Now, he's also the guy who hired the guy who lied to the NCAA.
Pearl will lose $1.5 million in salary over the next five years as part of UT's sanctions against its own basketball program. But Hamilton will lose, too.
Profit margin isn't the bottom line for an athletic director. Neither is fundraising. No matter how adept an athletic director is at making or raising money, he's ultimately judged on personnel decisions.
And Pearl has always been the counter-argument to any criticism of Hamilton's personnel decisions.
Hamilton might have taken away your football seats or priced you out of the ticket-buying market. But he hired Bruce Pearl.
UT football has lost 13 games and two head coaches in two years. Both football and basketball are under NCAA investigation. The baseball program is a mess. And all of that is on Hamilton's watch.
Yeah, but he hired . . .
Sorry. But that doesn't work anymore.
Pearl did the impossible with UT basketball. He also did the unthinkable. He lied to the NCAA when questioned about potential violations involving phone contact with recruits.
You just don't lie to the NCAA. Pearl is lucky he didn't get fired because of it.
"I've learned some valuable lessons," Pearl said Friday. "After I provided false and misleading information, I subsequently went back and corrected the record. I learned that it's not OK to tell the truth most of the time, but that you have to tell the truth all the time."
He just learned that? Wow. That's stunning stuff from a coach as savvy as Pearl, who routinely thinks on his feet faster and speaks more eloquently at the drop of a question than the most seasoned politicians.
Here's another stunner: multi-million-dollar mistakes aside, UT basketball is still better off with Pearl than without him, which speaks more to the pre-Pearl status of the program.
You didn't catch NCAA investigators sniffing around Peterson's UT program. Who's to say they even realized UT had a basketball program back then?
Pearl has buried memories of that program with a fast-break rebuilding job that hasn't slowed down for five years. He has taken the Vols to five consecutive NCAA tournaments and to within a few agonizing seconds of the Final Four. He has beaten No. 1-ranked teams and been ranked No. 1. He has painted himself orange and endeared himself to UT men's basketball fans like no coach since Ray Mears.
Now, one incredible turnaround has been followed by another.
When you woke up Friday morning, you thought UT's football program was the one in the NCAA crosshairs. You also thought Lane Kiffin was the UT-connected coach on the NCAA hit list.
Kiffin, who left UT for the head-coaching job at Southern California in January, might have amassed secondary violations at a dizzying pace. Yet none of those violations match Pearl's.
Can UT basketball bounce back from this? It depends on how high of a bounce you have in mind.
As part of UT's self-imposed restrictions, Pearl won't be able to recruit off-campus for a year, and his assistant coaches will be limited as well. There's also the possibility the NCAA could add more sanctions.
Even the harshest scenario wouldn't reduce UT basketball to what it was before Pearl. But you have to question whether Pearl's Vols will again reach the Elite Eight heights of last March.
You also have to wonder if his boss will be the athletic director at the end of the school year.
Hamilton made the right decision in firing Fulmer, but he lost some support nonetheless. He lost more support when Kiffin bolted for USC, even though virtually no one could have anticipated the circumstances. And he gave his most zealous critics a downtrodden baseball program to throw in his face.
In defense of the guy who hired Bruce Pearl, the department is in the black and the new bricks at Neyland Stadium look great.
John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.