Rocky decade for Tennessee football

(Photos: AP)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For 30 years, Tennessee football’s head coaching position was remarkably stable; occupied by two men, Johnny Majors and Philip Fulmer.

But ever since Coach Fulmer agreed to step down in 2008, the program has struggled to find a consistent winning leader.

“I thank all the coaches and support groups who have helped me fight the battles on the field, on the recruiting trail and with the development of our young men,” said Fulmer in 2008.

At the time, Fulmer’s thoughts were with his team.

“This time next week, they’ll have a new coach and there’ll be new excitement about all of that.”

His replacement was Lane Kiffin. At the time, he was one of football’s hottest young rising stars.

Vol fans went from cheering Kiffin to burning couches in anger when he bolted for the University of Southern California after just one season.

His successor would be another young, though lesser-known coach Derek Dooley.

“I’m honored, I’m humbled to stand before you as the next head football coach at Tennessee,” said Dooley.

Dooley came from Lousiana Tech, where he had a losing record over three seasons. His last three years at the helm of UT were all losing campaigns. His teams here were known for blowing games at the last minute, including the Music City Bowl.

“I thought I’d seen it all in Baton Rouge, but just when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t,” said Dooley. He was gone near the end of 2012.

Enter Butch Jones, the program’s fourth head coach in 6 years. A winning track record at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati earned him the job and he lasted nearly 5 years in Knoxville. He led the Vols to three straight winning seasons, each ending with a bowl victory.

But at Tennessee, anything less than a national title contention is unacceptable: to fans, and to the school. Jones’ best teams never quite got there and after this season’s 4-6 record, Athletics Director John Currie had seen enough.

If you go back to Coach Fulmer’s last season in 2008, 5 of UT’s last 9 teams have had losing records. Unless they can upset LSU Saturday, this year will make 6 of 10.

The 10 years prior, the Vols only had one losing season and of course, won a National Championship.

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