CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- Prior to this past Saturday's 44-13 drubbing at the hands of top-ranked Alabama, former Tennessee head football coach Phil Fulmer and the players from his 1997 SEC Championship team were honored.
"I really appreciated the reception we had and to be there with the 1997 team which was really the core of our success," Fulmer said.
The same core, minus Peyton Manning, that earned Fulmer and the Vols a BCS National Championship the very next season. Which is something they've been chasing ever since.
It's becoming clear the Tennessee faithful are growing tired of chasing. In most eyes that falls on current Head Coach Derek Dooley.
Fulmer says it's tough for a coach to ignore that. "You've gotta keep your team focused and I think he's really working hard at that. Whether you're competing for a championship or trying to get back in the upper half of the league the key is your team improving on a weekly basis."
Fulmer says he's not watching game film and couldn't say if the Vols are improving game to game. From a birds eye view Dooley is 0-14 against ranked opponents with just four conference wins in two and a half seasons.
After the Alabama loss players said they don't feel like they're playing for Dooley's job.
Fulmer didn't answer that question but told us what he wants to see. "I hope we can turn it around a be a respectable football team by the end of the year, and the result of that would be that we'd have some stability," he said. "That's what we brought and that's exactly what this program needs at this point in time."
Dooley still has three years left on his contract. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports it would cost the university almost $10,000,000 over the next four years if they decided to part ways.
The good news for Dooley and the rest of Vol Nation is that after South Carolina there are four winnable games on the schedule: Troy, Missouri, Vanderbilt and then Kentucky.