KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An emotional Phillip Fulmer, with his wife at his side and tearful, angry players surrounding him, said Monday that he accepted Tennessee's decision that this will be his last season as coach.
Fulmer, 58, is being forced out after 17 years, a run that included a 1998 national championship. He is 150-51.
"This is not an easy day for me or my family. It is not a day that I sought or accepted easily," said Fulmer, his voice cracking. "Our Tennessee family is united in its goals but divided in the right path to get there. I love Tennessee too much to let her stay divided."
The Vols are 3-6 overall and 1-5 in the SEC.
He is the third-winningest active coach among coaches with 10 years of experience, trailing FSU's Bobby Bowden and Penn State's Joe Paterno.
"It's a tough part of the profession," UF's Urban Meyer said.
Former Gator coach Steve Spurrier, now at South Carolina, says there was a time not so long ago that he would have jumped at the Tennessee job, but that time has passed. Spurrier grew up in Johnson City, Tenn., and pulled for the Vols. Four or five years ago, Spurrier says he would have considered coaching Tennessee as he looked to get back into college football after leaving the NFL.
These days, Spurrier, 63, says South Carolina is his last job.
"Congratulate him on hitting that lottery ticket, that's a big ticket he got," Spurrier said of Fulmer's $6-million buyout. "They'll hire a guy that wants to stay 10, 15 years.''
"Phillip Fulmer is the reason that I chose to come to Tennessee, and it was one of the greatest decisions I ever made," said Peyton Manning, now in the NFL. "I will always be indebted to him for the impact he has made on my life and my football career."
Alabama: Starting noseguard Terrence Cody, who missed two games with a knee injury, will return to practice and is day to day for Saturday against LSU.
Georgia Tech: Starting offensive tackle Andrew Gardner is considering season-ending shoulder surgery. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt (ankle) did not practice but is expected to play Saturday against UNC.
MISSOURI: Tight end Chase Coffman has a sprained left big toe but expects to play Saturday against Kansas State.
OKLAHOMA: Defensive end Auston English, the Big 12 preseason defensive player of the year, has a sprained knee and could miss games against Texas A&M on Saturday and, after a bye, Texas Tech on Nov. 22.
TOLEDO: Coach Tom Amstutz, headed for a third straight losing year, will resign after the season. He is 57-38 in eight years.
ALL-AMERICAN TEAM: North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough made the Associated Press' preseason All-America team in a record third straight year as its leading vote-getter. He was the first unanimous selection since Duke guard Jason Williams in 2001-02, getting 72 votes. Others: UCLA guard Darren Collison, a repeat pick, Davidson guard Stephen Curry, Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody and Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin.
UF WINS EXHIBITION: Dan Werner scored 17, Alex Tyus had 16 points and 14 rebounds as he fills the void of departed Marreese Speights, and No. 19 Florida beat visiting Warner 108-49 in the first of two exhibitions. Chandler Parson had 14 points, six rebounds and six assists. UF plays Rollins in an exhibition Thursday and opens the season Nov. 14 against Toledo.
Ohio State: Sophomore forward Nikola Kecman will sit out the first 12 games. He played for Vizura in his native Serbia as it went from an amateur to a professional team, and though he did not receive money, he played with others considered professionals by the NCAA. He will debut Jan. 6 vs. Michigan State.
USF WOMEN: Tahira Johnson, a 6-foot-1 forward from Queens, N.Y., said she'll play for the Bulls next season, USF's fourth oral commitment. She is the highest rated of USF's class, No. 79 in the ESPN Hoopgurlz 100.
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report. For news on other sports from our instate colleges, go to tampabay.com/sports and click on More Sports.