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Reporter: Wes Boling

Commentary: Pearl, not Hamilton, is to blame

As Tennessee fans rally behind Bruce Pearl in the wake of his firing, they need to remember that it was he, not Mike Hamilton, who created the turmoil that led to his ouster.

Mike Hamilton's best hire ultimately became his biggest headache and led to one of his toughest decisions as Tennessee's athletic director.

Hamilton and UT's administrators decided Monday that the NCAA turmoil Bruce Pearl unleashed amounted to a fireable offense, and Tennessee ousted the most successful basketball coach in its history today.

But as fans rally behind Pearl and crucify Hamilton, they need to remember one thing:
Pearl caused this mess, not Hamilton.
Has the UT AD been perfect?  Of course not.  But he's responded firmly to the adversity thrown upon him after he was made aware of Pearl's illegal behavior.
He imposed harsh penalties upon Pearl in September.  Why?  Because he wanted to avoid severe NCAA punishment, but also because he didn't want to fire Pearl.  He's done everything in his power to protect his head coach, publicly stating on several occasions that he fully supported his coach, despite his behavior.
But as conversations with the NCAA continued, Hamilton and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek became aware that keeping Pearl was going to bring a firestorm of punishment upon the UT basketball program.  Thus, they made the agonizing decision to part ways with the man responsible for the program's regeneration.
Tennessee fans who are rallying behind Pearl and hating on Hamilton need to realize that UT saved the basketball program years of heartache today.  Keeping Pearl would have been a slap in the face to the all-powerful NCAA.  Would they have suspended Pearl?  Yep.  Postseason ban?  Probably.  Scholarship losses?  You bet.  After firing Pearl, the punishment of UT will likely be far less severe.
In addition, Pearl's success has made the Tennessee job very attractive to any number of young, talented prospective coaches.  Thanks to Mike Hamilton's hire and Pearl's excellence, the Vols are poised to hire a coach who can continue Pearl's run of success.
Mike Hamilton's radio interview was a significant mistake.  He should have stayed off the air waves and kept UT's deliberations as private as possible. 
But that mistake is tiny in comparison with the blunder Pearl made by lying to the NCAA.  And Tennessee fans need to remember that despite Pearl's on-court success, and despite his charisma, there is one thing that is bigger:
Tennessee's reputation.
And Jimmy Cheek and Mike Hamilton were forced today to do the dirty work of keeping it intact.



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  • by ann Location: greenback on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:41 AM
    mike hamilton&jimmycheeks is the very cause of uts reputation looking like sh.. now.pearl did not do anything that bad.hamilton needs to go.wake up ut and smell the roses that you have for the last 6 years.i am done with ut and will be till they get rid of the henderence.
  • by Bobby Location: Knox on Mar 23, 2011 at 08:12 AM
    Pearl is an unethical loser. Mike Hamilton is doing what he is told to do. The Chancellors and Board run the sports programs with regards to the major decisions. Mike Hamilton only runs the minor day to day athletic activities at the university. Pearl should have been fired earlier and Fulmer should have also been fired way earlier. They are both covered with corruption and there is no place for that in UT sports. Pearl is a slim ball.
  • by Don Gay Location: St Louis, MO on Mar 22, 2011 at 05:42 AM
    I disagree with your stance. The NCAA is looking at The football, baseball and basketball programs. Have you heard of the phrase, "lack of institutional control"? Who is the common thread that runs through this mess? Of course Hamilton fired Pearl, as much to try and save his own job as anthing else.
  • by Vol4life Location: unkown on Mar 21, 2011 at 02:10 PM
    Very well written, and spoken like a true Volunteer. Tennessee prides itself on being a class act University. With the actions of Pearl, Kiffin, and Raleigh that reputation is in jeopardy. I applaud Mike Hamilton for looking out for the University of Tennessee! Tennessee will be ok, we have to have our fans continue to back our Athletic Department and stand united behind our beloved University of Tennessee!
  • by Sean Location: Rockwood on Mar 21, 2011 at 01:13 PM
    Until they fire Mike Hamilton I'm done with Tennessee sports..he hired Lame Kiffin and he has hired a below average baseball coach. I know you sports guys are close friends with Mike but he has to go
  • by WIll Location: Austin on Mar 21, 2011 at 01:10 PM
    Spare us your holier-than-thou lecture, Wes. Nothing the NCAA could've imposed would set the program back more than getting rid of Bruce Pearl. UT will never have another BB coach with his talent, and at the end of the day you and everyone else knows it was about profits, profits, and more profits. Let's see them profitable when myself and hopefully many other alums pull our yearly VSAF donations.
  • by Dan Collins Location: Sevierville on Mar 21, 2011 at 01:01 PM
    I will not buy my season basketball tickets next year. Mike Hamilton needs to go. I was p.o, when he fired Fulmer in the manor he did and now this, the best coach in years. No thanks!
  • by Rollin Location: Knoxville on Mar 21, 2011 at 12:57 PM
    You make very valid points but keep in mind that the fans' perspective of Hamilton includes still feeling burnt by Lane Kiffin. Bruce Pearl was the shining star on Hamilton's hiring resume and no he's gone. Yes, the firing of Bruce may be necessary but it is still widely unpopular. Tennessee fans feel defeated right now and Mike Hamilton is going to feel the brunt of that disappointment because he is the face of the program.