KNOXVILLE, TENN. — Phillip Fulmer first beat Alabama as a Tennessee player in 1969.
As coach of the Volunteers, he's lost only twice in 12 games against the Crimson Tide.
But nothing Fulmer's ever done on the field has irked Alabama fans the way his involvement in an NCAA investigation of the Tide did.
Since Alabama was sanctioned by the NCAA in 2002 for recruiting violations, some passionate Crimson Tide fans - who also happen to be attorneys - have targeted Fulmer, accusing the coach and the NCAA of illegally smearing Alabama football.
The 17th-ranked Volunteers (3-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) head into Saturday's game at Alabama having won nine of the last 10 in the series, but the fifth-ranked Tide (6-0, 4-0) is undefeated and looking to start the season 7-0 for the first time since 1996.
Still, the subplot involving Fulmer is what makes the 75th straight meeting between Alabama and Tennessee truly unique.
"Everything that's happened since I've been here, fan-wise this is their biggest game of the year. There's an intense desire to beat Tennessee," Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle said.
Two court cases related to the NCAA's investigation of Alabama already have concluded.
Since last year's Alabama-Tennessee game, booster Logan Young of Memphis was convicted in federal court of paying $150,000 to steer recruit Albert Means to Alabama, and an Alabama jury awarded former assistant coach Ronnie Cottrell $30 million for being defamed by recruiting analyst and NCAA secret witness Tom Culpepper. Fulmer and other coaches testified before the grand jury that indicted Young and gave the NCAA information about Alabama.
"It's not something I'm concerned about. That's in the past. It's kind of been resolved in Memphis in U.S. District Court," Fulmer said.