Fulmer Seeks Unity from Tennessee Community

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)


Phillip Fulmer posted a two-word tweet on Sunday - or rather, a hashtag of two words smushed together.

"#ComeTogether," Fulmer's tweet said.

The tweet was accompanied by a video montage of Vols highlights set to Aerosmith covering the Beatles' song "Come Together."

Fulmer's tweet was widely circulated. It had nearly 10,000 retweets and more than 15,000 likes 24 hours after it posted.

Fulmer was appointedTennessee's athletic director on Friday. He replaced John Currie, who was suspended with pay as the university tries to fire him for cause. Currie's tenure met its end amid a chaotic football coaching search after Currie fired Butch Jones on Nov. 12.

The coaching search has been a source of division and frustration throughout the Vols' fan base.

"This is an important time in our athletic history," Fulmer said at a news conference Friday. "We all agree on the objective. We all agree on the urgency of achieving our objective. It's time that we all pull together to be part of the solution."

Fulmer sent letters to Tennessee donors and season-ticket holders, former athletes and current athletes over the weekend.

Unity was a theme of those letters.

"My immediate responsibility is to find the next leader of our football program who will guide us back to a championship level," Fulmer wrote in his letter to donors. "It will not be easy and we need you - as a true stakeholder - to help me unite our Tennessee family."

Fulmer's appointment rebooted a coaching search that has seen Tennessee back away from a deal with one candidate - Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano - before the Vols were spurned by Duke's David Cutcliffe, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, Purdue's Jeff Brohm and North Carolina State's Dave Doeren. One of Currie's last acts as AD was meeting with Washington State coach Mike Leach. There have been no rumblings of a potential deal with Leach since Currie's ouster.

Fulmer reportedly will attend Tuesday's National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York. Quarterback Peyton Manning, one of Fulmer's former players, will be among the inductees.

Currie's search appeared focused on candidates who had head coaching experience. Fulmer's hunt might not follow the same path.

He referenced Friday that he had no head coaching experience before taking the reins of the Tennessee job before the 1992 season.

"I've been charged to find the right coach for these circumstances: head coach, assistant coach and coordinators," Fulmer said. "I wasn't a head coach when I started. More times than not, you like experience to come in, somebody that has been a head coach. We'll see where that goes."

Footballscoop.com, citing sources, reported Monday that Fulmer has spoken with or plans to speak with Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, former LSU coach Les Miles and SMU coach Chad Morris.

Morris was believed to have been on Currie's radar.

Neither Tucker nor Venables has head coaching experience. Venables has had a decorated run as a coordinator, having won national titles with Clemson and Oklahoma. This is only Tucker's second season as a coordinator. Georgia is tied for third nationally in scoring defense.

"I am committed to finding the next leader of our football program, the engine that supports our whole athletic department and unifies our fan base," Fulmer wrote in his letter to former players.

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December 5, 2017


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