceed.

Captain Neyland began his career as head coach of the Volunteers in 1926. Did I say Captain Neyland? You bet I did! Robert R. Neyland achieved his military coaching monikers meritoriously in the service of our great country advancing from Captain, to Major all the way to General during the course of his three-pronged 4-decade coaching tenure. Coach Neyland, not only served his country well but his University also advancing the Tennessee Vols football program to a mark of (338-132-34, .774) by the time he retired in 1952.

No story about great Tennessee head coaches would be complete if we failed to mention John Barnhill, the career winning percentage leader with a mark of .846. This occurred during a period of 4 seasons between Coach Neyland's 2nd & 3rd campaigns. Barnhill established his .846 career winning percentage by amassing 32 wins, as opposed to 5 losses and 2 ties. And of course, there is Johnny Majors who with 116 victories is second only to General Neyland in all-time wins as a Tennessee, head football coach.

Phillip Fulmer, who had a 3-game stint as interim head coach during a Johnny Major illness, lead the Vols to a perfect 3 consecutive wins and was named permanent head coach prior to the bowl game during the same year in 1992. When Fulmer took the reigns, the program was in good repair but at .684 (627-275-53), although it was no where near the .774 of Neyland's era. Still, Fulmer has advanced an already good .684 to an even better .698 (718-295-53) by the end of 2001.

Great Expectations:

Coach Fulmer is on the verge of several UT coaching milestones. Records will begin yielding to his success this season. During the 2002 season, he will most likely see his 100th win, in as few as 120 games with Arkansas on October the 5th serving as the primary target.

Trailing by only 21 games, Coach Fulmer can better Johnny Major's 2nd place 116 wins in as little as 2 seasons with no more than 2 losses each.

To reach or exceed John Barnhill's career winning percentage mark of .846, it would take Coach Fulmer 3 seasons of no more than one loss each.

Coach Phillip Fulmer trails General Neyland by only 78 games or an optimistic 6 seasons of near perfection, a feat that would also erase that scant .003 winning percentage advantage held by Neyland.

Coach Fulmer's body of work is yet to be complete. However, if we examine the career's of both men through only their first 115 games and use that as our sample information then there are a number of similarities and parallels in their coaching efforts.

Overall winning percentage:

Neyland		0.861, 95-12-8
Coach R.R. Neyland's career numbers.
Overall - 1926-52 0.829, 173-31-12.   
First campaign 1926-34 - 0.892, 76-7-5.
Second campaign - 1936-40 0.840, 43-7-3.  
Third campaign - 1946-52 0.747, 54-17-4.

Fulmer		0.826, 95-20-0

Winning percentage peak (min. 5 yrs.)
Neyland		0.945, 59-2-3
General Neyland's highest overall winning percentage came with
a win over Mississippi State on November 5th 1932, 7 games into
his 7th season as the Vols head coach.

Fulmer		0.861, 68-11-0
Coach Phillip Fulmer reached the pinnacle of his career, 1 win 
into his 8th season with a victory over Wyoming on September 4th 1999 – 
this following the 1998 National Championship.

SEC winning percentage:
Fulmer 		0.818, 63-14-0
This includes 3 games played for conference championships 
since the SEC re-alignment in 1992.

Neyland 		0.787, 62-15-5
The first 7 years of Coach Neyland's Tennessee career were 
before the SEC was formed in 1933. Prior to that the Vols 
played in the Southern conference.

Fulmer		0.600, 6-4-0
Coach Fulmer has led his teams to 10 consecutive bowl games.

Neyland		0.286, 2-5-0
Over his career, General Neyland took his Vol teams to 7 bowl 
games but could only muster an uncharacteristic 2 wins.

SEC Championships:
Fulmer:		2 SEC Titles
Coach Fulmer has lead the Vols to 2 conference titles, 
one in 1997 and the other in 1998. 

Neyland:		2 Southern Conference Titles
Coach Neyland and his Vols spent many of their first years 
as members of the Southern Conference.  General Neyland 
won 2 Southern Conference titles but no SEC titles during 
his first 115 games Ultimately, coach Neyland racked up 
6-SEC championships to go along with his 2 Southern Conference 
championships during his three-pronged tenure, 
which spanned 21 seasons.

National Championships: (consensus)
Fulmer:		1 National Championship

Neyland:		0 National Championships
Coach Neyland would later win a consensus National Championship 
in 1951 for his 20th season, 204 games into his career.  
He also produced 3 other teams that were named National Champions 
by at least one of the polls in his day.  
1938 11-0, 1939 10-1 and 1940 10-1.

Winning Streak:
Neyland:		23 consecutive victories.
	Dec 9th Auburn 1939 – Nov 30th Vanderbilt 1940

Fulmer:		14 consecutive victories.
	Sep 5th Syracuse 1998 – Sep 5th Wyoming 1999

Best Run:
Neyland:		33 of 34
	Nov 25th Kentucky 1937 – Nov 30th Vanderbilt 1940

Fulmer:		23 of 24
	Oct 4th Ole Miss 1997 – Sep 5th Wyoming 1999

Vs Rivals:

In his third season, General Neyland delivered a victory over then arch rival Vanderbilt ending an 8 game winless streak and a Commodore dominance that spanned decades. In fact, during his entire 26-year tenure as the coach of the Vols., Neyland only lost to Vanderbilt 3 times.

Coach Fulmer; in like fashion also in his third full season as Tennessee's head coach, delivered a victory over current arch rival Alabama ending an 8 game winless streak to the Tide. With that faithful victory in 1995, Coach Fulmer and the Vols have reeled off 7 straight against the Crimson Tide.

Team Milestone Victories:
Win	Opponent		Score	Year
150	Washington & Lee	26-7	1928
200	Mississippi	27-0	1934

Win	Opponent		Score	Year
650	Arkansas		49-31	1995
700	Southern Miss	19-16	2000

Personal Milestone Victories:
Win	Game	Opponent		Score	Year
1  	1	Carson-Newman	13-0	1926
25  	28	Florida		13-12	1928
50	55	Carson-Newman	31-0	1931
75 	87	Kentucky		19-0	1934
100 	120	NC State		13-0	1939	(13th season)

Win	Game	Opponent		Score	Year
1	1	Southwestern LA	38-3	1992
25	32	Mississippi ST	52-14	1994
50	60	Southern Miss	44-20	1997
75	88	Kentucky		56-21	1999
100? 	120?	Could happen in 2002 (10th season) with 5th opponent: Arkansas
Who is better – Neyland or Fulmer? If we just look at the numbers then a slight case can be made in favor of The General. He dressed some of the most feared and respected defensive units ever to play the game, including the 1939 squad that holds the distinction of being the last division 1-A team to complete a regular season without yielding a single point to opponents.

On the other hand, you have coach Fulmer whose 1993 team set a new school scoring standard in his first full year. Coach Fulmer has also led every team he has had into post season bowl action including two title games.

I won't even try to present one as a winner. Both have been true Volunteers and answered the call of the Tennessee fans to Win Win Win! Each in his own way has contributed immeasurably to the rich history and tradition that is TENNESSEE FOOBALL.

Who has been the better coach? Perhaps that is a question best answered with another question – Does it really matter? Any Vol fan worth his or her Orange should be proud to claim them both.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories