Hamilton not afraid to make coaching change

AD aware of fan apathy; finances won't stand in way if Fulmer leaves

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With Tennessee off to a 2-4 start and winless in three SEC games, athletic director Mike Hamilton refused to rule out a mid-season coaching change if UT’s football program doesn’t improve, but said he’d much prefer following his standard method of operations.

“Our traditional model at the University of Tennessee is that we evaluate these kinds of things on a year-end basis,” said Hamilton in an exclusive interview with the News Sentinel on Tuesday and his first public comments in weeks on the subject. “That doesn’t preclude you from doing something different.

“But our typical model is that you let the seasons play out and then you evaluate them appropriately and give the student athletes and coaches their best chance to be successful in any particular year.”

That means — unless things go really bad for the Vols — Hamilton plans to evaluate coach Phillip Fulmer following the season. Hamilton said dissension within the football program is one of the few reasons he might intervene.

Clemson, Hamilton’s alma mater, fired coach Tommy Bowden on Monday following a 3-3 start amid high expectations.

Further down the chain of command, Fulmer said he has no intention of making an Auburn-like change with UT’s offensive coordinator, the position held by first-year UT coach Dave Clawson.

Auburn fired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin last week. The Tigers’ new spread offense averaged just 18.7 points in its first five games.

Reports from Auburn also suggested a rift developed between Franklin and other members of the coaching staff.

The Vols (2-4, 0-3 SEC) are ranked 104th nationally in total offense.

“Generally I’m a very loyal person,” Fulmer said at UT’s media day on Tuesday. “If somebody is not doing what they should do or not cooperating … or being belligerent or being bad for the team, then certainly whatever’s best for the team.

“If somebody’s working hard and doing a good job and it’s just not happening for them, I’ve been there as a coordinator.”

Fulmer said he was pleased with the work ethic of his offensive staff, including Clawson.

Hamilton declined to put a win-loss record on what it would take to make a coaching change. Instead, Hamilton said he was looking for a program that showed signs of heading in the right direction.

When pressed on the issue, particularly a 6-6 record, Hamilton said tersely, “Our goals are not to be a .500 ball club.”

The Vols have six games remaining. And even though it’s mid-October, Hamilton said he’s heard from concerned boosters and realizes that losing donations may soon become a possibility if the Vols don’t improve.

“That’s always a risk, particularly in a year with economic situations being as they are,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton confirmed that some boosters have discussed Fulmer’s possible replacement, but said those conversations have been limited.

More than just a .500 record, Fulmer is also fighting off apathy from UT’s fan base.

“You don’t want apathy,” Hamilton said. “Apathy is a program killer.”

And not just the football program.

More than 80 percent of UT’s athletic department revenue comes from football, meaning apathy could harm most every sport on campus if allowed to grow unfettered.

“I think there’s some fan apathy out there, yeah, without question, but I do think there’s a lot of people that still want to be a part of that (Tennessee football) experience,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said finances won’t be an issue if a change is made. He said there is a $7 million reserve in place to cover such unforeseen expenses. That would nearly cover the cost of the football coaches’ buyouts, which Hamilton said could be over $7.5 million. That figure depends on whether coaches are hired elsewhere.

UT also will receive an extra $15 million from the SEC’s new deal with television partner ESPN, which would give UT more flexibility to fire and hire coaches.

Hamilton said he learned a lesson when he fired basketball coach Buzz Peterson, whose contract stipulated that he receive his full buyout within a month.

Peterson demanded the buyout, meaning the athletic department had to borrow money from the university and pay it back with interest.

Since then, head coaches’ buyouts are payable over four years. Fulmer’s buyout is $6 million pending an interpretation concerning annual base pay raises that could lower it to $5.47 million.

“If it was the right thing for the institution,” Hamilton said, “there is a methodology in place to cover that.”

Hamilton defended Fulmer’s contract, which has been roundly criticized by fans and media since it was announced last summer.

Hamilton said he thought the contract was appropriate, adding that UT only extended the contract by one year, gave Fulmer just a 5 percent annualized raise and was fair based on market value (Fulmer is still the seventh-highest-paid coach in the SEC).

Hamilton said the contract was also based on the high expectations UT had with an experienced team in 2008 that had won the SEC East in 2007.

Hamilton, however, admitted that a lower buyout may have been possible considering Fulmer has rarely shown sincere intentions to leave UT.

“I don’t disagree with that but again it was market place driven,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton also addressed the stipulation that guarantees Fulmer a rollover extension by winning eight games.

Hamilton said that clause was added to avoid renegotiating a contract during recruiting season every season, as had been done with UT’s football coach since Bill Battle in the 1970s.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with what our expectations are,” Hamilton said of the eight-win rollover. “Our expectations are obviously significantly more than that at Tennessee from a historical perspective.”

And all that doesn’t even take into consideration Fulmer’s asking price.

“There might have been other numbers that were asked for,” Hamilton said. “… Let me clarify this. This is not something I would have done with a new coach.”

Hamilton also wasn’t playing the “what-if” game. In other words, with a few points here and there — notably against UCLA and Auburn — the Vols could be 4-2.

“That’s athletics,” Hamilton said. “Yeah, you could maybe make an argument that we might have won UCLA or Auburn, but we didn’t.

“We have to accept that. We’ve won some close games in our history. That has a balancing effect.”

Hamilton also emphasized that some patience might be in order as the Vols adapt to a new offense.

“Change doesn’t necessarily happen overnight,” he said. “You have to consider that. It’s not the end factor in any decision but it certainly plays into it.”

That certainly didn’t seem to mean that a change on UT’s staff following a .500 or sub-.500 season would guarantee Fulmer another year.

“I believe it’s the AD’s responsibility to hire the head coaches and hold the head coach accountable for their decisions,” Hamilton said. “They’re the ones who know it best. They’re the ones who are in it everyday.

“I believe in ultimate accountability in that regard. That’s how I judge all of my coaches.”

Hamilton made it clear that his office is well aware of the situation, that his football program may well be at a crossroad.

“We’re very well aware of some discontent in the marketplace,” Hamilton said. “We’re very well aware that we’re not playing up to the level that our fans expect us to play right now.

“But we’re also committed to try to give our student athletes and coaches the best opportunity to succeed while we can.”

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Comments » 446

jlight#347852 writes:

I will believe it when I see it. Talk is cheap.

A loss to Miss. State and/or Alabama should do the deed, but it probably won't

EyeNoEvrthng writes:

Mike Hamilton will do whatever Jim Haslam tells him to do or ....he'll be gone too!

golfballs03 writes:

This is the best news I've heard all season!!! I hope Fulmer gets the drift...

DRW writes:

Doubt it. CPF will be here until at least year-end. Clawson may not make it that far. He is a serious candidate to get this year's Randy Sanders scapegoat award termination.

tnbigg writes:

WHAT A JOKE../.../...../....../....../

tnbigg writes:

“We’re very well aware of some discontent in the marketplace,” Hamilton said. “We’re very well aware that we’re not playing up to the level that our fans expect us to play right now.

“But we’re also committed to try to give our student athletes and coaches the best opportunity to succeed while we can.”

OKAY...THINK BACK TO YESTERDAY...I SAID WHAT ABOUT THIS???? AND HERE IT IS IN BLACK AND WHITE...

THE THUNDER ROLLED...AND HAMILTON FEEBLY ANNOUNCES:

“But we’re also committed to try to give our student athletes and coaches the best opportunity to succeed while we can.”

ANY QUESTIONS??????????????

tnbigg writes:

Two days ago...my bad...

fltapout writes:

"Opportunity to succeed?"
How about the University. The priority here is the University of Tennessee, not Fulmer and family.

tnbigg writes:

Have you also noticed the "gang" of apologists showing up? The Phat beam has been shone and here it comes...B S Til ya' puke...

c9bcc writes:

This guy is smoking something, or trying to blow smoke in our eyes. He has no intention of making any kind of decision on Fulmer.

jgvol8 writes:

CLEAN HOUSE!

AlphaVol writes:

Make no mistake. This is an important set of statements made by Hamilton.

He can't...and shouldn't let Fulmer go now.

But he has signaled to the entire Vol nation that, baring the unexpected, change WILL be coming.

fltapout writes:

Biggie, I feel change inthe air and the arrangement being made as we speak.

wyomingvol writes:

Ugly.

cwisenhower#637741 writes:

Watch us lose to State then beat Bama. Then Fulmer will keep his job. Blah. I want us to win, but the desire for change is too strong.

CampVol writes:

SOunds like Hamilton is open to a change. I don't remeber him even considering this before, much less talking openly about it.

fltapout writes:

UT loses to State, the deal is done. That's the word.

fltapout writes:

Football supports 80% of the UT athletic program.
Ummmm

tnbigg writes:

in response to fltapout:

Biggie, I feel change inthe air and the arrangement being made as we speak.

I hope you're right...but I can hear the thunder rolling...and the protective barrier assembling...

ChuckG writes:

Anybody who thinks that a single booster will be the deciding factor in this situation has a small mind, not to mention Jim Haslam has never and will never dictate to the Athletic director. Which ever way this plays out Hamilton is in a spot I do not envy. That is great we have $7 million in reserve, but to have to fork over that kind of loot in this environment and play a new coach on top of that! I pray it all works out for the best and in the end there are not too many fences that cannot be mended. We all need to remember Coach Fulmer's hard work and dedication to the University is the reason expectations are so high.

OMike writes:

It does not matter if Fulmer wins or loses the next two games, if there is any indication of apathy (bottom line less sells, revenue, attendance, however you want to put it) Fulmer will be gone period. Your talking about a 80 mill plus venue and that is what the bottom line is. MONEY

utvols1 writes:

about as political an answer as possible. Hamiliton needs to wake up and look at the facts, and not at just this pathetic season. This program has been off the rails for years. Cut temporarily threw some life into it. I often think Cut NOT coming back here would have been way better. We'd already be into Fulmers replacement by now. Letting Trooper go was another bone head move. Letting Gardner go, not getting rid of Slade, not hiring a decent special teams coach for the last 7 yrs....it goes on and on. Wake TF up Hamilton.

VWCJR writes:

in response to jlight#347852:

I will believe it when I see it. Talk is cheap.

A loss to Miss. State and/or Alabama should do the deed, but it probably won't

Either Fulmer or Clawson will not survive to see Bama if Mississippi State beats us in an ugly penalty filled low scoring affair (13 - 6) Saturday Night. If anyone is cut, I expect it will be Clawson with Phil getting the OC responsibilities against the Tide.

Don't forget the Bama Subpoena issue, too. Sabin would love to throw the punch that snaps Phil's neck. Another Bama beat-down would seal CPF's exit regardless of how the remainder of the season goes.

Who gets the job? Butch Davis, David Cutcliff, Brian Kelly? Sign me up for Steve Addazio - Florida's OC who has won at every level.

a10acfan1 writes:

C9bcc its not your eyes they are aiming for with that smoke. Instead of sounding like administers and educators they all, Hammy and Fulmer, sound like d@mmn politicians. "Generally I'm a loyal person" Cept when I'm burying the knife. "do what's best for the team" Like learning a few new plays every year so opposing defenses might not have a clue. And now "soft" defenses simply means our Great heralded experienced defense is lining up in the wrong formations. Yeah right

OMike writes:

in response to utvols1:

about as political an answer as possible. Hamiliton needs to wake up and look at the facts, and not at just this pathetic season. This program has been off the rails for years. Cut temporarily threw some life into it. I often think Cut NOT coming back here would have been way better. We'd already be into Fulmers replacement by now. Letting Trooper go was another bone head move. Letting Gardner go, not getting rid of Slade, not hiring a decent special teams coach for the last 7 yrs....it goes on and on. Wake TF up Hamilton.

