UT athletic program starting over at the top: Mike Hamilton resigns

To get $1.335 million in separation agreement

UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek (left) discusses athletic director Mike Hamilton (right) resignation at the Stokely Family Media Center inside Neyland Stadium on June 7, 2011.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek (left) discusses athletic director Mike Hamilton (right) resignation at the Stokely Family Media Center inside Neyland Stadium on June 7, 2011.

Mike Hamilton announces his resignation as Athletics Director for the University of Tennessee

In the week since University of Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton first offered to resign, Chancellor Jimmy Cheek has yet to compile a list of potential replacements.

That's expected to change very soon, maybe even before Saturday's Committee on Infractions hearing in Indianapolis.

And Cheek, who said Tuesday he expects to name a replacement within the next six to eight weeks, doesn't see the cloud of negativity surrounding one of the nation's most profitable athletic departments as a hurdle to putting UT in "a better place in the future than we are today."

"We're going to look for someone that can provide leadership both internally and externally to the athletic program. We're going to look for someone that can lead us to the next level," Cheek said at a morning press conference before reporters, UT coaches and administrators at Neyland Stadium.

"This is that opportunity."

That opportunity arrived in abrupt but long-anticipated fashion at last week's Southeastern Conference spring meetings in Destin, Fla., when Hamilton, 47, first presented the idea of resigning to Cheek.

One day later, Hamilton reaffirmed his decision.

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"When he brought the decision to me, I supported his decision," Cheek said. "Mike's character, his integrity, his deep faith, has served him well in the past and will serve him well as he moves forward to the next challenges of his life."

An interim athletic director will be named later in the week, Cheek said. Because his resignation does not go into effect until the end of the month, Hamilton will still represent the UT athletic department Saturday and field questions about 12 major violations in men's basketball and football from the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

Hamilton said he will not head the ongoing search to find a new baseball coach.

Nearly eight years to the day when he was promoted to replace a retiring Doug Dickey, Hamilton cited numerous reasons, all of which circled back to the department's lingering investigation by the NCAA, for his decision to walk away from the university where he'd been an employee since 1992.

"I've never experienced more challenge or frustration in my 26 years of professional life than during the last 18 months," Hamilton said in his opening statement, which also quoted a Bible passage and touched on a February trip to Africa.

"I accept the responsibility for the things that have led to some of these challenges. Ultimately, I think today was inevitable based upon today's operating environment in college athletics."

Reactions to news of Mike Hamilton's resignation

Hamilton, whose resignation is effective June 30, will receive $1.335 million in buyout money over the next three years, according to his separation agreement and release. He also has rights to eight lifetime complimentary season tickets for UT football and men's basketball, as well as two parking permits for each sport.

That, and a number of other benefits, are all subject to revocation and penalty if he publicly disparages UT during that time frame.

"I want peace for the University of Tennessee. This is too great a place to not have that peace," Hamilton said. "We have been in a period of turmoil that needs to end, and if I could help end that turmoil by stepping aside, I thought that was important."

It wasn't always so rocky for Hamilton, who spearheaded the construction of Pratt Pavilion, helped generate hundreds of millions of dollars in funds for renovations to Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena and was doing the same for a new, $48 million indoor practice facility for the football program. Those endeavors largely kept Hamilton, the father of five adopted children, behind the scenes and out of the spotlight while he notched numerous program records in donation money.

That all changed in 2008, when Hamilton fired longtime football coach Phillip Fulmer midway through the 2008 season. Fulmer's replacement, Lane Kiffin, committed numerous secondary and major violations in his one season with the Vols before leaving for the same position at the University of Southern California. The damage was done to the storied football program by the time Hamilton hired current coach Derek Dooley as Kiffin's replacement in 2010.

By December 2012, when Fulmer receives his final paycheck from a $6 million buyout, UT will have paid $9,100,385.53 in buyout money to the five, high-profile coaches Hamilton has fired.

For years, Hamilton was lauded for his decision to fire Buzz Peterson and hire Bruce Pearl as the school's men's basketball coach in 2005. The program reached new heights under the popular Pearl.

