Who says Vol Nation doesn't have Fulmer's back?

July, 27, 2008
7/27/08
6:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Want to know if a coach is truly liked, respected and appreciated by his fans?

Write something nasty about him. Openly criticize him. Question his credibility. Take him to task in a public forum.

And then sit back and see how his people react.

I think it's safe to say that Tennessee fans have spoken. I'd hardly pulled into my driveway from Birmingham and the SEC Media Days on Friday night when I started hearing about it from the Vol Nation.

Good thing my wife had already turned off the phone.

The orange masses didn't take too kindly to my calling Phillip Fulmer out for the way he handled the whole ridiculous subpoena escapade on Thursday as he arrived at the SEC Media Days.

Notice, I said, "ridiculous," because it was. It's embarrassing for the SEC and embarrassing for Birmingham that such a staged ploy by attorneys - clearly designed to ambush Fulmer in front of all the cameras - would happen at an event that's designed to promote SEC football.

You've got more than 800 media members there (stepping over each other in many cases), and all anybody wants to talk about that day is some meaningless subpoena that dredges up one of this conference's darkest hours.

The last time I checked, a group of disassociated boosters were the ones who landed Alabama's football program on NCAA probation, sending the Crimson Tide into a tailspin that includes 30 losses over the last five seasons.

Mal Moore, Nick Saban and most reasonable Alabama fans I know want to move on. Obviously, a few don't.

But back to Fulmer.

So much for the notion that there's this gaping disconnect between the dean of SEC coaches and the Tennessee fans, who allegedly don't like him, are over him and just want him gone.

I can say from personal experience over the last few days that they indeed have his back.

And they'll really have it if he can end his SEC championship drought before retiring to his mountain cabin and at some point finding his well-deserved place into the College Football Hall of Fame.

That said, I still think he bungled the way everything was handled Thursday. And if he had a mulligan (Regrettably, I've used most of mine on the golf course), he would have jumped on the opportunity with all the media there to point out what nonsense the whole thing was.

It was his stage to turn it around on the grandstanding attorneys hellbent on making it a sideshow. Instead, he denied, talked in semantics and evaded the fact that he'd even been given a subpoena or that anybody had approached him and tried to give him one.

Over and over again, media members asked him about it, many of whom Fulmer has known for years. Over and over again, he acted as if he didn't have a clue as to what they were talking about.

By playing it that way, he helped make it a much bigger story than it deserved to be, thus overshadowing Tennessee's appearance at the SEC Media Days. That's where he deserves some of the blame.

But the shame of it is that such a bush-league stunt even happened in the first place.

Now, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Subpoena me if you wish.

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