The fallout from Mike Hamilton’s resignation in Knoxville today — more a case of Hamilton reading the writing on the wall than being forced out — continues with Bruce Pearl commenting on his old boss’ departure.
Pearl — whose decision to lie to NCAA investigators about a secondary violation further eroded support for Hamilton — released this statement:
“I went to work every day trying to reward Mike Hamilton for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m grateful to him for bringing me to Tennessee. For the majority of time that I was his men’s basketball coach, we built something very special. I am so sorry that some of my mistakes and the results from them contributed to all that our athletics family and university have been through. The greatest fans in college athletics, supporting one of our nation’s finest universities, deserve better. As Mike alluded to in his resignation, perhaps this will end some of the turmoil and the focus can shift back to all the positives the Vols have accomplished and will continue to accomplish.”
If that doesn’t sound warm, that’s because Pearl and Hamilton’s relationship chilled as the coach was ousted… though it’s believed Hamilton fought longer than anyone to keep Pearl.
Meanwhile speculation as to who might replace Hamilton has heated up. The list of possible candidates is a long one and we’ll toss out some of those names here:
Mitch Barnhart — Kentucky’s current AD, Barnhart spent 12 years in Knoxville under previous Tennessee AD Doug Dickey. Barnhart was just given an extension and raise at Kentucky after his name was attached to the AD opening at Kansas. Would Barnhart leave a stable situation — albeit with a new president coming in — for the turmoil Tennessee is experiencing? Doubtful. But money can sometimes talk.
Joe Castiglione — Oklahoma’s athletic director is expected to be contacted. Castiglione was a target for Tennessee when Mike Hamilton was hired, but why would he be more interested now than he was then? Cash perhaps. Due to troubles in the athletic department, UT has had to hire back-to-back up-and-comer coaches in football and in basketball. Therefore the school might have more money to spend on a proven AD now than it normally would (because it’s not paying $4 million to a star coach).
Gene DeFilippo — The AD at Boston College, DeFilippo’s name was associated with the UT search in 2003, too. A friend of former coach Phillip Fulmer, DeFilippo began his career as a graduate assistant football coach at UT in the early 1970s. He also received his masters at Tennessee. It’s been nearly eight years since DeFilippo pulled his name out of the Vols’ hat (and Hamilton got the AD job), so it’s possible BC’s athletic director might be in the proverbial “different place” in his life… and more willing to talk this time around.
Tom Jurich — Louisville’s AD always seems to be mentioned in connection with open athletic director posts. His name is here for that reason.
Dan Radakovich – Speculation that Georgia Tech’s AD might be on UT’s list has already begun in Atlanta. A former associate AD at LSU (five years) and South Carolina (six years), he’s been captain of the Yellow Jackets’ ship since 2006.
And here are a few “inside the family” names being kicked around in Knoxville today:
David Blackburn — A current associate AD and a possible contender for the interim AD job. Blackburn’s star began to rise when it became known that he tried to rein in the Lane Kiffin administration from a compliance standpoint. His work has been cited as a major reason why the NCAA dumped a “failure to monitor” charge on Kiffin and not UT in its recent letter of allegations. If the UT job is as tough a sell as it appears to be, Blackburn could eventually be the internal, fall-back candidate just as Hamilton was in 2003.
John Currie — Kansas State’s athletic director since 2009, he was a Tennessee employee for a decade. While he was successful in Knoxville and is considered to be a young (40), up-and-comer in the industry, his years serving under Hamilton might hinder his chances of returning.
Mark Dyer – A Tennessee graduate who has served in senior management postions at Host Communications, NASCAR, and currently with collegiate media giant IMG, Dyer would not fit the mold of a proven athletic director. This would be an outside-the-box type of hire (not unlike the Pac-12′s hiring of commissioner Larry Scott). Would Dyer be interested in the job? It’s believed that if he felt his alma mater truly needed and wanted his help, he might be willing to leave a very lucrative spot with IMG to return to his roots.
Phillip Fulmer — Fulmer has made it well known in the Knoxville community that he would be interested in Hamilton’s job. But that might have simply been a way for the ex-coach to turn up the heat on the man who fired him. Those closest to Fulmer say he would be more interested in being asked to do the job than he would be in actually accepting the job.
Pat Summitt — An obvious choice as UT’s legendary women’s basketball coach could probably be elected governor of the state of Tennessee if she chose to run. But Summitt said today that she has no interest in the Vols’ athletic director job.