Phil Fulmer was on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot in 2012. Could he also be on an SEC sideline in the same year?
Former Tennessee assistant Doug Matthews appeared on Nashville radio, and confirmed talks between Arkansas and Fulmer over the Razorbacks’ head coaching vacancy.
When Bobby Petrino was dismissed last week, yours truly wrote the best tactic for UA athletic director Jeff Long to take would be either turning over the reins to an assistant, or pulling a currently unincumbered coach out of retirement. Fulmer would be a major coup. He’s a proven, Hall of Fame-level coach. Furthermore, in the SEC where oneupsmanship is critical, Long would have some bait for a conference partner.
The 17-season UT head coach Fulmer went into retirement after the 2008 campaign, winner of 152 games and a BCS Championship. He spent nearly three decades with the Volunteers in some capacity, and only legendary Robert Neyland was more successful in Knoxville. Fulmer is Tennessee, despite the unceremonious way in which he left the program.
Since forcing Fulmer out after the 2008 campaign, the Volunteers have failed to return to prominence. Lane Kiffin departed after just one season, and Derek Dooley’s tenure has been lackluster thus far. The opportunity to succeed in the SEC and prove he had winning football left in him would seem enticing for Fulmer.
Arkansas is a team readymade for a historic run in 2012. Fulmer-coached teams featured many notable quarterbacks: Heath Shuler, Tee Martin and of course, Peyton Manning. Tyler Wilson adding his name to that list is certainly intriguing. Win now has to be the mindset in Fayetteville, and Fulmer’s savvy fits that bill.
Age seems an immediate concern with Fulmer, but at 61 he’s hardly a relic. Nick Saban is 60. Steve Spurrier is 66. Fulmer could be more than a temporary rental while Garrick McGee or Gus Malzahn fulfill their obligations to new homes, but at the same time he would be a suitable bridge between eras.
Right now, everything is purely speculation. It certainly adds intrigue to the always-fascinating SEC, and a new twist to the ongoing Arkansas soap opera.