But Clawson has succeeded everywhere he's landed.
His two head coaching jobs (58-49 record) resurrected first Fordham, boosting a Rams program coming off 12 straight losing seasons into NCAA playoff participants, and then Richmond, which twice advanced to the postseason. Before that, Clawson called the offensive plays for another pair of Division I-AA powerhouses in Lehigh and Villanova. In fact, Clawson coached alongside recent Vols assistant coaching hire Stan Drayton for three years in the late 1990s during a successful Villanova football era.
"I am very excited about naming Dave Clawson as our new offensive coordinator," Fulmer said. "I have thoroughly enjoyed the search and research process, and there certainly was a lot of interest in this position. I took the attitude that this was a great opportunity for me to evaluate the coaching talent out there and find the perfect fit for a new era of Tennessee offensive football."
Clawson twice has been named national Division I-AA coach of the year, winning once at Fordham and once at Richmond, and three times earned his league coaching honors. In 2005, the Richmond Touchdown Club selected him College Coach of the Year over the likes of Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer and Virginia's Al Groh.
"Dave Clawson brings a great work ethic, high energy and is a great teacher of quarterbacks," Fulmer said. "His multiple offensive system using the talents of the players available to their fullest has been impressive. He has a great passion for recruiting, which is important for Tennessee, and his experience as a head coach will serve us well."
Fulmer's coaching search began when David Cutcliffe was named Duke's head coach Dec. 15. Cutcliffe proceeded to hire UT assistants Kurt Roper and Matt Luke as members of his staff, and assistant Trooper Taylor later departed for the offensive coordinator's position at Oklahoma State to necessitate Fulmer's first staff coaching hires in two years.
Clawson has proven himself a program builder and offensive specialist.
His 19 combined victories during his final two years (2002-03) at Fordham were the most wins there in back-to-back seasons since 1918-19. Then he guided Richmond to the biggest two-year turnaround in Spider football's 124-year history, improving from 3-8 his first season of 2004 to 9-4 and an NCAA playoff berth the following year.
"He is young, highly intelligent and competitive, well-organized and a great person and family man – all attributes I was looking for," Fulmer said. "We welcome Dave, his wife Catherine, and their children, Courtney and Eric, to the Tennessee family."
A native of Youngstown, N.Y., located on the shores of Lake Ontario just 30 minutes north of Buffalo, Clawson played defensive back in football and also basketball at Williams College in Massachusetts. He graduated in 1989, and then began a two-year assistant coaching stop at Albany. From there, he coached two years at Buffalo and three at Lehigh, including his first two years, 1994-95, as an offensive coordinator.
Clawson then was named offensive coordinator at Villanova, where Drayton and he helped establish 70 school records and led the Wildcats to the I-AA playoffs in 1996 and 1997. Under Clawson's tutelage, receiver Brian Finneran won the Walter Payton Award, given to I-AA's most outstanding player, and Brian Westbrook became the first student-athlete in NCAA history to gain more than 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a season.