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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Book of CPF

In the literary world, there are five essential parts of a plot: The Introduction, the Rising Action, The Climax, the Falling Action, and the Denouement. This concept can be applied to any movie, book, TV show or play. I like to think this concept can be expanded and applied to every definable cycle. With that in mind, I delved into the cycle that is the head coaching tenure of Phillip Fulmer at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

The Auspicious Introduction

CPF (as we will call him from this point forward) was offensive coordinator under head coach Majors starting in 1989. Majors liked to hire the most talented coaches he could find. Consequently, his turnover was rather high. Many of his former employees went on to successful careers as head coaches at the college level, or some level of NFL coaching. CJM developed players for the NFL and coaches for both college and the NFL.

In 1992, CJM missed some games due to health reasons. CPF filled in on an interim basis and went 3-0, with victories over SEC opponents Florida and Georgia. Johnny felt the knife halfway into his back at this point. When he returned from his hiatus, he won at home over Cincinnati 40-0, and on the road over LSU 20-0. He then laid three successive eggs at home vs Arkansas and Alabama, and on the road at South Carolina. He won out over the sisters of the poor and knocked off BC in the bowl game, but by now his fate was sealed. CPF had knifed CJM squarely in the back, and begun his reign as head ball coach. All hail Dickey, ruler of all things VOL, abandoner of tradition, embracer of the almighty dollar.

The Rising Action

CPF chose David Cutcliffe as his offensive coordinator and kept Marmie as his defensive coordinator. He felt “safe” with these two. CPF charged through his first season in what would become his trademark fashion: He beat everyone but Florida, then got creamed in the bowl game. 1994 was a bit tougher, as he had to go through a few QBs early on, and dropped 3 out of 4 (4 out of 7) before being saved by Tennessee’s annual trouncing of the sisters of the poor.

In 1995, CPF selected Chavis as his new defensive coordinator. This move cost UT the national championship this season. In the Vols only loss of the season, Florida put 62 points on Chavis’ defense, and exposed his mustang as “the package of choice” for any opponent with a passing game. If the Vols had schemed for this game (a somewhat foreign concept under CPF), this would have been the first of 3 consecutive national titles. The Vols had enough talent this season to beat Ohio State in the long spikes bowl.

In 1996, CPF led the Vols away from the title yet again. He realized that losing to Florida wasn’t enough to keep a title from Knoxville, so he dropped a game against weak sister Memphis. This put him into the Citrus Bowl where he felt much more comfortable. Therefore, CPF deviated from his pattern by winning two bowl games in a row.

In 1997, UT narrowly avoided a national title by squeezing defeat from the jaws of victory against Florida. With Senior quarterback Peyton Manning, and a roster full of future NFL stars, the Vols got STEAMROLLED in their bowl game vs Nebraska, 42-17. Like 1993, this was a trademark early CPF year. The talent was there for a third national title, but CPF blew it again… but his winning percentage ROCKED!!!

1998 was the year UT was supposed to be “down”. We lost all universe, future hall of famer (but not good enough to win a Heisman) quarterback Peyton Manning. We had some nobody from bammerland in to lead the team, and expectations were low. Sure, we still had enough talent to beat the 2005 Tennessee Titans, but we didn’t know that then. This was a perfect setup to the perfect season… one that even coaching couldn’t stop. Fate decreed that Syracuse would choke, the Florida kicker would choke, and the Arkansas QB would trip on the ghost of Cedric Houstons to come. Fate also drove down to Tallahassee and broke their QB to seal the deal. This brings us to…

The Climax

Despite all the recent articles portraying the 2005 preseason as the indicator that the empire was falling, the signs began appearing as early as prior to the 1998 National Championship win over Florida State. Remember that a climax involves the main character receiving new information (Cutcliffe resigning to take over at Ole Miss), the main character accepts the information and then ACTS on this information (which determines whether or not he gains his objective). Now we all know the action was Fulmer hiring Randy Sanders as offensive coordinator, but the objective? I look at the objective as becoming the greatest head coach ever at UT, therefore I’d have to say his choice led to failure. The Vols finished their title run by beating a depleted Seminole squad, and they say CPFs head grew three sizes that day.

The Falling Action

1999 saw lofty expectations (again) lead to average results. The Vols regained their tradition of losing to Florida, and proceeded to drop “Fate’s make up” game against Arkansas. CPF capped it all with his trademark beat down in the bowl game, as in taking the beating. When it comes to bowl games, CPF is a catcher and not a pitcher.

2000 looked like an aberration at the time. The Vols started 2-3 before the annual sisters of the poor salvation. They finished 8-4, marking CPF’s worst year since 1994, thanks to the trademark bowl bend over.

