Analyzing the Carr-Fulmer equation
by Tony Basilio
To the casual observer, it seems Tennessee and Michigan have been on a similar track for over a decade. Michigan and Tennessee both jumped off the page in the late â’90s with national championships. Michigan turned the trick with Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson. Tennessee won the schoolâ’s first national title in 47 years the following year after losing should-have-been-Heisman-winner Peyton Manning. For two schools led into the new millennium by classy yet old-school field generals, the commonalities go much deeper than just two out-of-nowhere national championships. Tennessee with Phillip Fulmer and Michiganâ’s love affair with outgoing head coach Lloyd Carr have so much in common, itâ’s enough to turn your orange eyes maize.
The commonalities begin at birth. Literally. We all know Phillip Fulmer is a Tennessee guy, born in Winchester, Tenn., in September of â’50. Did you know that Lloyd Carr is also a Tennessean after entering the world on July 30 of â’45?
For the longest time, Carr and Fulmer went separate ways before getting on the same fast track. A pedestrian defensive coaching career led Carr to a lesser conference school when he coached linebackers at Illinois in 1978-79. Phillip Fulmer matriculated into the SEC during this time at Vanderbilt in â’79. After less than two-year appointments at their schools, Fulmer and Carr were ready for the jobs that would define them. By 1980, both would end up at the places that would make them famous millionaires.
Fulmer and Carr worked their way up the ladder during the â’80s with both guys eventually becoming coordinators. The lone departure was that Carrâ’s discipline was defense while Fulmer became lauded for his offensive mind. Both guys served under seemingly larger-than-life college football characters. Carr was an understudy to Bo Schembechler while Fulmer learned his craft from and was molded by Johnny Majors.
Fulmer reached the pinnacle of his profession two years before Carr by becoming the head coach in â’93 on a full-time basis. Itâ’s interesting to note that both Carr and Fulmer were interim coaches before getting their respective big gigs. Fulmer was 4-0 in â’92 while Carr inherited Michigan in the summer of â’95 leading the Wolverines to a 9-4 record. Both guys got their head coaching jobs under controversial circumstances and thus were left with fractured fan bases that never forgot. Fulmerâ’s rise during Majorsâ’ health plight and booster fight is well documented. Carr assumed power after Schembechler clone Gary Moeller resigned in disgrace in April of â’95 after an alleged drunken outburst at a Michigan restaurant was caught on tape.
Though both Carr and Fulmer had controversial appointments, both guys did their best work in their first six years. Carr collected three conference titles in this time (â’97, â’98, 2000) and one BCS appearance to go with the national title in â’97.
Fulmerâ’s first six years yielded two conference titles (â’97, â‘98 ) and three BCS appearances and the aforementioned national title in â’98.
Adding to the weirdness is that both Michigan and Tennessee won conference titles in the same exact years in the â’90s (â’97-â’98).
Fulmer and Carr are also bound by their old-school football-first personas. Both guys would have trouble getting hired for their respective jobs for this reason. Accomplishments trump sex appeal in the Carr-Fulmer equation.
With Hall of Fame careers between them, Carr and Fulmer will sadly be recalled by some for more what they were unable to do than what they accomplished. Carrâ’s kryptonite was Ohio State University which he went an even 6-6 versus. However, Carr was only 1-6 in his final seven versus the Buckeyes. Fulmerâ’s table was almost reversed after losing throughout most of the â’90s to Florida. Fulmerâ’s 6-11 mark against the Gators has been a sore spot.
Two guys coaching in different regions sharing different yet all too similar paths....
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