Just setting the stage for the announcement after the Alabama game.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

fltapout,

Where'd ya get that word?

Interesting interview. What is smoke and what is fire is hard to say.

OMike writes:

in response to fltapout:

UT loses to State, the deal is done. That's the word.

They will let Phil coach one last game against Bama no matter what.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

I'll believe it when I see it--both on the field an off the field.

BSweet writes:

"Generally I'm a very loyal person. If somebody is not doing what they should do or not cooperating...or being belligerent or being bad for the team,then certainly whatever's best for the team."

Phil, if this is how you honestly feel then how about being loyal to the university and resigning because you aren't getting the job done. You are no longer what's best for the team. This year is a wash. Give us the oppurtunity to start rebuilding now. As it is, there is every chance we are going to have to live with mediocrity for at least the next couple of years. Is that what you want your legacy to be?

MANVOL writes:

“You don’t want apathy,” Hamilton said. “Apathy is a program killer.” too late...Hamilton ONE RULE TO LIVE BY, "ACTION SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS"!!

AlphaVol writes:

in response to ChuckG:

Anybody who thinks that a single booster will be the deciding factor in this situation has a small mind, not to mention Jim Haslam has never and will never dictate to the Athletic director. Which ever way this plays out Hamilton is in a spot I do not envy. That is great we have $7 million in reserve, but to have to fork over that kind of loot in this environment and play a new coach on top of that! I pray it all works out for the best and in the end there are not too many fences that cannot be mended. We all need to remember Coach Fulmer's hard work and dedication to the University is the reason expectations are so high.

ChuckG, you're right. Fulmer IS a good man and in the past did much for our program. Let's not forget that as we make this transition.

If we, as the Vol Nation, can remain a class act, everyone, including new recruits and coaches, will take great notice.

MANVOL writes:

This is not a normal year. There is no time to waist with recruiting and Clemson pulled the trigger and Auburn is on the verge hamilton what more do you need to see?

utchris writes:

I have heard 2 things from a person inside the program

Another loss to a team not named Alabama, and it is a done deal.

The problem is not Clawson. His scheme is apparently so well thought of that several NFL teams have already offered him a position should he get canned. Apparently, his scheme, which is complex in terms of language and assignments, has been to much for the players to handle....

That said, I am glad to see that Hamilton has learned his lesson on buyouts, and has the money in the bank drawing interest just in case it is needed.

kbart4033#247331 writes:

Phil Fulmer is the 7th highest-paid coach in the SEC (in the
next-to-worst recruiting area in the south) and my bet is the Vols will finish about 7th when SEC is finished this year--and
hopefully maintain a top 10 national recruiting pace. A bargain, if you ask me! Last year, the 7th highest-paid coach finished 2nd in the SEC (in the next-to-worst recruiting area in the south) and, because of major staff defections, had a horrible recruiting finish. The absolute worst thing that could happen here is for UT to have another poor recruiting haul. The best plan: STFU, get behind this team and staff,
ride out the season, and hope the recruits include some
offensive and defensive linemen who can hang with the big
boys in this league.

ZacharyUTK writes:

Hey. My intramural team is pretty doggone awesome, and we don't see a penny of that 80% from the football program.

I guess it's because we 'work like heck' and 'do our business in the classroom'.

mbible1utk#324980 writes:

The light might be turning on finally...

dvols writes:

where.... is jj mcklesky when u need them

players my friends.. coaches are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo overated.

newtonrail writes:

Fulmer may need to go. But reading this tripe from the "Me Now" generation of PlayStation wonders makes me sick. I've read enough on here to know most of you aren't season ticket holders, and the improvements that could be made to bathrooms,etc in Neyland Stadium with that $7.5 Million. And no if the bottom falls out he needs to go. I wish he'd have gone on to Eastern Carolina, and Majors had stayed.