But Hamilton's demise and that of Pearl, who was fired in March because of his role in the major violations alleged against the men's basketball program, ultimately went hand in hand.

"For the majority of time that I was his men's basketball coach, we built something very special," Pearl said in a statement released to the News Sentinel. "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."

Hamilton said he "probably will" be an athletic director again at some point in his career. For now, he said he will "take time to evaluate some other things."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble.

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Comments » 46

Volumnus writes:

A decision made with the speed, clarity of mind and deftness of character of a lazy gator in an icy pond....

Thank you, let's thaw the pond and drive out the gators and get back to being Volunteers.

UofTNVol writes:

in response to Volumnus:

A decision made with the speed, clarity of mind and deftness of character of a lazy gator in an icy pond....

Thank you, let's thaw the pond and drive out the gators and get back to being Volunteers.

You are an idiot. Mike Hamilton has more integrity in his pinky toe than you have in your entire body.

rick4tn writes:

Good riddance Hammy!! Thanks to you, the NCAA is going to gut the UT sports program. BUT, all REAL Vols will come together and do the work necessary to return UT sports to national prominance. Drain the pond!!

miketn6 writes:

Good luck Mike Hamilton. I can't imagine you'll ever be an athletic director again at a NCAA division 1 school, but I wish you well in your future endeavors.

spencer1989#206886 writes:

Dang....When I first glanced at the headline: "UT athletic program starting over at the top" I had hopes that Cheeks was gone as well. Then I read the last part and was disappointed and the balloon of hope popped.

Classof72 writes:

So, Hamilton gets to go to the UTAD bank, and keep all the money he can carry away? Instead of this, he could have been offered a three year position with the groundskeepers at his current salary. At least they'd get someting for the money. Praise the Lord and show me the money, for it's time to go.

CCLC writes:

"His list of accomplishments is substantial, but we'll always remember you best for hiring Lane Kiffin, and thus giving us the gift of Kiffin's "Last Chopper Out Of Saigon" flight from the mob in Knoxville. Your masterwork, Mr. Hamilton, may never be taken away from you."

eagle327 writes:

UT is a PUBLIC, not some private, ivy league, high-priced college. UT will pay out $10 million for personnel who will do no work for the college. Just another example of how "educators" waste the taxpayers money. I guess the students and their parents will be punished with higher tuition to off-set the waste. This is a disgrace. Will anyone be held accountable?

BillyVol writes:

Fan base split on Fulmer.
Fan base split on Kiffin, during his time.
Fan base upset on Kiffin when he abruptly departed.
Fan base excited about Pearl hiring.
Fan base split on Pearl troubles.
Fan base split on Dooley,
Fan base split on Martin,
FAN base split on Hamilton.
It seems the only thing that will make the Fan Base happy is to win. We need to remember as a Fan, to have fun, have a respectable team, and not win at all costs. We need to remember Tennessee has to help these young men and women to grow into adults, starting from the moment they are being recruited. This should be the top priority. If we as fans have fun, maybe the players will have fun, and if the players have fun, it will increase our enjoyment of Tennessee sports.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to eagle327:

UT is a PUBLIC, not some private, ivy league, high-priced college. UT will pay out $10 million for personnel who will do no work for the college. Just another example of how "educators" waste the taxpayers money. I guess the students and their parents will be punished with higher tuition to off-set the waste. This is a disgrace. Will anyone be held accountable?

birdbrain, as has been stated many many times, the UTAD gets NO tax money. These are privately raised funds and funds from the sale of tickets and other products of the UTAD. In fact UTAD contributes to the academic side of the house yearly. Please find something to be indignant about that is true.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to BillyVol:

Fan base split on Fulmer.
Fan base split on Kiffin, during his time.
Fan base upset on Kiffin when he abruptly departed.
Fan base excited about Pearl hiring.
Fan base split on Pearl troubles.
Fan base split on Dooley,
Fan base split on Martin,
FAN base split on Hamilton.
It seems the only thing that will make the Fan Base happy is to win. We need to remember as a Fan, to have fun, have a respectable team, and not win at all costs. We need to remember Tennessee has to help these young men and women to grow into adults, starting from the moment they are being recruited. This should be the top priority. If we as fans have fun, maybe the players will have fun, and if the players have fun, it will increase our enjoyment of Tennessee sports.

