Christmas came early on Tuesday as Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton resigned.
However, that was one expensive Christmas present.
I’ve been nothing but fair(ly) harsh on Hamilton since writing this blog. So, the news of his stepdown/forceout/whatever-you-want-to-call-it comes with no regret. Yes, it is not a good day for the University and for the Athletics Department when something like this happens under the circumstances that it happens.
But, nonetheless, I’m glad Hamilton’s reign is over.
Most of what I’ve read in terms of rationale for his resignation/dismissal has to do with the impending sanctions likely to be heaved onto us by the NCAA, and the ultimate failure of his two most important hires of his directorship: Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl.
The fallout of their nuclear winters laid upon Knoxville within the last 18 months, and the likely lingering radiation that will result in some long-term health effects of the program(s), is probably the main impetus for Hammy’s departure. No doubt about it.
But, I never faulted him for hiring Kiffin/Pearl. I certainly faulted Kiffin and Pearl personally for many of the things they did – they brought their own shame onto themselves by their own deeds. I just don’t fault Hamilton for hiring them in the first place.
They weren’t bad hires WHEN THE HIRES WERE MADE.
There is a lot of talk about how Hamilton should have known by some sign of their past deeds/reputations/rumors that these two would eventually bring shame on the University and the Vol nation.
Hiring anybody for any job is a risk. You takes your chances and hopes for the best. When those hires were made, the basketball and football programs at the times that Pearl and Kiffin were brought to Knoxville desperately needed a shot in the arm. They needed something a lot different than what was there at those times.
They both were bold hires.
But, for many reasons, they didn’t work out in the end. And, when that happens, twice within about a year, the AD is going to be made to bear that old cross.
I wish Hammy the best in what ever is down the road for him. I hope he does well, because I suspect he’s a pretty good bloke.
My problem with Hamilton is that, er,… well…
I just didn’t like the guy as an Athletic Director.
He didn’t have a good grasp of the moment. An AD is in large part a PR man, and a good PR man is somebody who can diffuse a dicey situation with a turn of phrase. Not only was Hamilton not adept at doing that, he could also make a mess out of seemingly nothing, with how he chose his words and when to say them. Do a search for Hamilton on this blog and you’ll see what at least I’ve had to say about a few of those moments.
He could raise a lot of money. He could resurrect a lot of tradition awareness with the building of first-class facilities and the like.
But there was just something lacking for the job of running one of the most visible, tradition-laden sports programs in the country.
He just somehow didn’t have the ‘right stuff’ for his job. He didn’t have that je ne sais quoi.
Now, the one-point-three-three-five-million-dollar-question is what will the one-point-three-three-five-million-dollars get us?
Rumors abound, ranging from Derek Dooley to Phil Fulmer to John Gruden to Pat Summit to a dozen others I’ve read in various places.
More importantly, this is a hire that is perhaps more crucial than the Dooley-Martin decisions put together.
And, let’s not forget that Hamilton hired them both, no matter what happens. Perhaps in years to come, that will be Mike Hamilton’s legacy instead of the failed regimes of Kiffin and Pearl. That means that I hope Hamilton is remembered fondly in a quarter century. I really do.
But now, all eyes are on Indianapolis this Saturday. And then, all eyes will be on Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and others with the influence to make the biggest decision of their lives.
Let’s hope that they have the right stuff, too.