Naturally, the news has been cheered by Fulmer's supporters and jeered by Fulmer's critics. Some fans – citing a nine-win season, an Eastern Division title and a berth in the SEC Championship Game – believe the raise and extension are justified. Other fans – citing a four-loss season, nine years without a conference title and eight years without a BCS bowl bid – believe the raise and extension are not justified.
In a move obviously designed to clarify and unify, Hamilton emailed Tennessee's season ticket-holders detailing the reasons behind the rewards. The AD noted that Fulmer and his staff did "an exceptional job" in 2007, getting UT to its fifth SEC title game in the past 11 years. Hamilton also noted that the raise and extension give the head man more leverage on the recruiting trail.
What follows is Hamilton's email in its entirety:
I hope this finds each of you doing well and preparing for the holiday season – hopefully with family and friends.
Let me begin by saying how much we appreciate your incredible support of the Vols in Atlanta this weekend at the Championship Game. Orange was everywhere and estimates are that the Tennessee contingent was 40,000 to 50,000 strong. Your presence was inspiring. While we fell short in our goal to bring home the Championship, hopefully our team's efforts were appreciated by all who follow the program.
I have spent a tremendous amount of time with this year's football team in both game settings and otherwise. I continue to be impressed by their character, heart, work ethic and esprit de corps. This is a great group of young men who have achieved more than many expected. They are worthy of your continued support, and I hope you will be there to provide that on Jan. 1 in Tampa. We should never take playing in a New Year's Day bowl on national television against a quality opponent for granted. Numerous programs in our league and across the nation would gladly trade places. Tickets are $65 and on sale now at www.UTSports.com or by calling the ticket office at (800) 332-VOLS. In addition, official travel packages are available at www.doddsathletictours.com/tennessee. We have several events planned during that weekend for Vol fans. A new event we hope will become a mainstay with alumni and fans will be a free Big Orange Pep Rally with Coach Fulmer, players, President Petersen, the UT band, cheerleaders and Smokey. The event is being planned for New Year's Eve afternoon. After the pep rally, I would invite you to join us to ring in 2008 at a special Big Orange New Year's event. All the details about the pep rally and New Year's event are being finalized and will be available at www.utalumni.utk.edu/bott. On game day we will have our traditional Big Orange Tailgate Tour with a full breakfast buffet at Raymond James Stadium from 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. You need to pre-register at www.utalumni.utk.edu/bott before Dec. 27 (Noon ET). Make plans to join us in Florida for New Year's. I know our team will appreciate your decision to do so.
A number of media outlets have written recently of my decision to give Coach Fulmer a one-year extension on his contract and to review his compensation. Phillip and his staff did an exceptional job keeping our team focused and working to improve during the latter half of the season as they won the Divisional Championship. We have now appeared in five Championship Games in 11 years, which is more than any other SEC program can claim. In addition, Coach Fulmer is one of only six coaches in America to have won 100 more games than he has lost and he remains the winningest active coach in America with 10 or more years of experience. He is our coach and will be our coach for the foreseeable future. A contract extension allows him to aggressively recruit the student-athletes that will allow the football program to hopefully bring home another National Championship for you – the greatest fans in America.
Thank you again for your tremendous support in Atlanta as well as the entire 2007 season. We hope to see you in Tampa on New Year's Day.