Great post

d.lay69#404443 writes:

Raise tuition again, we have got another one carrying a few millions away for not performing his job. I attended LMU for two years and graduated from UT, I wish now I had stayed at LMU, a lot more honor there. Pat Summitt is the only class on the hill, I will support her, dont care about the rest.

orangegrass writes:

IGNORANCE AND STUPIDITY REIGN IN THE FAN BASE! That should be the next head line in the KNS. With that article John Adams could get the fan base fired.

rootin4volz writes:

Cheek doesn't have a list of names? Shouldn't he have one of those at ALL times, just in case? Call me silly, but I would think that's a no-brainer thing to have in your desk drawer as a chancellor.

If it looks like a gator, and walks like a gator...

zipper10 writes:

Mike Hamilton may be a very nice man but a business man he is obviously not. Accolades are mentioned for bringing in money a while back but does that really matter in light of all the money he has cost UTAD? Character is important but you have to work that in your professional life as well to make wise sound business moves which unfortunately he did not (except for letting Fulmer go). The only way Mike's resignation would be a bad thing is if Cheeks and the Powers That Be find a yes man with no morals otherwise maybe athletics can now get their head out of their --- and actually be successful.

d.lay69#404443 writes:

I forgot to mention that I had put two daughters through UT, the last said that she couldnt get classes she needed, classrooms were overcrowded, really had gone downhill, but lets win boys.

AncientVol writes:

A good guy who bore some responsibility for the negatives but also did many positive things for UT. His two main failures were (a)not closely overseeing the BB program/Bruce Pearl to assure rules compliance and (b)his error in judgment in hiring Lane Kiffin. Apart from his accomplishments in fund-raising and community work, his beneficial actions were (a) terminating Fulmer, who had lost effectiveness, (b) hiring a potentially great FB Coach in Dooley, (c) hiring Cuonzo Martin to head the BB program. The off-field discipline problems with players was not the fault of the AD. After we get a new AD there will still be occasional behavioral problems with scholarship athletes, same as at other major college programs.

bretticus25#294810 writes:

My two cents: On the top of the future AD's contract, in bold letters, it should say:

I WILL NOT LIE, CHEAT, OR STEAL, AND I WON'T TOLERATE ANYONE ELSE WHO DOES.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to d.lay69#404443:

I forgot to mention that I had put two daughters through UT, the last said that she couldnt get classes she needed, classrooms were overcrowded, really had gone downhill, but lets win boys.

I was going to let your first stupid comment go but two in a row is too much to pass up. Please read my response to eagle/birdbrain.

utvolfan writes:

in response to eagle327:

UT is a PUBLIC, not some private, ivy league, high-priced college. UT will pay out $10 million for personnel who will do no work for the college. Just another example of how "educators" waste the taxpayers money. I guess the students and their parents will be punished with higher tuition to off-set the waste. This is a disgrace. Will anyone be held accountable?

Athletics have a separate budget at UT and do not receive money from the regular UT budget. I'm concerned about all the payouts also, but at least they do not come from the academic budget. And it isn't "educators" who are making the decisions about these expenditures but administrators.

tdforvols writes:

in response to d.lay69#404443:

I forgot to mention that I had put two daughters through UT, the last said that she couldnt get classes she needed, classrooms were overcrowded, really had gone downhill, but lets win boys.

It's the same at all colleges......One suggestion would be to register for classes early.

utvolfan writes:

To EVERYONE: Mike Hamilton was head of the MEN'S Athletic Department, NOT all UT athletics programs. Joan Cronan is doing very well as director of the WOMEN's Athletic Department. Please be careful about casting aspersions on all of UT athletics. As a bonus, it would be nice for both reporting and commenting to be clear and accurate in labeling and referencing.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to d.lay69#404443:

I forgot to mention that I had put two daughters through UT, the last said that she couldnt get classes she needed, classrooms were overcrowded, really had gone downhill, but lets win boys.