Feared_Mustang_Package writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

JohnyLobo34 writes:

Clawson's offense is too complicated, it has too many progressions; it takes too long to develope. That might fly in Division 1-A, but the SEC and the rest of Big Time College Football is too fast,

I'd like to see Cut take over at UT! John Gruden hasn't been shy about his admiration for the Tennessee program; and what about Bill Cowher? Did we get rid of Rodney Gardner or did Georgia hire him away? Wasn't a big fan of letting Trooper go either!

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

in response to tnbigg:

WHAT A JOKE../.../...../....../....../

keep your opinions to yourself, you have no dogs in this race! To us you are the joke!

MANVOL writes:

in response to kbart4033#247331:

Phil Fulmer is the 7th highest-paid coach in the SEC (in the
next-to-worst recruiting area in the south) and my bet is the Vols will finish about 7th when SEC is finished this year--and
hopefully maintain a top 10 national recruiting pace. A bargain, if you ask me! Last year, the 7th highest-paid coach finished 2nd in the SEC (in the next-to-worst recruiting area in the south) and, because of major staff defections, had a horrible recruiting finish. The absolute worst thing that could happen here is for UT to have another poor recruiting haul. The best plan: STFU, get behind this team and staff,
ride out the season, and hope the recruits include some
offensive and defensive linemen who can hang with the big
boys in this league.

We have road out 10 seasons and we have had high ranking recruiting classes, yet stil not a championship insight. Keeping hoping in one hand ____ in the other and see which give us a championship program first.

tnbigg writes:

in response to WeLoveTennesseeVols:

keep your opinions to yourself, you have no dogs in this race! To us you are the joke!

Well Mr. "I'm a Psychologist"...would the "us" you are referring to happen to be your multiple personalities? Now...keep humoring you and your "us" with your "enlightened" posting...

redneckerson writes:

in response to ZacharyUTK:

Hey. My intramural team is pretty doggone awesome, and we don't see a penny of that 80% from the football program.

I guess it's because we 'work like heck' and 'do our business in the classroom'.

Wrong Zach, it's because nobody cares.

fltapout writes:

in response to WeLoveTennesseeVols:

keep your opinions to yourself, you have no dogs in this race! To us you are the joke!

Nope WeLoveTennesseeVols, you are the joke. Everyone laughs at you and you are a short bus ride waiting to happen. Crawl out of your basement and get some sun light. Get.

VOL_ATIC writes:

RIGHT ON VOL NATION!!
Sorry Phil, I am your biggest fan but when we let Trooper leave and Slade stay you lost me. One thing we're missing isn't just about Phil, it's about who ever thought the "spread" would work at UT should be banned from the state! Get REAL!! I can't believe for one minute that came from Phil..nope someone else pulled that card. It's simple...cut Clawson and Slade loose and beg Trooper and Gardner to come back and we can salvage this thing. Phil as OC/HC with Trooper as his assistant. Let the Chief stay as long as he never uses the word "prevent" again EVER..to groom Gardner and life will be good again in the VOL NATION!
I still believe in you Coach...show us you still believe in UT!

Americanvols68 writes:

Jon Gruden just bought 150acres in Knoxville. He wants someone I know to help him build his house. This person is also helping Haynesworth build his house at the same time. I have no idea why Gruden would want to build a house in Knoxville. He may be setting up shop or he may want a summer home in Knoxville. I have no idea why he would want to spend his summers here but that is the story.

fltapout writes:

in response to WeLoveTennesseeVols:

keep your opinions to yourself, you have no dogs in this race! To us you are the joke!

You smell

philly78 writes:

Word in NC, as of Monday, is that they are already looking for new coach. I know its only talk but interesting that people in NC already making plans.

tnbigg writes:

in response to fltapout:

Nope WeLoveTennesseeVols, you are the joke. Everyone laughs at you and you are a short bus ride waiting to happen. Crawl out of your basement and get some sun light. Get.

You make a very good point...maybe the "us" is his class on the short bus! Dang...good point!

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