Fulmer should reject raise

Tennessee men's athletic director Mike Hamilton has already decided to give football coach Phillip Fulmer a contract extension of undetermined length. In the near future, Hamilton will announce his decision regarding a raise for Fulmer.

Here's some advice for Hamilton: Don't give Phillip Fulmer a raise.

Here's some advice for Fulmer: Say you don't want a raise.

A Tennessee coach doesn't deserve a raise for winning nine games, losing a bowl game to a less-talented Penn State team and finishing two games out of first place in the East Division. A Tennessee coach doesn't deserve a raise for a 9-4 season in which your team doesn't finish in the top 20.

UT fans are still upset about a lackluster 20-10 loss to unranked Penn State. They'll be even more upset if Fulmer pads his $2.05 million a year salary.

Fulmer would do himself a favor with fans by denouncing a potential pay hike, by saying 9-4 isn't the standard at Tennessee.

As Fulmer said after the Outback Bowl: ``We'll get back and start competing for championships.''

Until you do, $2.05 million a year is more than fair compensation.

Fulmer did get a bowl bonus. That's all you deserve after recording the fifth-best record in SEC play (5-3).

I don't think Fulmer should even get an extension. His contract runs through 2011. That's long enough.

He hasn't won an SEC championship since 1998. He hasn't been to a BCS bowl game since 1999.

You could justify a minimal raise if you win 10 games, but not nine.

If Hamilton gives Fulmer a raise, you've got to wonder why. Has the program slipped to the point where 9-4 is considered an achievement? Has the program slipped to the point where 5-3 in SEC play is rewarded with more money?

You could argue that Fulmer enjoyed a four-game improvement over 2005. But, the Vols should never have been 5-6.

Since Fulmer has been a $2 million coach, the Vols have gone 14-10, 7-9 in SEC play. Does that justify more money? Answer: Of course not.

If Hamilton gives Fulmer a raise, fans will be as angry with Hamilton as Fulmer. And fans won't want to hear about how the athletic department is struggling to break even financially. Paying Fulmer more would be considered fiscally irresponsible.

Look, I'm all for people making as much as they can – unless they are making $2 million and don't do anything to prove they deserve more. Unlike a $20,000 a year employee, a $2 million employee shouldn't get a cost-of-living raise just for the sake of a cost-of-living raise. He should get the raise based on merit. And 9-4 doesn't merit a raise.

I don't care if Alabama's new coach, Nick Saban, gets $4 million a year. I don't care if Florida coach Urban Meyer is going to jump up the $2 million ladder for winning a national title, or that Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Notre Dame's Charlie Weis already make over $3 million.

This is more about Tennessee value, not market value.

A growing number of Tennessee fans believe Fulmer can't get the Vols back to the level of play the program experienced in the 1990s. I'm convinced he won't ever go 45-5 over a four-year period. I'm not convinced he can't win another SEC title.

If he does, he should get a raise. But until he wins the SEC or makes a BCS bowl, he should be grateful to be in the $2 million club at his alma mater.

Put it this way, if Fulmer gets a raise after going 9-4, shouldn't he return part of his salary for going 5-6?

Moreover, Fulmer's record hasn't been sparkling over the past five years. Since the start of the 2002 season, he has been to one SEC title game, has won just one bowl game and has gone 42-21, an average of 8.4 wins per season.

Here are other marks against Fulmer:

Five years without finishing in the Top 10.

Four of the last seven years not finishing in the AP top 20.

Four of the last seven years finishing with four or more losses.

Eight straight years losing at least one of the season's last two games.

Since after the 1998 season, Fulmer is 9-16 against Florida, Georgia, LSU and Auburn and 5-9 against Florida and Georgia. Against Top 10 teams, he is 8-14, and 1-6 at home since 2000. He is 17-19 against ranked opponents.

And since 1998, he is 2-7 in postseason (counting the SEC title game) with each defeat by double digits.

Once a lock against unranked teams, Fulmer has lost eight games to non-Top 25 teams since the start of the 2000 season.

Against current SEC coaches, Fulmer is 22-23. He has a winning record against Bobby Johnson at Vanderbilt, Rich Brooks at Kentucky, Houston Nutt at Arkansas and Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss.

He has a losing record against Steve Spurrier (4-8 at Florida and South Carolina), Mark Richt at Georgia (2-4), Urban Meyer at Florida (0-2) and Nick Saban (1-2 at LSU).

Fulmer is .500 against Les Miles of LSU (1-1) and Tommy Tuberville (3-3 at Ole Miss and Auburn).

That's the ammunition by the anti-Fulmer faction.

It's a strong argument. But not strong enough to merit Fulmer being fired.

Fulmer deserves the chance to complete the turnaround. How much longer should he get? Two years.

If Tennessee doesn't win an SEC title or make a BCS bowl in the next two seasons, it's time for a change.

As for the immediate future, Fulmer doesn't deserve a raise.

And he should beat Hamilton to the punch by saying he doesn't want one.


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