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Phillip Fulmer On Former Tennessee A.D. Mike Hamilton: “Wasn’t Prepared For The Job”

Phillip FulmerTennessee football hasn’t finished the season with a winning record since 2009. Former coach Phillip Fulmer, who was forced out at UT following a 5-7 season in 2008 thinks he knows he reason why.

In Gulf Shores, Alabama this weekend at SEC BeachFest, Fulmer put the focus on previous leadership at the university, including Mike Hamilton’s stint as athletic director.


“What happened to us basically was our leadership. We had four presidents in six years. We ended up with an athletic director that wasn’t prepared for the job. Not a terrible guy or anything like that. He got twisted like a pretzel by the middle management of the university. We lost a lot of the edges that you have to have. (Current athletic director) Dave Hart’s very aware of those, and he’s working to change things. We didn’t get dumb or lazy all of a sudden. There were obviously some things that were different.

“When you have a great president and a great athletic director and you replace them with substandard people that have no idea, what do you expect is going to happen? And you do that three other times? It’s crazy.”


Hamilton replaced Doug Dickey as AD in 2003 and served in that position until he resigned in June of 2011.  Tennessee has had five presidents in the past decade.

Fulmer voiced his support for the current football coach. “I like Butch Jones a lot.”

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Internal Candidate Blackburn Should “Hang In There” At UT

Tennessee hasn’t had a lot of success with searches recently.  In late 2008, Mike Hamilton tabbed Lane Kiffin as the Vols’ football coach.  Since then, finding coaches hasn’t been easy.

To replace Kiffin, UT approached everyone from Will Muschamp to David Cutcliffe to Troy Calhoun.  They wound up hiring Derek Dooley from 4-8 Louisiana Tech. 

To replace Bruce Pearl this past spring, Tennessee phoned several “name” coaches only to be rebuffed.  The school hired Cuonzo Martin from Missoui State.

As they search for a new athletic director, Mike Strange of The Knoxville News Sentinel points out — for the benefit of internal candidate David Blackburn — that the last UT athletic director search was a mess, too:

“Hamilton wasn’t the people’s choice.  He got an interview early on, then watched the search committee flirt with once candidate than another…

‘My theory through the whole process,’ Hamilton said (the day he was hired), ‘has always been to be the last man standing.’

It was an effective strategy for a flawed process.

Who knows, it might yet work for Blackburn, too.”

Blackburn — one of a number of assistant ADs under Hamilton — is widely credited with helping slide NCAA accusations past UT and right into Kiffin’s lap.  If nothing else, that will make him a folk hero in the Smokies.

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Writer: New UT A.D. Can Only Lead Cheers

When it comes to selling its vacant athletic director’s position, Tennessee officials have a lot of positives to tout — a top 10 athletic budget nationally, a tradition of winning, top of the line facilities and a passionate fanbase.

On the other hand…

This might not be the best time to be searching for a new AD.  In addition to likely NCAA probation in football and basketball and a relatively new chancellor (ie: boss) with little in the way of a proven track record, the school has two newly hired coaches in its two biggest sports.  That means Derek Dooley and Cuonzo Martin are likely untouchable in Knoxville for a while.

John Adams of The Knoxville News Sentinel believes that will make the Vols’ AD position a tougher sell to candidates wanting to prove their worth on a large stage:

“No matter how poorly the football or basketball programs might do in the next couple of years, a new athletic director won’t shove their coaches in hopes of making a heroic hire.  The last thing either program needs at this juncture is another change.  So Dooley and Martin shouldn’t have to worry about a quick hook, especially when you consider their challenges could be exacerbated by potential NCAA sanctions.

Their new boss can only hope they are successful.  But he won’t get credit for it.  That’s not much incentive for someone trying to make his mark or make the most of a second chance.”

Perhaps that’s why a number of rumored candidates have said they’re not interested in the job even before being contacted.

Logic would suggest that a job at a major SEC university with the bank account and history of Tennessee would be appealing to someone.  Somewhere.  But in 2003 — the last time the UT AD’s gig came open — the Vols found themselves turning things over to internal/fallback candidate Mike Hamilton. 

Whether UT can lure in an outsider — and a big name — this time around or not, Adams is correct regarding the new guy’s relationship with the coaches he’ll be inheriting:

“Whatever progress UT makes in its three top men’s sports will be up to its coaches — Dooley, Martin and whomever it hires in baseball.  All the new AD can do is cheer them on.”

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UK’s Barnhart: “I Don’t Have Any Interest” In UT Job

The folks in Knoxville can scratch the name “Mitch Barnhart” from their list of potential athletic director candidates.  Kentucky’s AD told The Lexington Herald-Leader on Thursday that he’s not interested in pursuing Tennessee’s vacancy.

“I don’t have any interest.  I’ve got good coaches (at Kentucky), I have a family that has settled in here, I have a son who is about to be a senior in high school.

