With two of his hires - Pearl and former Vol football coach Lane Kiffin - joining him in going before the NCAA Committee On Infractions this weekend, Hamilton admitted that the past few years have been "marked by turmoil" and that he became a "lightning rod" for criticism that has affected his performance as an athletics director, as a husband and as a father.
Hamilton managed a few smiles but was generally somber during the 30-minute news conference. Among the attendees was his wife, Beth, who appeared to be a little puffy around her eyes.
The timing suggests Hamilton is being scapegoated in an attempt to appease the Committee On Infractions. UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said "He was not forced out" but subsequently noted that "I did not try to talk him out of his decision." Hamilton said he decided to step down about a week ago and indicated that he was not pressured to do so.
The outgoing athletics director explained that he is resigning in hopes that "the Tennessee family can find another piece to a new athletic puzzle that will bring peace, hope, family and a return to a strong sense of community that we desperately need right now."
His eight-year rein as AD will officially end June 30. He will receive $1.335 million in severance pay spread over a 36-month span.
Cheek said he hopes to have a successor in place "before football season begins" and that he expects to name an interim AD "in the coming days."
Hamilton's tenure has been a real rollercoaster ride. His popularity peaked when his first major hire, Pearl, guided Tennessee to unexpected success in 2005, '06, '07 and '08.
Hamilton's popularity dipped in some quarters, however, when head football coach Phillip Fulmer was forced to resign in 2008.
The subsequent hiring of Lane Kiffin as head football coach seemed to placate most of the Vol Nation until Kiffin bolted for Southern Cal after just 14 months on The Hill.
Hamilton's approval rating stabilized a bit with the hiring of Derek Dooley to succeed Kiffin in January of 2010 but plummeted when NCAA investigations into Kiffin's and Pearl's recruiting practices gave the school a black eye nationally over the past 10 months.
STATEMENT FROM DOOLEY
The university released the following statement from head football coach Derek Dooley regarding the resignation of Mike Hamilton:
“I will always be grateful for the opportunity Mike gave me to be the head football coach at Tennessee. The tremendous support he provided our staff and program has allowed us to set a strong foundation for the future of Tennessee football.”
STATEMENT FROM PEARL
Former UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl emailed the following statement to InsideTennessee.com giving his thoughts on Mike Hamilton:
"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. For the majority of the time that I was his men's basketball coach we built something very special. I am so sorry 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 and, 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."