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Phillip Fulmer’s decision with Tee Martin was more about business than emotion

Phillip Fulmer
Amanda Izzi/Tennessee athletics

It’s easy to still have a strong affinity for former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin.

After all, he was “Mr. Clutch” when he led the Vols to the national title in 1998. But his latest comments are a reminder that college football can be more about business than emotion.

When asked about coaching at UT, Martin said, “It was a situation where if I was going to go back to Tennessee, it was to be as the head coach, not as coordinator. I made that message very clear. I was out of that discussion, so they moved on to do what they had to do.”

RELATED: Meddling? No, consider Phillip Fulmer’s recruiting involvement a good sign for Vols

Yes, that message is clear. Martin would rather stay as offensive coordinator at USC than help UT resurrect its program in a similar position. The Vols helped ensure Martin would be more powerful by hiring his co-offensive coordinator, Tyson Helton, to head up UT’s offense. It was simply business. Martin stayed at a more established program and likely got more power.

Coaching decisions aren’t about emotions. That’s what makes the return of Phillip Fulmer as athletic director special. He truly wants to help his university. Whether he has made or will make the right decisions remains to be seen, but his heart is in it. He chose to step away from family life and semi-retirement to accept a full-time job with enough pressure to turn coal into diamonds. That’s a rare dedication. Sure, he now has more power and a chance to gain some revenge on his detractors, but I believe he’s altruistic at heart.

Some have opined that Fulmer hasn’t really gotten the family back together, as he has stated, that he’s hired an Alabama head coach and assistants from around the SEC. But those people are being a bit short-sighted.

Fulmer didn’t have to hire Martin nor any other coach with ties to UT to bring the family back together. Past players certainly didn’t feel welcome under Derek Dooley, who mandated they call ahead before showing up at the football facility. Former players began to be disenchanted with Butch Jones when it was obvious he couldn’t handle the pressure of the position. Plus, Jones catered to players who could help build UT’s brand in recruiting. He didn’t care nearly as much about former players who didn’t have the sizzle of an NFL superstar such as Peyton Manning.

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