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Ex-UT A.D. Hamilton Says He Received Threats Before Stepping Down

Former Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton will go down in Volunteer history as a villain to many Big Orange fans.  He fired Phillip Fulmer and replaced him with Lane Kiffin.  He fired Bruce Pearl.

That’s dumb and dumber in many folks’ minds.  And some of those people let Hamilton know about it in a ridiculous manner — with threats.

Speaking to The Chattanooga Times Free Press, Hamilton said he “received several threats and it reached a point that I moved my family out of Knoxville for several days last spring and I was even assigned police protection.”

Surprising?  Not in the least.  Kiffin’s family claimed they received death threats on the way out of Knoxville as well.  Just this past week, San Francisco 49er Kyle Williams received death threats via Twitter after fumbling away his team’s shot at a Super Bowl.

In the age of the internet, everyone is anonymous.  That cloaked status encourages decent people to behave like children and imbalanced people to behave like criminals.  If booze makes folks feel 10 feet tall and bullet proof, the anonymity of the internet allows some to view themselves as the biggest, baddest asses in the world.

Well, at least the ass part is true.

Hamilton — who’s now working as the president of a Nashville-based charity — says he has no regrets about the way he did his job, including the hires of Kiffin and Pearl.  “Lane was the right person for the job at that time.  I hate how things worked out in the end, but there was no way of seeing that when we made that hire.”

“I know every move I made while I was at UT was made with the best interest of the university in mind.  I have confidence in the decision to hire Lane, and Bruce had an unbelievable run.  Again, I hate how things ended with those two examples.  I’m like anyone else and there are times when you reflect on decisions and what you might have done differently.  In any area of your life, all you can do is your best every day, and some days I felt better about my decisions than others.”

In this writer’s view, Hamilton deserves heat from Tennessee fans because ultimately the buck stopped at his desk.  But in terms of his individual decisions, he wasn’t the clown he’s often been made out to be.

He fired Phillip Fulmer, but Fulmer had had two losing seasons in his last four and hadn’t won an SEC title in a decade at the time of his dismissal.

Had Hamilton hired a good replacement, no one would be claiming today that Tennessee should have held on to its legendary ex-coach.  Interestingly, Hamilton did — it seems — hire a darn good coach.  Kiffin and crew have done an excellent job at Southern Cal so far (though they’re about to feel the brunt of recruiting restrictions and NCAA penalties).

Hamilton’s mistake with Kiffin was not weighing the possibility that Pete Carroll might leave Southern Cal and the Trojans might come after the ex-Carroll aide.  (In truth, though, who at the time would have foreseen all that?)  But that’s exactly what happened and Kiffin left Tennessee high and dry.  And that burned the Vol football house to the ground.  Two years of attrition and a coaching change right before signing day aren’t appealing to prospective coaches.

Will Muschamp turned down millions to replace Kiffin.  Only the likes of Derek Dooley would take such a job.  So while Hamilton is pilloried for “finding” Dooley, in reality, his candidate pool was going to be awfully shallow simply due to circumstances.

As for Pearl, the ex-coach took Tennessee basketball to unseen heights, but he blew his career apart with a lie to NCAA investigators and a phone call to a prospect’s father in an attempt to keep the person quiet about a barbecue.  The idea that Hamilton is to blame for Pearl’s downfall is laughable.  Ditto the notion that UT could’ve kept Pearl and his staff.  Hard to do that when the coach lands a three-year show cause penalty and recruiting ban.

Hamilton oversaw a comedy of errors, yes, but fate and the actions of other people played a large role in his demise.  Had Kiffin not abandoned him after a year and had Pearl not found it necessary to cover up what would have been a secondary violation, Hamilton might still be Tennessee’s athletic director overseeing a pair of healthy programs.

Of course, just for suggesting that, I’ll probably get a couple of death threats.



Hammy sure spent a lot of time on Twitter for someone who got death threats. I would have kept a low profile.

Mike Pemberton
Mike Pemberton

John, I could not agree more with your comment as to anonymous posting. It leads to people basically libeling and slandering other people and to me shows a fundamental lack of personal integrity on the part of the poster. With that said (and given your comments in the article), I would be very happy to see you restrict comments on this (outstanding) web site only to those who set forth their name and hometown on each post. Mike Pemberton, Rockwood, Tennessee


You're right about Kiffin being a good hire. UT would've probably won the East again by now had he stayed. No one could have seen Pete Carroll running away from the NCAA and the Seahawks actually hiring him. Same with Pearl...good hire, and his demise was no fault of Hamilton's.

I think the reason a lot of UT fans hate Hamilton is because of attitude and arrogance. One of the things he liked to brag on the most was facilities improvements. He never mentions that those improvements consist almost exclusively of luxury areas in Neyland and TBA. I think, fairly or not, Hamilton was perceived as arrogant and aloof. When I was in grad school at UT during that time it did seem like the athletic department saw themselves as apart and different from what they called "the academic side" of the university. Hamilton didn't understand that he worked for the Chancellor, President, and ultimately the taxpayers of Tennessee. He seemed to walk around like a king that was above it all, and this didn't go unnoticed. If you watch the YouTube clip of Kiffin's crazy farewell press conference, it shows former SID Bud Ford telling the media "you're in OUR building". I think that sums up the attitude of the Hamilton-era UT Athletic Department.

He also consistently raised ticket price/contribution levels and moved parking spots around for long-time season ticket holders. He completely destroyed the baseball program, evidently overlooked criminal activity on the part of the men's swimming coach, let the track team fall apart due to issues with the coaches, clumsily handled the Pearl firing (although he had to do it), and generally didn't seem to carry much clout with the league office a la Jeremy Foley/Doug Dickey/Mal Moore.

All that being said, he's probably a good person and the death threat BS is ludicrous.


My daughter, a Sophomore at UA, reported at the time, that after the loss to LSU in November, Cade Foster was so harrassed and vilfied by his own fan base and fellow students, he had to delete his facebook page and change his cellphone number. As a life-long Crimson Tide fan, I was greatly pained to hear this. As a progressive Democrat in this state and active in party politics for awhile, I've occasionally experienced a small taste of that - it's sometimes frightening, but always sad.


This is the most ridiculous, misleading headline I've seen in a while. Let's be real, Mike Hamilton was in a "resign or get fired" situation. The way left, announced one week before the COI appearance, was too well orchestrated to be a reaction to something as serious as death threats. He left at a crucial moment, the last time he has the upper hand in buyout negotiations. Does that sound like someone scared for his and his family’s safety? I’m not sure about you, but if I "stepped down over death threats" I’m not sure would have been worried about 2 years of salary and lifetime football tickets on my way out. I'm not asserting that the death threats didn't affect his family life or his job satisfaction, but anyone who followed UT for more than 5 minutes understands that it couldn’t be THE sole reason he left as your headline insinuates.

Even if you ignore the facts surrounding Hamilton’s resignation, at no point in that interview does Hamilton say that was THE reason he left. For you to twist his quote to convey that thought is disingenuous at best, fraudulent at worst.


@TWEsq The best part, he wrote a follow up post acknowledging he couldn't always be 100% right because he "covers" all 12 teams.


@TWEsq I lambasted him once before when he wrote a garbage post about Updyke, getting numerous facts wrong.


@TWEsq He's actually a local media guy who launched that site last year. He's an absolute prick to everyone and he's not even funny about it

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


I'll change the headline. It was poorly written on my part and was not an attempt to be misleading or disingenuous, etc. But the fact it, from speaking with people close to Hamilton, yes, the threats played a role in his decision to pull the plug on his tenure when he did.

He knew he was gone. He simply sped up the process.


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