Phillip Fulmer is the newest member of the Tennessee Volunteers family to reach the College Football Hall of Fame. He was named to the 2012 class during a Tuesday ceremony in New York City by the National Football Foundation and becomes the 22nd former UT player or coach to earn enshrinement. Fulmer is the first Vol gaining entry into the College Football Hall of Fame since offensive guard Chip Kell in 2006.
Fulmer led the Vols to the very first BCS National Championship after the 1998 season, finishing 13-0 with a 23-16 victory over Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl. The 1997 and 1998 Vols remain the last teams to repeat as SEC champions, and Fulmer coached Tennessee to seven SEC Eastern Division titles in 16 seasons.
Fulmer’s won-lost record of 152-52 figures to a .744 winning percentage, and he left UT as the winningest coach in major college football with at least 10 years’ experience. Joining Nebraska’s Tom Osborne as the only two coaches to lead a team to a bowl game in each of their first 13 years of coaching, Fulmer led the Vols to a 98-41 record during his final 11 seasons, including four conference title games and one SEC championship, the 1998 BCS Championship, and eight January bowls.
Tennessee’s four-year stretch from 1995-98 under Fulmer was one of the best in college football history – a 45-5 record from 1995-98 that culminated in the BCS title game win. For his efforts in that 1998 season, Fulmer was a near-unanimous pick as national coach of the year.
Fulmer led the Vols to 10 or more wins nine times and finished his career 44-37 against ranked teams. Tennessee won six consecutive overtime games from 2002-07, and the Vols became masters of the come-from-behind method of victory, rallying from 18 down against Arkansas in 1998, 21 at Kentucky in 2001, 24 at Notre Dame in 1991 (when Fulmer was offensive coordinator), 17 at Georgia in 2006 and 15 to Vanderbilt in the fourth quarter of 2007 with a trip to the SEC Championship Game on the line.
Fulmer went 11-5 against his biggest rival, Alabama, and led the Vols to the SEC title game five times. Tennessee won two of those nail-biters and lost three heartbreakers, but over the final decade of Fulmer’s coaching career, UT never went more than three years without taking a team to Atlanta.
Induction for this year’s hall of fame takes place Dec. 4 at the 55th National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner in New York’s historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Tennessee Vols already in the College Football Hall of Fame (and their induction years) are Gene McEver (1954), Beattie Feathers (1955), Gen. Robert R. Neyland (1956), Herman Hickman (1959), Bobby Dodd (player, 1959), Bob Suffridge (1961), Nathan Dougherty (1967), George Cafego (1969), Bowden Wyatt (player, 1972; coach 1997), Hank Lauricella (1981), Doug Atkins (1985), Johnny Majors (1987), Bob Johnson (1989), Ed Molinski (1990), Steve DeLong (1993), John Michels (1996), Steve Kiner (1999), Reggie White (2002), Doug Dickey (2003), Frank Emanuel (2004) and Chip Kell (2006).