Moments after he quoted a passage from the Bible, thanked his many friends in the room and expressed his love for the University of Tennessee while announcing his resignation as the school's men's athletic director, Mike Hamilton answered the $1.335 million question.
Of all times, with UT set to stand before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis on Saturday, why walk away now?
Mike Hamilton announces his resignation as Athletics Director for the University of Tennessee
Hamilton provided various reasons, but most came back to the investigation that put Hamilton through the most "challenging" and "frustrating" 18 months of his professional career.
Now, he and his former bosses and colleagues hope that his departure will pave the way for a less frustrating and challenging future for the UT athletic department.
"I don't have any firm knowledge of this but it's my belief with people I talked to that going in to the Committee on Infractions now with a new head basketball coach, a new head football coach and the prospect of a new athletic director, it's not bad for the University of Tennessee," Hamilton said. "I can't say that it's good necessarily, but it's certainly not bad."
The decisions and penalties rendered by the NCAA Committee on Infractions, a group comprised of law professors, active attorneys, league executives and athletic administrators from across the country, have been notoriously tough to predict because it is encouraged, but not required, to base its rulings on established precedent.
Hamilton's resignation, which comes with $1.335 million in buyout money, doesn't do anything to clarify the future, multiple NCAA legal experts told the News Sentinel. It merely adds another variable to an already complex equation.
"As an institution, you would certainly hope that the Committee on Infractions would take notice that you now have two new head coaches and are on the verge of hiring a brand new athletic director, so you do, in fact, have a clean and fresh start in that regard," said Mike Ermert, a Birmingham (Ala.) based attorney who represented the University of Alabama in a 1994 case against the NCAA.
"I don't believe it's going to insulate the institution from penalties that would otherwise have been imposed if Hamilton were still on the job."
Michael Buckner, a prominent Florida-based attorney who has represented coaches and universities in NCAA infractions cases, said Hamilton's resignation not only doesn't guarantee a lighter sentence from the COI, but also could work against the university.
"When you go to an infractions hearing, you're trying to show the committee that you're sorry the violation occurred, you're putting in place a series of measures to make sure it doesn't happen again and you have the people in place in terms of (administrators) and coaches to make sure it doesn't happen again," Buckner said.
"You want to be able to show that you have the ability in leadership. I can't say that Tennessee can show that right now."
At the NCAA Enforcement Experience in Indianapolis last month, Josephine Potuto, a Nebraska law professor who served on the COI from 2000 to 2008, said an institution's separation from a coach who committed violations is considered a "corrective action." Because Hamilton isn't specifically implicated in any of the Vols' 12 major violations in football and men's basketball, and because he resigned and was not fired, it's tough to classify his departure as a "corrective action," Ermert said.
Of the 12 violations, only one - failure to monitor telephone calls made by the men's basketball coaching staff - is alleged specifically against the athletic department Hamilton supervised. The other 11 have been pinned on former coaches.
"I think the Committee on Infractions is going to look at the manner in which the athletic department was managed under his tenure and whether or not they appropriately monitored the conduct of the coaches and the other athletic staff," Ermert said. "(They will) reach a decision as to whether or not anything that Hamilton did or didn't do should be addressed."
Hamilton, unprompted, pointed out that he, UT and its fans have already served one of the harshest punishments that comes with NCAA investigations.
Reactions to news of Mike Hamilton's resignation
"Though we got our letter of official inquiry in August or September of last year, the premise or the possibility of this investigation was much earlier than that," Hamilton said of UT's investigation, which was launched April 2009. "That's damaging to an institution."
At last week's SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., which were attended by NCAA president Mark Emmert and Vice President of Enforcement Julie Roe Lach, Hamilton said he spoke about the "problematic" length of these investigations.
NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn said that the NCAA couldn't comment on Hamilton's concerns because UT's investigation is still ongoing.
"There's collateral damage along the way because of that," he said. "Certainly the NCAA should take their time to make sure everything is investigated thoroughly, but I also think that there are folks that are hurt along the way because of the length of time."
Hamilton can certainly claim to be one of them.