published Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Wiedmer: UT’s NCAA troubles linger too long to protect Hamilton

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    Former University of Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton.

Mike Hamilton uttered the words a week ago in Destin, Fla.

Speaking to the media during the SEC’s spring meetings, the man who will now be known as the University of Tennessee’s FORMER men’s athletic director said of the school’s upcoming meeting with the NCAA Committee on Infractions, “One of the things we’ve talked about with the NCAA folks is the lengths of these (investigations). During the course of that you take public hits and questions about things that maybe people speculate on.”

At least Hamilton won’t have to take the hits past today and tomorrow. The speculation is over. Hamilton is out as UT’s men’s AD, his full years on the job apparently done in by a series of questionable hires in the Vols’ high-profile sports and serious NCAA troubles in men’s basketball and, perhaps, football.

So despite UT being scheduled to meet with the infractions committee on Friday at the NCAA’s headquarters in Indianapolis, Hamilton is done, his possible legacy of being one of the greatest fundraisers in college athletics history undermined by inability to judge coaching talent, police coaching talent or both.

Safe to say that if UT power brokers forced this action at this time, they have at least some concern over landing a “lack of institutional control” tag from the NCAA.

If nothing else, they must believe that distancing themselves from everyone involved in the charges — former football coach Lane Kiffin and most of his staff moved on to Southern Cal, former basketball coach Bruce Pearl was fired for lying to the NCAA, albeit somewhat belatedly by Hamilton, and now the AD’s gone, too — will serve them well during their day in court.

Maybe the Big Orange brass is wrong, and maybe it’s right, but either way it’s clearly concerned enough to believe that even a grandstanding move such as this — really, three days before the hearing? — will do more good than harm.

The sad thing is, Hamilton’s a good man whose grand plan to deliver UT athletics the finest physical plant in the country will largely be unappreciated by the school’s fan base because a couple of rogue coaches didn’t properly appreciate the opportunity he gave them.

Kiffin wasted almost no time turning the entire SEC against him with his braggert’s mouth and punk’s insolence. Pearl became an even worse role model over time, asking 17-year-old kids to lie to the NCAA for him — truly shocking behavior for a former NCAA whistleblower.

And because Hamilton defiantly stood by Pearl when such bad behavior first came to light, he has now met the same fate as the coach he once stubbornly defended.

So while it’s heartwarming and admirable to know that Hamilton and his wife have five adopted children — three of them from Ethiopia — and that he recently chaired the United Way campaign in Knoxville, if you believe you’re known by the company you keep, then Hamilton earned this fate.

Buildings are nice, but they don’t stay filled if you don’t hire the right coaches to work in them.

Still, of the three men at the center of the Vols’ NCAA troubles — Kiffin, Pearl and Hamilton — it’s hard to argue that the nicest was finished last.

E-mail Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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