“I said when I agreed to my last contract that (UK) is where I plan to be until I decide on my next path, something that will probably be outside athletics.  I’ve got things I still want to accomplish here and I’m excited about doing that.”

Barnhart spent 12 years in the Tennessee athletic department, leaving in 1998.

We at expect UT officials to hire a search firm — possibly announcing that move early next week — to aid in their quest for a replacement for Mike Hamilton.

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Hughes Off Football Team, Vol Fans Should Read The Book Of Job

Tennessee sports fans have had it pretty rough in recent years.  As we often say when a school gets slammed with NCAA sanctions, you can’t help but feel sorry for all the good fans of that school.  Well, we certainly feel bad about what Vol fans have had to endure.

Phillip Fulmer’s program declined to the point that he was replaced.  Lane Kiffin had a cup of coffee in Knoxville, broke a few rules, and then caught the last train for the coast.  Bruce Pearl was a shining star until he decided to lie about a barbecue at this house.  Wins in football and basketball turned to losses.  The national press has whipped the school and its leadership for the handling of most of the above.

And it seems to be getting worse.

For those Vol fans pleased that Mike Hamilton is exiting his athletic director’s post, writers like David Climer of The Tennessean are offering up frightening warnings about what kind of search UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek might run.

And just days after learning that Tennessee’s only returning starter at linebacker — Herman Lathers — had fractured his ankle and will miss the start of the season, Big Orange backers today got news that defensive tackle Montori Hughes is no longer on their favorite team.

While Derek Dooley wouldn’t specify why Hughes has been booted, the player has had academic issues in the past.  He’s also been penalized for the dreaded “violation of team rules.”

For Tennessee fans, things figure to turn around at some point.  But until that day, it might be wise to thumb through the Book of Job.  Perhaps you can relate.

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Fulmer Angling For An Asking

As expected, former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer has thrown his hat in the ring for the UT athletic director’s job… without actually throwing his hat in the ring. 

“What I want is what’s best for my university,” Fulmer told’s Chris Low.  “I’ll spend my time over these next few days trying to figure out what that is and whether this is something that’s real for me to be able to do, both from a professional and a personal standpoint.

“We’ll see what the feelings are of the people there at the university and the decision-makers, and that’s simply where we are right now.  I’m not politicking for the job, and I don’t need a job.  But if I can help my university, I’m interested in doing that any way I can.”

How Palin-esque.

Fulmer has told many people around East Tennessee for months that he would be interested in Mike Hamilton’s job.  Now that Hamilton is stepping down, it’s no surprise that the former UT football coach is bringing attention to his potential candidacy.

However, as we’ve noted before, people closest to Fulmer have said that he has no real desire to take the job.  Instead, it’s likely that he only wants to be asked.  At that point, he would likely tell the media that he feels it is best for him to only help his beloved university with its search rather than push for the AD’s full-time gig.

We shall see.

Fulmer did not announce plans to tour American historical sites by bus, but if he does, please, no one ask him about Paul Revere.

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SEC Headlines – 6/9/11 Part One

1.  Auburn’s football team was honored at the White House yesterday.

2.  The Tigers enjoyed their trip to DC and meeting with a “real cool” president.

3.  Russell Wilson — the former NC State quarterback who is considering Auburn — had what one source called a “grand slam” visit to Wisconsin.

4.  This writer says Mike Hamilton’s resignation “feels like desperation” and “the next strange act in the Tennessee circus.”  (We’re reminded of how Pete Rose was told to admit he bet on baseball, he did, and then everyone said, “Well, you didn’t seem contrite enough.”)

5.  Here’s a list of all the SEC players who have departed via injury, transfer or other unexpected reason since last fall.

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Pearl Comments On Hamilton; Names Of Possible Replacements Swirl

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.

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SEC Headlines – 6/7/11 Part Three

1.  This writer tries to prepare Tennessee fans for this weekend’s NCAA hearing.

2.’s Gregg Doyel says Mike Hamilton’s resignation at Tennessee should once again provide Ohio State with a road map for its own actions. 

3.  Jadeveon Clowney’s high school coach confirms that his former pupil has qualified academically at South Carolina.
4.  The Major League Baseball draft might have an impact on Georgia’s football roster.

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Kiffin’s Graveyard Expands

It seems Lane Kiffin is the Typhoid Mary of the sporting world.  Just a quickie observation here regarding the one-time SEC lightning rod:

Mike Hamilton hired Kiffin in November of 2008.  Kiffin departed Tennessee in January of 2010.  Hamilton resigned at UT in June of 2011.

Mike Garrett hired Kiffin to Southern Cal in January, 2010.  In July of 2010, Garrett was ousted from his job with the Trojans.

Kiffin keeps getting hired, but the men who hire him sure don’t seem to last very long.

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