Dishonesty, Dooley, Ducks, and the Director of Athletics
Let me start off by welcoming everyone back to the 2010 version of Checkerboard Chatter. The Chatter formally apologizes for not posting a week 1 entry after the romp over UT-Martin. I was 3 days removed from the birth of my second son and had little time and even less of the mental energy required to opine thoughts regarding the game.
Lets get right into Saturday's game. Oregon was far better than us. They had better football players at almost every position. I heard Derek Dooley say in the preseason that this Vols squad had some good number 1's and some good number 3's but no number 2's. He was, of course, referring to the depth chart. This showed big time against Oregon. When our number 1's grew tired we had no one to fall back on. We probably quit late and that was disheartening. If the rest of our football games this year were 30 minutes long as opposed to 60 I would feel much better about this season's outcome.
I had told people that I thought a lot of this season would be decided during the Oregon game. If we could find a way to win that one then confidence would be high and certain losses to Florida and Alabama in September and October would not seem quite as bad making for an undefeated November. I thought 7 wins was attainable. We might be lucky to win 5. Let's look at the rest of the schedule. In my opinion it breaks down into 3 categories: 1. Certain Losses, 2. Have To Wins, and 3. Toss Up Games. In my opinion the Certain Losses are Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and LSU (I know they almost let the UNC game slip away but we are no UNC right now). Toss Up Games would be Ole Miss and Kentucky. As late as we play those teams on the schedule our depth will be tested greatly. We will likely fail that test. That doesn't mean we won't still win but our roster is much more similar to Ole Miss and UK than it is Florida and LSU. The Have To Wins are UAB, Memphis, and Vandy. We lose any of those and the wheels completely fall off. If this holds true and we win the two Toss Up Games that would put us at 6 wins. Honestly, I think we should feel fortunate to go 1 and 1 against Ole Miss and Kentucky so a 5 win season is quite possible.
The good news? Things can change quickly in college football. We learned that lesson last year. Heart-breaking losses to UCLA and Auburn were all but forgotten when we laid the wood to Georgia on October 10th. The next game we go out and almost beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa and looked like a completely different team the rest of the way. Could something like that happen this year? Certainly. But after being roasted by the ducks I don't feel real good about the chances.
We knew the season could be like this. With time I believe Dooley and Wilcox will have us competing for Eastern Division crowns again. Bite the bullet this year though. It may be worse than we thought.
For those of you who followed last year's Checkerboard Chatter you have come to know this as a relatively positive blog. Many sports blogs are a destination for complaining fans. To date, this has not been that type of piece. Despite the doom and gloom written above I am basically an optimistic Vols fan. Clearly, I am straying away from the usual positive themes this week.
I think its time for Mike Hamilton to go.
Before I tell you why, allow me to say that any A.D. at any major university has a tremendously tough job. For many colleges and universities the athletic programs are the institution's most visible aspect. Sports is a recruiting tool for the rest of the student population. Each year the UT Athletic Department not only balances its own budget, they also contribute to the University's general budget. The whole, "my tax dollars pay that coaches salary" mindset is silly and only used by the uninformed, at least as it pertains to UT athletics.
Mike Hamilton makes in the neighborhood of 400,000 dollars a year. Its certainly no small amount but its probably not enough for the position. Consider this, the athletic operating budget for '09-'10 was over 100 million bucks. The head coaches of the three major sports (football, men's basketball, women's basketball) make 3 to 6 times more than Hamilton. Imagine that in real world terms. How messed up would it be if the president of a company had employees reporting to them that made 3 times more than said president? Mike Hamilton is making less than half of 1 percent of the operating budget that he creates and outperforms each year. The business of college athletics is weird. I say all that to say I recognize just how difficult the task before Mike Hamilton has become.
Why then should he be fired? Mike Hamilton has made 5 signature personnel moves since coming on board. He hired Bruce Pearl, he hired Todd Raleigh, he fired Phil Fulmer, he hired Lane Kiffin, and he hired Derek Dooley.
Bruce Pearl was the right hire. It has bought Hamilton a good deal of job security and put him on solid ground in the early days of his directorship. However, the ground became substantially more shaky after Friday's announcement that Pearl and his staff lied to the NCAA regarding illegal contact made with recruits from unreported cell phones. I don't think Pearl should be fired and I believe the punishment fit the crime. However, bottom line is the coach Hamilton hired has us in hot water with the NCAA. That is a place no University Board wants to find itself.
Todd Raleigh probably deserves more time before a verdict can be reached. He has not had good results to this point. The team has not made the SEC Tournament during his tenure.
I don't believe Fulmer should have been fired. We could debate this all day (and I have with many people). Hindsight is 20/20 so I can sit here and say that after everything that went down with Kiffin we should have stuck with Fulmer. Of course, Hamilton had no way of knowing what would happen but when you are running a company or an athletic department with a 100 million dollar budget benefit of the doubt is rarely given. Again, the bottom line is Hamilton humiliated a Tennessee legend and replaced him with a coach who did far more harm than good in his 13 months on campus. I think Derek Dooley was the right hire but, as evidenced Saturday night, the program has fallen so far that Dooley may not win enough anytime soon to be around when his hard work pays off.
This all comes together to make the case against Hamilton. The football program is in far worse shape than when he started and it is directly attributable to decisions Hamilton made. The basketball program is on the NCAA's naughty list. The baseball program is a conference cellar dweller. If the ongoing NCAA investigation results in sanctions against the football program, which is entirely possible, then I believe the university has no choice but to start a search for a new A.D.