Saturday, October 4, 2008

Johnny Majors: "I wouldn’t put myself in comparison with Phillip Fulmer on anything."

Johnny Majors: "I wouldn’t put myself in comparison with Phillip Fulmer on anything."
for The Bleacher Report

Johnny Majors at one point had three assistants on his staff who went on to become Head Coaches. Fulmer has had none that were not hired first by Majors.

Speaking to the Huntsville (Ala.) Quarterback Club on September 30th, Johnny Majors did his best to not mention Tennessee Head Coach Fat Phillip Fulmer--his successor 16 long years ago--by name, in spite of all the striking simularities between Fulmer's season of failure and that fateful autumn in 1992.

"What’s happening there now I’m not going to get into." Majors told the crowd of over 200. "I wouldn’t put myself in comparison with Phillip Fulmer on anything. I’m above that."

This was somewhat of a departure for Majors, who has, for years, taken his shots at Fat Phil whenever possible.

"I don't pull against those players up there but I don't have any regard for Judas Brutus, who's coaching up there." Majors said in 2005.

The animosity largely stems from 1992, when health problems prevented Johnny Majors from coaching at the start of the season. Fulmer was made acting head coach. The players loved his kinder, gentler approach to coaching, and won the first 4 games, including convincing wins over Georgia & Florida. Majors then returned, and UT lost to South Carolina & Arkansas. That was the end of Johnny Majors, an ending that humiliated and embittered Majors until this very day.

Majors discussed a broad array of topics, including his childhood in Lynchberg, Tennessee, and the National Championship he won at Pittsburgh and being the youngest head coach in the country when he took the Iowa State job in the mid-1960s at the age of 32.

"I am walking over hot coals suspended over a deep pit at the bottom of which are a large number of vipers baring their fangs."

He also stated that Tony Dorsett, his Heisman Trophy running back at Pittsburgh, was the best four-year player he ever coached and that former UT quarterback Tony Robinson was “the most outstanding talent I ever coached at quarterback.”

Majors even talked about losing the 1956 Heisman Trophy to Paul Hornung by the narrowest margin (at that time) in history, a defeat that has been questioned for year for the simple reason that Notre Dame — Hornung's team — finished 2-8 while UT went 10-0. Hornung is the only player to have ever won the Heisman on a losing team.

"Back in 1979, when Notre Dame came to Knoxville," Majors said, "Paul was doing radio and television work for the Irish and he wanted to interview me for a segment. At the end of interview he said he wanted me to say something to all the thousands of people who thought I should have won the Heisman instead of him. “I said, 'No, Paul, I thought Jim Brown (who finished fourth) should have won it.'"

But every now and then Majors brought up his 16 years in Knoxville, where he again resides.

"We moved back 13 months ago,” he said. “Moved back to the same neighborhood. In fact, we moved right across the street from where we lived before."

Fat Phillip Fulmer and the state of Alabama have never gotten along well, going as far back as the mid-1990's when evidence provided by Fulmer resulted in Alabama being placed on sanctions by the NCAA.

Lightening struck twice, and this happened again in 2000.

Fat Phil was on the verge of being fired last year had Tennessee lost to South Carolina.

Alabama is now entering it's first period of sustained success since the devastating sanctions, and Fulmer is evidently in a sharp decline. Fulmer has won 52 games in the six seasons before this one, and enters Saturday's game with Northern Illinois 1-3. Majors won 53 games in his final 6 seasons.

When asked about the simularities of the two seasons and situations, Majors replied, "You mean the season of my ignominious demise? The season when, while I was recovering from my heart surgery, a few people whom I won’t name were operating on my back."

"I'm not going to say what I hear," Majors said. "I'm not going to get into that. I have nothing to offer. I’m not in a supervisory position. But they (Fulmer’s staff) had success early because of the program we left them."

"That was, by far, the most traumatic thing that ever happened to me in my professional life," he said. "It was a complete shock. I was promised a new seven-year contract. I was lied to. Frankly, I think (defensive coordinator) John Chavis has saved his job for 10 years."

The only thing that keeps Fat Phil going in these rough times. No, he is not sharing with ANYONE.