In 2008 Tennessee was struggling (3-5) under Phillip Fulmer when No. 2 Alabama came to Neyland Stadium. In the final minutes of the game I looked into the stands and saw nothing but crimson, at least 30,000 strong. The score was 29-9 and the Tennessee fans had left early. They had seen enough. Nick Saban’s second team at Alabama had sent the message: “There is a new sheriff in town.”
Then the Alabama crowd yelled: “We just beat the hell out of you.”
I knew it was over for Fulmer, who in 17 seasons had elevated the program to national championship status and had played for the SEC championship the year before. When I saw him in the interview area I shook his hand and looked him in the eye. He knew it was over, too.
The following season Lane Kiffin was the head coach at Tennessee. But that is another story for another day.
I tell you that story because it makes the point that coaches are not fired strictly because of how many games they lose. They get fired because: 1) they lose the fan base and 2) They lose the locker room.
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