While others have pointed out that the UTAD operates without state funds, relying instead on its self-generated revenue while contributing HEAVILY to the academic side of the university, I would like to mention that the money problems on the academic side are almost entirely due to the withdrawal of hundreds of millions, if not--cumulatively--billions, of dollars of state support to the university. Beginning at the latest in about 2000, the state has cut its funding for the whole university system EVERY YEAR since then, and it is a CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY of the legislature to support the university. The increases in tuition and the reductions in programs and personnel were caused by this shortfall in state support, NOT by funding the athletic programs.

kayaker writes:

There should be no severance pay! None.

Paying someone to leave when they're resigning because they consider themselves to be the cause of the problem(s) is illogical nonsense!

knoxchatter writes:

in response to eagle327:

UT is a PUBLIC, not some private, ivy league, high-priced college. UT will pay out $10 million for personnel who will do no work for the college. Just another example of how "educators" waste the taxpayers money. I guess the students and their parents will be punished with higher tuition to off-set the waste. This is a disgrace. Will anyone be held accountable?

I agree with ALMOST every part of your post EAGLE327! You can bet your a#$ that students and parents will feel the repercussions of this and other expensive 'Hamilton debacles' of late. However, it is not an example of how 'EDUCATORS' waste the taxpayers money...for the $$$ that have been disbursed in these mishaps must first be approved by those sitting on the board of directors at UT and the state.....largely businessmen, businesswomen, and politicos...and chiefly republican, I might add, who get involved in running the university from a distance. It is easy for the 'queen bee' to spend and waste money that is mostly raised and/or donated by the 'worker bees.' Then of course the bill is passed back to the students, their parents, and paying fans (again, the worker bees). So, while Cheek and others high up in the university may, or may not, possess degrees in education, and may or may not, be 'educators,'..... in recent years, their actions have painted them as highly UNEDUCATED!

CCLC writes:

in response to tdforvols:

It's the same at all colleges......One suggestion would be to register for classes early.

Not so. I have two in college at an SEC institution of higher education and they tell me class sizes are fine.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to knoxchatter:

I agree with ALMOST every part of your post EAGLE327! You can bet your a#$ that students and parents will feel the repercussions of this and other expensive 'Hamilton debacles' of late. However, it is not an example of how 'EDUCATORS' waste the taxpayers money...for the $$$ that have been disbursed in these mishaps must first be approved by those sitting on the board of directors at UT and the state.....largely businessmen, businesswomen, and politicos...and chiefly republican, I might add, who get involved in running the university from a distance. It is easy for the 'queen bee' to spend and waste money that is mostly raised and/or donated by the 'worker bees.' Then of course the bill is passed back to the students, their parents, and paying fans (again, the worker bees). So, while Cheek and others high up in the university may, or may not, possess degrees in education, and may or may not, be 'educators,'..... in recent years, their actions have painted them as highly UNEDUCATED!

Right On knoxchatter!! Let's bring back communism! Its those pesky capitalist pigs again!!

UTKin1992 writes:

Hamilton may have been a great fund raiser, but he's a horrible manager of people. He operated lose and it cost us ALL in the UT family.

tdforvols writes:

in response to CCLC:

Not so. I have two in college at an SEC institution of higher education and they tell me class sizes are fine.

Well, that would depend on the Institution's definition of "fine". If your are signing up for a beginner "101" class at any college you can expect a full house and then some. Once you get to the more advanced classes it will begin to thin out considerably.

TNVOLNTX writes:

in response to eagle327:

UT is a PUBLIC, not some private, ivy league, high-priced college. UT will pay out $10 million for personnel who will do no work for the college. Just another example of how "educators" waste the taxpayers money. I guess the students and their parents will be punished with higher tuition to off-set the waste. This is a disgrace. Will anyone be held accountable?

