It’s easy to still have a strong affinity for Tee Martin.
After all, the former Tennessee quarterback was Mr. Clutch as he led the Vols to the national title in 1998. However, 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,” he said. “I made that message very clear. I was out of that discussion, so they moved on to do what they had to do.”
Yes, that message is very clear. Martin would rather become a more powerful offensive coordinator at Southern California 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 Phillip Fulmer’s return 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 truly 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 show some of his detractors some revenge, but I believe he’s altruistic at heart.
Some have opined that Fulmer hasn’t really brought the family back together as he has stated, that he’s hired an Alabama head coach and assistants from around the SEC. However, those people are being a bit short sighted.
Fulmer didn’t have to hire Martin nor any other coach with ties to UT in order to bring the family back together. Past players certainly didn’t feel welcome under former coach Derek Dooley, who mandated they call ahead before showing up at the football facility. Former players began to be disenchanted with former coach Butch Jones when it was obvious he couldn’t handle the pressure of the position. Also, Jones catered to players that could help build UT’s brand in recruiting. He didn’t care nearly as much about former players that didn’t have the sizzle of an NFL superstar like Peyton Manning.
I also think when Fulmer talks about family he’s including the fans. With a pathetic decade on the record books, there’s not the same zest for UT football as there was in the past. Fulmer wants to bring that fan passion back. His hiring alone should help do that.
And when it comes to hiring coaches from rivals, does anyone remember that former UT coach David Cutcliffe went to college at Alabama? That didn’t seem to matter when he was heading up championship offenses at UT in the 1990’s.
I was a proponent of bringing Cutcliffe back to UT to replace Jones. Cutcliffe publicly stated he had no interest. I can’t say I blame him. He could win seven games at Duke and be lauded. He could win seven at UT and be fired.
In the end, Fulmer hired who he thought was the best coach in Jeremy Pruitt and Pruitt then hired the best coaches he believed could fill his staff. If 102,000 fans are cheering him on every Saturday and former players approve, that’s bringing the family back together. As for Martin, he should be applauded for making a good business decision. And Fulmer should be applauded for not letting emotions nor Martin’s ultimatum get in the way of a solid business decision.