KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Mike Hamilton stepped down as the athletic director at The University of Tennessee at a press conference Tuesday at Neyland Stadium.
"We're in a period of turmoil that needs to end, and if I can help that by stepping aside, I need to do that," Hamilton said. "I have become a lightning rod for negative attention, and that's been a distraction to the good things that are happening on our campus.
"Today was inevitable."
The turmoil includes Tennessee's upcoming visit to the NCAA Committee on Infractions this weekend, the result of several major violations committed by former UT coaches Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl. Those missteps ultimately led to Hamilton's decision to step down.
"I went to work every day trying to reward Mike Hamilton for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. I am grateful he brought me to Tennessee," said Bruce Pearl.
"For the majority of the time that I was his men’s basketball coach we built something very special," he continued. "I am so sorry that some of my mistakes and the results from them contributed to all that the athletic family and university have been through during this rough stretch."
"The greatest fans in college athletics supporting one of our nation’s finest universities deserve better," he added. "[A]nd as Mike alluded to in his resignation perhaps this will end some of the turmoil and the focus can shift back to all the positives the Vols have accomplished and will continue to accomplish."
Hamilton said he approached Chancellor Jimmy Cheek during last week's SEC Meetings in Destin about the possibility of resigning. Cheek said he did not try to talk Hamilton out of his decision, and that he was pleased with the job Hamilton did as athletic director.
Cheek said he hopes to have a new athletic director by the start of football season, and that the University will conduct a nationwide search to fill the position.
"I am sorry to see Mike Hamilton leave, but he's doing what he believes is the best thing for him, his family and The University of Tennessee," Cheek said.
"We have experienced great success under Mike Hamilton's leadership. We're greatly appreciative of what Mike Hamilton has done as our athletic director."
Hamilton was appointed the university's seventh Director of Athletics in 2003, succeeding Doug Dickey. The Brevard, N.C.-native had originally joined the UT staff in 1992, coming from Wake Forest, where he was assistant director of development.
"I spent 19 years of my life in this athletic program, which is almost my entire professional career," Hamilton said. "My family and I love The University of Tennessee and we love Knoxville.
"We poured our lives out to make this a better university, often to the detriment of our family. Serving as the athletic director for the last eight years has served as an incredible leadership lesson."
Hamilton said he had been contemplating resigning for the last "several months." He said he decided to resign mere days before the Vols' NCAA hearings because he didn't want to give any appearance that his resignation was related to any punishment Tennessee received from the NCAA.
"Going into the Committee on Infractions with a new basketball coach, a new football coach and the prospect of a new athletic director isn't bad for The University of Tennessee," Hamilton said.
Hamilton said he plans on being an athletic director again.
Cheek spoke briefly about the qualities he will seek in the new athletic director.
"We're gonna look for someone who can lead us to the next level," Cheek said. "We want to be better than we are today. We also need stability. We need to stabilize our leadership team and move ourselves aggressively forward in the directions we want to go."
This is a great program. We have a great university, we have great academics and we have great athletics. This is a position that we can attract very talented people to."
Cheek has not named an interim athletic director and says he does not yet have a list of potential candidates.
"Mike Hamilton is an outstanding individual with many exceptional accomplishments for the University of Tennessee," UT President Joe DiPietro said in a written statement. "I respect and support his decision and express my appreciation for the character, integrity, loyalty and good work that mark his 19-year career at Tennessee."
Hamilton came under fire recently due to an NCAA investigation that also claimed the job of men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl. He was also involved in the controversial departure of football Head Coach Phillip Fulmer and the hiring of Lane Kiffin, who left for USC a year later.