Are you really that clued out as to how these things work? No PUBLIC funds used. Period. No tuition dollars used. No money that would otherwise have gone to instructor salaries or to student programs was used. Did Hamilton make mistakes? Sure he did and since everything rises and falls on leadership, he needed to be and has been held accountable. Having said that, the guy raised over $400 MILLION for UT during his tenure as AD...and you're worried about $10 Million in buyouts? Seriously?

tdforvols writes:

in response to budd#207344:

Right On knoxchatter!! Let's bring back communism! Its those pesky capitalist pigs again!!

Good one Budd! It's as if these folks have never heard of a severance package. However you can bet when the pink slip in their hand they will be looking for one themselves.

MEDIA_OCRITY writes:

Of all the mistakes that were made, no one thought a change was necessary more than me. But, for anyone who cares....I know first hand that I am not qualified to evaluate the worth of an Athletic Director but more than qualified to evaluate the worth of a man. Mike Hamilton is a GREAT man based on his successes in life. For all that post insulting personal comments, you are all cowards and all of you need to take a look at yourselves in the mirror as I do every day. If any one of you were hungry, he would feed you. You sorry SOBs need to learn what class is. You first lesson is to watch Hamilton read his resignation statement.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Hard to comprehend severance pay for quitting. I assume the full story will come out later. Maybe forced out makes more sense.

jameslawrence writes:

Hamilton's cohorts should go as well. Keener & Fuller... OUT! as they say in baseball.

silentmajority writes:

in response to jobrando#216494:

Hard to comprehend severance pay for quitting. I assume the full story will come out later. Maybe forced out makes more sense.

Like job above, I wonder why, in the name of all that's holy, does hammy deserve a $1.335 Million buyout? What has he done to warrant such grandiose treatment? A one-way ticket to Gainsville is more than he deserves, without all the perqs he's packing into his goaway bag.

Sincerely, what has he done to deserve either his ridiculous salary OR this ridiculouser buyout? What did he promise or deliver under the table for those bennies? Of, course, we will never know.

One thing he has done, however. He has helped make UT the best place in the world to be fired from.

Goodby and Godspeed, hammy. I'll bet dozens of colleges are panting for your services as their next AD

jskid writes:

in response to MEDIA_OCRITY:

Of all the mistakes that were made, no one thought a change was necessary more than me. But, for anyone who cares....I know first hand that I am not qualified to evaluate the worth of an Athletic Director but more than qualified to evaluate the worth of a man. Mike Hamilton is a GREAT man based on his successes in life. For all that post insulting personal comments, you are all cowards and all of you need to take a look at yourselves in the mirror as I do every day. If any one of you were hungry, he would feed you. You sorry SOBs need to learn what class is. You first lesson is to watch Hamilton read his resignation statement.

Is my first lesson supposed to be one of humility, or of how to maximize public opinion in your favor? Ok, so he prefaced his resignation with a travel channel trip thru Africa, and then quoted scripture. That, in itself, does not make him a "great man". He was in charge of a program that cheated, lied, and condoned bad behavior. In his, personal life, he seems to have made some strong contributions to charity and world peace.

But if he's so squeaky clean and pure of thought, why then is he resigning? And why does his severance contract include a clause about " disparaging remarks" ? Could it be that there are skeletons in the closet?

justgraduatedUT writes:

I think anyone that doesn't want Fulmer is just a plain fool. Who cares about uniting the fan base??? And what low intelligence bimbo thinks that is the job of the Athletic Director???? Obviously for years the "majority of the fan base" can almost HATE the AD and not a dang thing will happen. Contrary to popular belief the AD is the link between the administration, fans, trustees, and DONORS (which like it or not, are pretty important). He has a great relationship with the DONORS and as along as we want money to throw that pig skin, we make them happy. Like it or not, if the donors leave us, we have something akin to a high school football team with a bunch of crazy awesome fans. Fulmer is the best choice by far, as he is the last to get us a National Championship since many fans have been alive. This is an awesome moment in our history. Maybe just maybe, him being fired was perfect, because now he can take the AD job and make EVERY sport the best.

dkta writes:

I hope the next AD will insist on a background check before Scholarships are awarded. We don't need any more Police Reports about Athletes. I hope they insist on some integrity as well as an ability to play.

lafollette37766 writes:

