Fulmer says he'd take Manning over Manziel 'every day'

Published Aug. 28, 2013 6:46 p.m. EDT

ATLANTA -- Phillip Fulmer doesn't hesitate.

Long before
Johnny Manziel had a hold on all things college football, there was
Peyton Manning. Like the Texas A&M quarterback, Manning carried the
burden of hype, commanded headlines and lived in the spotlight. But
Fulmer says there's no comparing the two.

"I'd take Peyton Manning every day," the Hall of Fame coach said.

point of view may be skewed having coached Manning at Tennessee from
1994-97, but his quick response goes beyond a reaction to on-field play.
Manziel saw a whirlwind of an offseason finally take its toll on his
play as it was announced Wednesday that he was suspended for the first
half of Saturday's opener against Rice for violation of an NCAA bylaw in
the investigation into his allegedly taking money for autographs.

it's selfishness or misguidance ... it's not just the autograph thing,"
Fulmer said. "He's had a whole summer of things that wouldn't be ideal
as the leader of a program, from a coach's perspective."

Fulmer took his place in the College Football Hall of Fame as the first
class to be enshrined in the new facility, which is set to open to the
public in the fall of 2014.

A national champion in 1998, he won
two SEC titles and went 152-52 in 17 seasons and posted a .746 winning
percentage, the third-highest in the nation at the time. While he's five
years removed from his Volunteers days, it hasn't kept Fulmer from
making waves in Tennessee.

During this month's SEC BeachFeast,
Fulmer seemed to point the finger at the school's administration for the
program's decline, which has included three straight losing seasons.

"What happened to us basically was our leadership. We had four presidents in six years," he told AL.com.
"We ended up with an athletic director that wasn't prepared for the
job. Not a terrible guy or anything like that. He got twisted like a
pretzel by the middle management of the university. We lost a lot of the
edges that you have to have. (Current athletic director) Dave Hart's
very aware of those, and he's working to change things. We didn't get
dumb or lazy all of a sudden. There were obviously some things that were

"When you have a great president and a great athletic
director and you replace them with substandard people that have no
idea, what do you expect is going to happen? And you do that three other
times? It's crazy."

But during a press conference at East
Tennessee State about his new role, Fulmer addressed those earlier
comments, saying "I understand it's been a topic of conversation in
Knoxville. So let me clarify something. I know I was responsible for
both the good and the bad because I was the head coach. I know I had

Despite those comments, there's no bitterness
with Fulmer and Tennessee. He is supportive of new coach Butch Jones,
who he has had multiple meetings with, and applauds Jones' connecting
with the program's past stars, bringing the likes of Arian Foster and
Jamal Lewis back to campus.

"Like every other Tennessee person
who cares about Tennessee athletics, I hope he does well," Fulmer said.
"He's got a great start in bringing the Tennessee family back together.
He's saying the right things. He's doing the right things thus far, but
it's always 'the proof is in the pudding.'"

At 62, he's six years
younger than former rival and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and
11 years younger than Kansas State's Bill Snyder.

But there's no
itch to return to coaching. He admits this time of year it gets harder,
but he's content in retirement and in his role as a consultant with East
Tennessee State's fledgling program.

"I guess you never say
never but it's not likely. If the right opportunity presented itself I
would certainly look at it," he said. "I've enjoyed time with my
children and grandchildren that I never had."