2001 was another year where the pieces were almost there for a national title run. The talent was exceptional, but the coaching was typical. Fate tried to do her part by moving the Florida game to the end of the year. CPF tried to make up for that by losing to Georgia in game 4 of the season. The Vols won out, earning their way into the SECC game. This is the point many call the “jumping of the shark” by CPF. He had a chance to get into another BcS national title game. He led LSU at halftime. LSU came out with a backup QB and TB in the second half and beat the #2 Vols. That was the day I decided not to go back to the Georgia Dome until things changed. CPF may have made the same decision, eh? He didn’t go back until 2004. The Vols took out their frustrations on a Wolverine squad that made black strap molasses look like white lightening. CPF pitched for once.

2002 was another “aberration”, as the Vols limped to a mediocre 8-5 record. The only thing worth mentioning is that this is the year the “Peach” performance reared its head. The Vols go into a 2nd or 3rd tier bowl, massively favored, and fail to show up. This is about the time when many decided to jump on the fire Randy Sanders bandwagon. I held off for a few years. I’m a coaching conservative compared to my farsighted brethren of MonVOLia.

2003 was a blah kind of year, with a 10-2 Vols team (due to losses to Auburn and Georgia) overlooked by all the bowls who recognize a good team when they see it. Thus, the 2nd Peach bowl debacle occurs. UT goes into Atlanta and gets creamed by an ACC also-ran.

2004 was a set up. The Vols dropped games to Notre Dame, and Auburn (twice), made a visit to the Georgia Dome, and finished a respectable 10-3. The expectations were low based upon 2003 and the quarterback situation. What the experts failed to take into account was that Randy Sanders had not had time to screw their heads up yet.

2005: The year of false hope. The Vols enter into the season as one of several contenders for a match with USC in the title game. The pre-season is generally listed as the reason for this team’s failure, but it had been building since 1998. The lack of discipline had cropped up in various incidents and events. These are well documented in recent media articles (see past events involving Omari Hand, Troy Fleming, etc…) and so I won’t rehash them. The 2005 Vols set new records for futility by an offense. They were so bad they made the 1988 Vols look explosive! The lowest scoring UT team since 1964, this team gave the message boards plenty to talk about. Half the team refused to play when Ainge was in the game. The Clausen half refused to listen to the coaches. This truly was a team divided, due to multiple factors. Discipline was lacking, coaching was woeful, and the California Pickle mark II drove in the final stakes.

The Denouement?

While his predecessor sent many coaches on to bigger and better things, CPF has kept the same ones around indefinitely. The only changes have been those almost forced upon him. We anxiously await the 2006 Volunteer squad. With new (old) offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe in place, the fans are anticipating improvement. While the bar is buried in the sand, exceeding it should be certain. On the other hand, raising it for future seasons may prove more difficult than expected. The UT staff has consistently taken talented players and coached them down. Thus, they rely upon incoming recruits they have not screwed up yet to contribute greatly to the team’s success. This year’s recruiting class looks to be the worst ever. Unless the new (old) coaching staff can correct the mistakes of the past, 2006 will be another disappointing year. With CPF is in charge, the Vols may never reach the top again. That’s why I hope the 2006 season is CPF’s denouement.

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© 2005


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fulmer's Record Since 1998

* Years without SEC title: 7
* Years without BCS bowl: 6
* Years without top 10 ranking: 4
* Years without AP Top 25 ranking: 2000, 2002, 2005
* Years with 3 or more losses: 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
* Years with multiple losses to unranked teams: 2003, 2005
* Years with loss in last 2 games of season: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 (7 straight and counting)

* 3-8 (.273) vs. Spurrier: (1-3 since 1998.)
* 1-4 (.200) vs. Richt
* 1-3 (.250) vs. Tuberville
* 1-2 (.333) vs. Saban
* 0-1 (.000) vs. Meyer

* 8-14 (.363) 1999 - present vs. FL, GA, LSU, AUB (thank God for Zook!)
* 6-13 (.316) 2000 - present vs. FL, GA, LSU, AUB
* 4-12 (.250) 2000 - present vs. FL, GA, LSU, AUB excluding games vs. Zook
* 4-11 (.267) 2000 - present vs. FL, GA, AUB
* 2-10 (.167) 2000 - present vs. FL, GA, AUB excluding games vs. Zook
* 4-8 (.333) 2000 - present vs. FL, GA
* 2-7 (.222) 2000 - present vs. FL, GA excluding games vs. Zook
* 1-5 (.167) 2000 - present vs. GA
* 6-13 (.316) vs. Top 10 teams 1999 - present
* 0-6 (.000) vs. Top 10 teams at home 2000 - present
* 4-11 (.267) vs. Top 10 teams 2000 - present
* 15-18 (.455) vs. Ranked Teams 1999 - present
* 2-4 (.333) Bowl games since 1998 (all double digit losses)
* 2-6 (.250) Postseason record since 1998 including SECCG (all double digit

Losses To Unranked Teams:
* 2005 Candy 28 Candy Jr 24
* 2005 SC 16 TN 15
* 2004 ND 17 TN 13
* 2003 Clem 27 TN 14
* 2003 Aub 28 TN 21
* 2001 GA 26 TN 24
* 2000 LSU 38 TN 31
* 1999 Ark 28 TN 24

Footnote: only AP polls were used for ranking purposes.

9:31 PM  

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