KNOXVILLE - Of the four coaches fired in his tenure, Mike Hamilton's decision this time might have been the easiest.
The University of Tennessee athletic director fired baseball coach Todd Raleigh on Monday after four underwhelming years without an appearance in the eight-team Southeastern Conference tournament.
With Saturday's walk-off win over Auburn, the Volunteers finished this season at 25-29 and 7-23 in the SEC. Their only series victories came over Alabama and Auburn, and they were swept five times. Raleigh went just 108-113 overall and 42-78 in league play in his tenure.
"We feel our baseball program, unfortunately, has not made the progress on the field that it should have over the last four years," Hamilton said in a university release. "We believe a change in leadership is necessary in order to move the program forward. We appreciate Todd's efforts and wish him the best in all future endeavors."
UT, which fired basketball coach Bruce Pearl in March, will pay Raleigh $331,657.33, divided into equal installments over the next 12 months. The buyout includes the base salary from the final year of his contract plus money from broadcast pay and a shoe apparel deal.
When Hamilton hired him from Western Carolina in 2007, Raleigh took over a program that had made three College World Series trips (1995, 2001, 2005) under former coach Rod Delmonico but was dealing with scholarship limitations as a result of low Academic Progress Rate numbers. Those numbers improved during Raleigh's tenure, and half of a four-part phase to renovate Lindsey Nelson Stadium was completed before last season.
But UT never won more than 12 SEC games in any of the last four seasons and struggled to be competitive in a division with perennial powers South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Florida. The in-state-rival Commodores outscored UT 39-5 in a weekend sweep this season.
Raleigh's Vols also lost four times to East Tennessee State, twice each to Belmont and Appalachian State and once to Lipscomb, Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay, South Carolina-Upstate, Binghamton and Presbyterian.
Four area high school players had signed with the Vols during the early signing period last fall: Polk County outfielder Jared Allen, McMinn County pitcher/outfielder Drew Masingale, Meigs County outfielder Jake Rowland and Walker Valley pitcher Brandon Zajac.
UT now is paying former coaches in all three of its major men's sports, and the contract buyouts for Raleigh, Pearl and former football coach Phillip Fulmer total more than $7.2 million.
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrownTFP.