Tennessee Team News

Phillip Fulmer: Butch Jones has ‘rebuilt the program’ at Tennessee

Phillip Fulmer
Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee fans have had varying opinions of coach Butch Jones.

While some have credited Jones for the program’s turnaround after dire times, others have become disappointed in the team falling short of expectations and what seems to be his complacency with non-championship football.

Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, however, is among those who have credited Jones for improving the program and believes that fans need to give the rebuilding process more time to reach fruition.

“Everybody’s fussing about, ‘oh gosh we only won nine.’ Nine wins is a great year,” Fulmer said on the “Erik Ainge Show” on WNML radio in Knoxville this week. “Think about where we were four years ago and where we are now. No, it’s not where we want to be but you have to give the guy his credit.

“He’s rebuilt the program — I mean, we were in a dark place there four years ago after the Dooley stuff and everything. It was terrible and at least we’re right now in the conversation and now we’ve got to get past that.

“I go back and I look at my time and I had four teams better than the national championship teams. I’m telling you, ’95, ’96, ’99 and ’01, if we had had the playoff then that they have now, those teams, like ’98, would have been in the playoff. But you know what? Probably so would have Florida. We would have played them again.

“That’s how close this thing is and it gets back to an injury or a break here and there or a tipped ball or a fumbled snap like we got against Arkansas. Those kind of things are really important and people just relax and give us a chance to do what we need to do.”

Fulmer led the Vols to a 152-52 record, including a national championship in 1998, two SEC championships (1997-98) and five SEC Eastern Division titles (1997, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007) during 17 seasons as head coach.

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