The Shame of It All

Playing in front of a full house at the 47th largest college football stadium apparently had Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton worried to the point of surrender.

My lovely wife of a quarter-century is a proud graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Who wouldn’t be proud to have graduated from such a fine institution that is considered one of the best state universities in the country? On top of that fact, having a storied history in athletics – men’s basketball and women’s soccer immediately come to mind – makes the Tar Heel alumni happy to don the powder blue for just about anything (God is a Tar Heel – he made the sky Carolina Blue). They are a proud bunch.

So, when I read today that my beloved state university’s Athletic Director (the modifier ‘beloved’ refers to the institution, not the cited individual) intends to replace UNC with the University of Buffalo for the 2011-12 home-and-home series, I tried to fathom a way to defend my alma mater in anticipation of the onslaught.

“The Vols? The mighty Vols dropped the ‘Heels in order to make their schedule easier? You mean to tell me that the Big Orange have sunk so low that they have to drop a basketball school to give their own football team a break? Your school dropped my school because your school thought my school presented too much of a challenge – too hard of a schedule? And, your school is willing to pay my school about a million bucks to make this happen?”

Then I realized there is no way to defend such an act of sheer shortsightedness.

Mind you, my wife supports Vols football. She has willingly accompanied me to see Tennessee play at Ole Miss, UCLA, and Cal. She has watched her share of Vol games on the tube, from opening whistle to the final gun. She’s an honorary Vol – quite worthy of such an accolade.

Now she now has nothing left to give me other than pity over this fiasco, and pity for my once great football program.

*****

At least Mike Hamilton came out and owned up to the rationale: he feels like “we needed to break that six-game stretch up (in 2011) and put a non-BCS team in there.”

What lily-livered justification.

Hamilton claims to have talked to UNC about this for months, even when Fulmer and Kiffin were coaches. Apparently, UT’s preference is, and has been, to play the home-and-home series later in this decade, instead of 2011 and 2012 when the Vols will be “well under the limits on scholarships and therefore low on depth” to quote Knoxville News Sentinel writer Austin Ward. UNC doesn’t want to give ground on the dates.

Obviously, Hamilton expects the worst during the first couple of years of the Derek Dooley era (he and I agree on one thing at least) – the worst in terms of wins and losses, and the worst in terms of program finances. Apparently, UT will have to pay UNC $750,000 to get out of the series, but make about a cool $3 million by replacing the 2011 game at Chapel Hill with an additional home game.

Nothing like stuffing the bottom line in times of a possible double-dip recession.

And how does Dooley feel about this?

“Mike handles the scheduling, and he doesn’t do anything without at least getting my thoughts on it. He has a real good understanding of what’s important to our fans and the program, and I’ve got a lot of trust in how he’s managing the schedule. I think he’s doing a great job on it, but that’s pretty much stuff I defer to him. Obviously, if I was in big disagreement with what he wanted to do, I would express that. He would probably respect it. I defer to him unless I adamantly oppose.”

Glad you had your chance to give your input, coach. The clarity of that which was your likely input shines through the intentional obliqueness of your statement.

*****

Hamilton is making business decisions – that is his job. But, sometimes such decisions are shortsighted as to the intangibles of the situation. You know – image, pride, history, tradition, and other such sundry qualities.

There is no saving face over this. If we were a samurai institution, we’d all have to kill ourselves – dying with honor via seppuku – rather than living with the shame of it all.

*****

PHOTO CREDIT: collegefootballfansite.com

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6 responses to “The Shame of It All”

  1. tk says :

    FRED…….I THINK OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS YOU HAVE PICKED UP FROM MY COMMENTS MY DISSATISFACTION OF MONEY MIXED WITH FOOTBALL. AND IT ONLY SEEMS TO GET WORSE. IN FACT I TOLD SOMEONE JUST LAST WEEK…..WHEN SOME COST RELATED ITEM POKED ME IN THE RIBS…..THAT I MAY TRY TO SQUEEZE 29 MORE VOLUNTEER GAMES INTO MY LIFE AND JUST QUIT ATTENDING WHEN I REACH AN EVEN 300!!! THIS DECISION HAS NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH COMPETITION LEVELS. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH NORTH CAROLINA (EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THEY ARE A NON SEC SCHOOL AND THEREFORE WE ARE ABLE TO MESS WITH CONTRACTW WITH THEM). IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE BOTTOM LINE. CAN TENNESSEE GET A FEW MORE DOLLARS. EVIDENTLY THE NES BOX SEATS TICKET PRICES ARENT COMING CLOSE TO FUNDING A RENOVATED STADIUM…LETS GO TO PANIC MODE AND DO SOMETHING WITH SOME SCHEDULING!!!! AND LAST YEAR BECAME THE FIRST YEAR THAT THE SCHOOL PUT GATES AND SECURITY ON ALL SCHOOL OWNED PARKING LOTS ON CAMPUS SO THEY COULD MAKE SOME MORE DOLLARS ON FOOTBALL PARKING PERMITS. ILL PARK ON THE DAMN SIDEWALK AND GET TOWED BEFORE I GO INTO ONE OF THOSE LOTS. WHAT USED TO BE FUN……AND I MEAN EXCITEMENT, LOOK FORWARD TO IT FUN, IS NOW BECOMING A DREADFUL CHORE THAT COST MORE THAN A WEEKEND WITH THE RAT PACK!!!! YOUR THOUGHTS PROFESSOR???

