Wiedmer: Should Fulmer replace Hamilton?

Amazing what a year can do. Or a weekend. Less than 15 months after the University of Tennessee fired Phillip Fulmer as its football coach, ESPN began circulating a rumor on Wednesday that “several” UT Board of Trustee members wanted Fulmer back as either the coach or athletic director.

Not both jobs, mind you. Just one or the other. Still, it’s amazing how absence can make the heart grow fonder after one of the more unkind dismissals in SEC history.

Amazing, too, how quickly you can go from being the toast of Big Orange Nation — which Hamilton was in many eyes after hiring Lane Kiffin to go along with basketball coach Bruce Pearl — to just plain toast.

Whether the story concerning Fulmer’s possible return is true or not — and “several” could presumably mean as few as two of the current 26 board members — Hamilton’s long-term employment probably rests on his second football hire in 14 months.

Get it right this time and he can probably breathe easy for the next five or six years. At least as long as no more football or basketball players are arrested with guns, drugs or alcohol. Get it wrong and the Vols could have a new AD before the start of 2011.

But who is the right hire to replace Lame Lane? And beyond that, was Kiffin necessarily the wrong hire, or merely the wrong hire to make 14 months before Southern Cal unexpectedly came open?

We can all bash Kiffin for bailing out on the Vols three weeks from signing day, but what if USC really is his dream job? How many of us would turn down our dream job out of loyalty to our current employer? And if we did, what would that employer do for us? That’s the flip side of Kiffin’s departure. There’s no loyalty either way or Fulmer would have had at least one more year to turn things around.

TimesFreePress.com
1/14/10