Mike Hamilton Speaks out

Mike Hamilton Speaks out

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said he would not risk the welfare of UT's football players, even if it meant forfeiting a game against LSU.

That won't be the case, but that's how serious Hamilton was about not playing the Tennessee-LSU game Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

Hamilton didn't think it made sense to evacuate within 50 miles of Baton Rouge because of a hurricane, then try to fly into southeast Louisiana to play a football game.

``I thought about whether I would put my two kids, Madison and Matthew, on a plane in that situation," Hamilton said. ``The answer is no."

Hamilton said he, LSU athletic director Skip Bertman, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and the school's two presidents were on two different teleconferences Thursday trying to sort things out.

LSU wanted to play Saturday night. Hamilton balked.

``If I felt it was unsafe, Tennessee would have forfeited," Hamilton said. ``I'm here to represent Tennessee first and that's what I'm going to do."

As the parties continued to talk, and as the option of playing Saturday night became more remote, the discussion centered around playing Sunday night, Monday night, the week after the end of the regular season or cancel the game.

Hamilton said Sunday night was not appealing because of continued high winds and rain and concerns about flying into Baton Rouge.

``The safety issue was still on the board," Hamilton said.

The week at the end of the season wasn't an option because the SEC Championship game couldn't be delayed a week due to a convention.

Neither party wanted to cancel the game. LSU certainly didn't because the Tigers make about $3 million for each home game. Considering LSU lost about $3 million by moving the Arizona State game to Tempe, that would have been a tough financial hit to take.

The SEC office said on Wednesday that it might wait until Friday for a final answer. Hamilton pushed for a resolution on Thursday evening because UT had 30 managers and trainers set to depart on vans carrying equipment at 6 a.m. Friday. Hamilton didn't want them on the road, then have to call them back.

Hamilton said playing the game in Knoxville wasn't a viable option because it's too hard to make such a switch on short notice. Some suggest the game should have been moved to Neyland Stadium a few weeks ago, but LSU wanted a return to normalcy and didn't want to wait until Oct. 15 to have its home opener.

Hamilton wasn't keen on the idea, either, because it would have meant Tennessee playing four straight road games next season: South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas, Vanderbilt.

Tennessee still plans to fly the day of the game, considering rooms still aren't available.

LSU houses its players the night before games in a 43-room on-campus motel. But it is not a full-service, meaning it doesn't serve food, doesn't have a banquet hal and doesn't have meeting rooms.

Plus, Tennessee needs at least 70 rooms.

Herb Vincent, LSU associate athletic director, said he wasn't even sure the rooms would be available for LSU players.

Not only is playing LSU on Monday night a challenge, but the Vols must play host to Ole Miss next Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Tennessee is not expected to return from the LSU trip until after 3 a.m. Tuesday. That will be a strain on trying to prepare for the Rebels.

This is believed to be Tennessee first Monday night regular season game. The Vols played Clemson on Monday night in the 2004 Peach Bowl.

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