Does Fulmer deserve a raise?

Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer is a $2 million football coach – getting $2.05 million per year to be precise. The question is: Has he accomplished enough in 2006 to justify being even more handsomely compensated in 2007?

That decision, of course, rests with athletics director Mike Hamilton, who recently told The Tennessean he will wait until after the Vols' Jan. 1 Outback Bowl date with Penn State to decide whether to offer Fulmer a pay hike. Raise or no raise, the coach will get an extension, Hamilton said.

Now concluding his 15th year at the helm, Phillip Fulmer has received an extension following every season except 2005, when his team recorded UT's first losing record in 17 years. He received no raise just twice in his first 14 years – following an 8-5 season in 2002 and following a 5-6 disaster in '05.

Needless to say, the raise/no raise issue is a hot-button topic among Vol fans. Fulmer's supporters ask "Who could do the job better?" while his detractors ask "What have you done for us lately?"

Some of the most common reasons cited for giving the coach a raise are:

1.Fulmer ranks No. 1, percentage-wise, among Div. 1-A coaches with at least 10 years of experience.

2.If he beats Penn State, he will have three 10-win seasons in the past four years.

3.He has averaged 9½ wins per season over the past 11 years.

4.He has won four SEC East titles over the past 10 years.

5.With a bowl game pending, he has guided Tennessee to 104 wins over the past 11 years, tying Florida as the SEC's winningest programs during that time.

6.He showed a willingness to revamp his coaching staff following the 2005 season, helping the Vols rebound with a 9-3 record in 2006.

7.He is a native Tennessean who has been involved with Vol football for 34 seasons as either a player, grad assistant, full-time assistant or head coach.

8.He is regarded as a top-notch recruiter.

Some of the most common arguments cited for NOT giving him a raise are:

1.He already earns $2.05 million, making him one of the highest-paid coaches in college football.

2.He hasn't won an SEC title in eight years.

3.He hasn't guided Tennessee to a BCS bowl game in seven years.

4.After going 45-5 – a winning percentage of 90.0 – from 1995-98, his record since then is 69-29, a winning percentage of 70.0.

5.Over the past five years, Fulmer's record against teams that posted winning SEC records is 4-14, including a 1-7 mark for 2005 and '06.

In case you're wondering about that last statistic, here's the breakdown:

2002: Lost to Florida, Georgia and Alabama, beat Arkansas

2003: Lost to Auburn and Georgia, beat Florida

2004: Lost to Auburn twice, beat Georgia

2005: Lost to Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, beat LSU

2006: Lost to Florida, LSU and Arkansas

Fulmer's current contract extends through 2011 with a buyout of $4.35 million should UT decide to dismiss him. In addition to his $2.05 million salary, he will receive a $37,500 bonus this year for making a non-BCS bowl game.

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