Fulmer eager to coach again

Tennessee head football coach Lane Kiffin has gone more than 72 hours without saying anything that prompted a reprimand from the SEC office, a clarification from athletics director Mike Hamilton or submission of a secondary rules violation report to the NCAA. That may be a record.

Now I'm beginning to understand why Kiffin's predecessor, Phillip Fulmer, was so guarded in his comments: The fewer words you say, the less chance you'll have to eat them.

Interestingly enough, Fulmer seems to be a little more open now that his UT career is closed. He recently gave a reasonably candid interview to Adam Caparell of NCAA.com, who posted the remarks in an article entitled "Not The Retiring Type."

Fulmer doesn't say anything outrageous or inflammatory, of course. It isn't his style, whether he's a high-profile head coach or a low-profile family man. Still, his comments shed some unexpected light on his forced resignation and life without football.

"You really don't realize how much you miss it until you're away from it," he said.

After 16-plus years as Tennessee's head coach produced a 152-52 record, two SEC titles and a national championship, Fulmer never imagined he'd be asked to resign when the Vols' 2008 record dipped to 3-6 following a Nov. 1 loss at South Carolina.

"It doesn't register," he told Caparell. "After 17 years, I strongly felt like I deserved a chance to fix it. But that's not what they chose to do and I chose not to be a bitter guy. I'm going to go and look at other opportunities."

One of those opportunities – working as a TV analyst – already presented itself. The irony is rich, since Fulmer always has been excruciatingly wary of the media.

Dubbed "The Big Fisherman" by admirers of his prowess on the recruiting trail, Fulmer admits being quite comfortable with a rod and reel. Fishing for bass isn't nearly as exciting as fishing for five-star prospects, however.

"I don't consider myself a guy who is going to retire and go fishing," he said. "I think a guy with 152 wins, 100 more wins than losses, should have a chance to coach again."

Fulmer, now 58, estimated that he has seven to 10 years of coaching left in him. He says he still has the energy, still has the enthusiasm, still has the drive.

All he needs is a job. The fact he no longer has one at his alma mater is disappointing but he's determined to rise above it.

"Being bitter," he said, "is like taking poison and expecting somebody else to die."


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