“I'm not going to be a dog that barks from inside the house,” Phillip Fulmer said earlier today. “I'm going to do my job, do it the right way. That's all I can do.
“There's only so many hours and only so many things you can fix at one particular time. I can lay my head on the pillow at night and know I've done it and I've done it right. I've had a lot of success doing it.
“Would I do things differently if I had a crystal ball? Sure, I would.”
Although he is on the hot seat with his team carrying a 3-5 overall record and a 1-4 SEC mark, Fulmer says he has no reason to believe his support within the university administration has slipped.
“As far as I know I've got good support from everybody concerned,” he said. “There is a trust and a relationship that's long-term there. Everybody has everybody's best interest at heart, and I don't have a problem with that.”
John Chavis, Fulmer's defensive coordinator since 1995, went to bat for his boss Tuesday and essentially swung for the fence.
“Certainly, I look at a man that has won 150 ball games and done some things at this university that hadn't been done before, and done it with class ... the way it's supposed to be done,” Chavis began.
“I'm not going to deal with the speculation. Whatever happens happens. I'm getting paid well to do what I'm doing. I'm going to go out and bust my rear end to do everything I can to help this team and Coach Fulmer be successful.”
Citing an anonymous source, The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that Fulmer will not be retained if he goes 6-6 and may not be back next season even if the Vols win out to finish 7-5. Chavis apparently had this article in mind when he said the following:
“Speculation is speculation (from) untitled sources. It's easy to stand back and make those kind of statements about unknown sources or sources that aren't going to be revealed. I'm not going to get caught up in that.
“My focus is helping this football team and helping Coach Fulmer prepare this football team be the best we can be. That's our goal. That's been our goal the 17 years I've been with him. That will continue to be our goal. I couldn't be any prouder than to be working for Phil Fulmer right now or at any points during that time.”
The head coach also shrugged off speculation regarding his continued employment by UT.
“You try to focus on the objectives, rather than the obstacles,” he said. “Every day you go to work to try to figure out how to win a football game. So much of what is chattered out there is misinformation that you don't even bother paying attention to it.
“My charge is to run a clean program – and I've done that – and to teach young men about life, leadership and academics – and I think we've done a very good job of that – and then to win a lot more games than we lose – and we've done that.
“In the short-term here, it (success) is not anywhere near where we want it to be, starting with me. I'm just going to go to work and do the very, very best I can for the Tennessee people and the Tennessee family and whoever.”
As a native Tennessean, a UT grad and a former Vol player, Fulmer's allegiance to the program is unquestioned. Asked by a TV reporter if fans realize how much he hurts when the Vols lose, he shook his head.
“They probably can't,” he said. “And, in the big picture, they probably shouldn't. This picture is much bigger than me or any individual. Nobody wants the best for it any more than I do. That's why I focus on the objectives I can do something about.”