    • norcalvol says :

      Hard to argue with your theme, TK. Unfortunately, it is a business, but to us, it shouldn’t be a business because this is college sports and these are amateurs wearing our school shirt.

      Hamilton is a 21st Century AD – running the entire department like a business, but at the same time not demonstrating with his actions that he understands the nuances of impact that certain decisions have on the fan base. He’s not and never has been a ‘football man’.

      Hamilton has made some good decisions (Pearl, and probably Dooley), but he sounds like a bonehead when he speaks of “gutchecks” as, for example, related to some of the discipline problems and his explanations of the department’s disciplinary rules. This scheduling decision has backfired in his face a bit – I would love to know if he ever contemplated the potential ill-feelings that this has brought.

      This will NEVER happened at Neyland Stadium, but I would like to see it happen – a protest by fans with signs.

      In Italy, when their clubs’ football fans want to protest management decisions, fans will come into the stadium, plant banners, AND THEN LEAVE so that the only onlookers are the banners with their messages. Absolutely brilliant.

      So, I urge everybody to write a letter to Hamilton. I will do just that – the text of my post will serve as the body of the letter.

  2. rockytop78 says :

    As a graduate of both universities at issue here — B.S. (Tenn.) 1978; M.S. (UNC-CH) 1982; J.D. (Tenn. 1989) — I was looking forward to seeing the Tarheels in Neyland Stadium, AND going to watch the Vols play in Chapel Hill. All the time I was in Chapel Hill working on my graduate degree, I never went to a football game at Kenan Stadium, because of the disdain that I had for ACC football and the pride I had in my Vols. (Although I was impressed about how Kenan Stadium could never be built up to be higher than the surrounding pine trees — at least that’s what I was told when I was there — and wasn’t that a nice thing?)

    So, what have I got to be proud about today?

    Instead, I am disgusted and embarrassed with the UT Athletic Department in general and Mike Hamilton in particular in this matter. While Hamilton may have a good grip on the dollars and numbers, he appears to be clueless about the things that make an athletic program great.

    I was a geologist for Shell Oil Company after I got my M.S. in 1982; and I remember when one of the senior geologists I worked with told me that the president of Shell Oil Company (at least then, and in the near future) was never an accountant but always a geologist or geophysicist who was trained to learn the business aspects of running a company, because a technical guy would have an innate awareness and understanding of the risks that were necessary to make the exploration part of the company a success; whereas a bean-counter who was named as president would always be looking to close the company down, sell off the parts, and finish up in the black — because it would always be more PROFITABLE to do it that way. In short, there was just a different perspective in what the purpose of the company was, and how the company should be operated to achieve that purpose.

    Mike Hamilton is an example of what happens when we have a bean-counter or business degree type running an athletic program, as opposed to someone with a background in athletics who has learned the necessary business side of things, as Doug Dickey, for example, did. Hamilton has lost sight of what our athletic program and its wonderful traditions are all about — if he ever understood them in the first place.

    The prior comment above also echoes just how soulless the UTAD has become in its quest to maximize profits (I could add more, such as how UT chased away all the street vendors from selling food outside the stadium, but we can all come up with our own). And it seems that the experience of going to a football game at Neyland Stadium is becoming a more and more sterile one, and less fun than it used to be.

    Yet another sad day for the UT Vols football program.

  3. Sandy says :

    That Big Orange appears to be turning into a Sickly Yellow :(

  4. tk says :

    CAN I COMMENT AGAIN……..I NEVER THOUGHT ID SEE THE DAY THAT WE BACKED DOWN FROM COMPETITION BECAUSE THE SCHEDULE LOOKED TOUGH. WE MIGHT LOSE ANOTHER GAME? OH NO!!! YOU DONT GET STRONGER BY PLAYING THE WEAKER. YOU GET WEAKER YOURSELF. THIS TOUGH SCHEDULE BIT IS A SMOKE SCREEN GUYS. ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY.

  5. Jan Evett says :

    “Then I realized there is no way to defend such an act of sheer shortsightedness.” – Don’t you mean an act of sheer cowardice? That’s my humble opinion. I’ve never like Hamilton, and I hated the way he treated Coach Fulmer.

    And I’ve never liked “bean-counters” @ rockytop78 – either.

    Go Vols (anyway……..)

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