Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after the Vols suffered a 27-6 loss at South Carolina that dropped their record to 3-6 overall and 1-5 in SEC play, Hamilton told Fulmer he would not be retained for the 2009 season. The two worked out a plan for Fulmer to announce his resignation on Monday, although both men were unwilling to comment on the steps involved in that process.
Although the firing of a head football coach is an administrative decision that goes above the head of the athletics director, Hamilton is viewed as the trigger man in Fulmer's departure by many observers, including dozens of UT players who attended Monday's news conference. Several glared at the athletics director, then got up en masse and left the media center as he stepped to the podium. One grumbled, "He ain't got nothin' to say to us."
How pivotal Hamilton's role was in the forced resignation of Phillip Fulmer is a matter of conjecture at this point but this much is certain: The task of cleaning up the mess has fallen in his lap.
Hamilton took the first step in that direction late Monday night with the following email:
This afternoon, Coach Fulmer announced he will step aside at the conclusion of the football season. I want to express my sincere gratitude for everything he has done for the University and our program.
Coach Fulmer has been, and will continue to be, a great representative of the University and the athletic department. He has dedicated a majority of his life to our program and brought home two SEC championships and a national championship. He has secured his place as the second winningest coach in Tennessee history behind General Neyland. I personally appreciate everything he has done for Tennessee and look forward to him continuing to be a part of our family.
I hope that you will come and show your appreciation for Coach Fulmer at the Wyoming and Vanderbilt games as well as the Kentucky game on Nov. 29 when we celebrate "Phillip Fulmer Day" in Neyland Stadium.
We will begin a national coaching search immediately. We have a great University, world-class student-athletes, a tremendous fans base and first-class facilities. As a result, we will attract some of the nation's best candidates. We will introduce a new coach to you over the next several weeks.
Thank you for your continued support of Tennessee football.