Believe it or not the KNS actually summed it up. Hamilton was the CEO of a 100 plus million dollar company, aka: The University of Tennessee Athletic Dept. As the CEO Hamilton had to answer to the Board of Directors, aka: Cheek and company and to the stock holders aka: the fans. He was the one who hired Kiffin, granted he probably thought Ole Kiffy would stay longer but there were warning signs on Kiffy and even though Bruce Pearl did wonders for the mens program he did have a baggage train a mile long. In the end, Hamilton as CEO did hire these people and in the end Hamilton, as CEO has to be held accountable for the actions of the above mentioned whether he knew about what was going on or not. It is hard for me to believe that he did not get wind of some of Pearls doings and Ole Kiffy stayed in the news for some of his phooey. In order for UT to turn things around Hamilton had to go and whether it was of his own doing or he was forced, (I think he was forced), out it was for the best in the long run.

FarmerVol writes:

Hooooraaaay! UT finally claims a clean sweep. Just sorry it wasn't in baseball too. Now I can take that broom out of my car window.

d.lay69#404443 writes:

in response to budd#207344:

I was going to let your first stupid comment go but two in a row is too much to pass up. Please read my response to eagle/birdbrain.

What is stupid about this remark, when in the last semester, she couldnt get into a class she needed. It was overcrowded most of the time, spend some of this money on education, go ahead and drink the orange kool aid. Some of your comments are not so brilliant either, butt#207344

Einstein writes:

Good Bye Hamilton. You are an IDIOT and a FOOL!!! You embarrassed Tennessee (state, players, fans, alumni). Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out. I am only disappointed that Tennessee paid you money to leave. You should pay back some of the money you stole from Tennessee.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to d.lay69#404443:

What is stupid about this remark, when in the last semester, she couldnt get into a class she needed. It was overcrowded most of the time, spend some of this money on education, go ahead and drink the orange kool aid. Some of your comments are not so brilliant either, butt#207344

My response to eagle had nothing to do with your daughter's college experience. It had to do with the fact that the only reason the academic side sees any money from UTAD is because they make a profit and give them some. Education is not losing anything from athletics. Cause if it didn't go to UTAD it wouldn't go to UT.
You want to get more money for UT education? Root like he** for the Vols and vote for a state income tax

tonyvick#213307 writes:

Does anything ever happen at other SEC Universities? For the past few years I have watched all our sports decline. It seems the media always report negative things on UT. I love to watch all college sportss especially when UT is competing, outside of UT I root for the SEC and it seems FLA wins and competes on a high level in every sport. I never hear that much about FLA (maybe I just stay off their website. I know hindsight is 20-20 because I wanted Fulmer fired and was excited when Kiffin was hired. I wanted Buzz Peterson fired and was excited about Bruce Pearl being hired. I wanted to look the other way and somehow keep Bruce Pearl and somehow blame Hamilton. I remember I wanted Delmonico fired and was excited when he brought in Raleigh. I was excited when Raleigh was fired. I know I am ranting but I just want all of UT sports to win. And I do think Hamilton really tried to make us a winner in all sports. Oh how it really didn't work out because more than coaches you need the best players. Let's start recruiting the best players again in all sports and watch us win.

RussellP (Inactive) writes:

Hamilton did some great things for UT, but in the final analysis many chief executives rise and fall on the quality of their principal hires. Reagan was a great president who accomplish much, not because of any unique leadership skills he had but rather because he hired truly talented people to communicate and administer his ideas.

Hamilton, on the other hand, rolled the dice and hired Kiffen and Pearl, knowing the risks. In the end, very clearly, Kiffen and Pearl cost Hamilton his job.

Moral of the story: Hire as if your life (and job) depends on it.

iowavol writes:

in response to UofTNVol:

You are an idiot. Mike Hamilton has more integrity in his pinky toe than you have in your entire body.

...as evidenced by the way he fired Peterson, Fulmer, Pearl, Raleigh and the guy before Raleigh. One day one story, the next another. And in particular the legacy Hamilton leaves behind is a Volunteer family so divided we are the joke of college athletics. Sorry, but I disagree with your position with every fiber in my body.

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