Tennessee Cancels UNC Series: Time for Vols to Leave SEC or Fire AD

Joel Barker@joelabarkerSenior Writer IAugust 17, 2010

On Monday night, word broke that Tennessee Athletic Director, Mike Hamilton was attempting to buyout the home and away series with the North Carolina Tarheels for the 2011-12 seasons. 

On Tuesday, it became official. 

After the latest public relations hit to the Tennessee program came another punch to the gut. Replacing UNC on the schedule is likely to be Buffalo. No, not the Buffalo Bills of the NFL—the Buffalo Bulls, of the MAC. 

Obviously, the news is not being taken lightly by Tennessee fans, opponents, or opponent’s fans. The prevailing argument of the day has been, “This is college football! You don’t back out of a fight because you are scared.” 

It appears that’s just the excuse that Mike Hamilton is happy to go with for the time being.

The Athletic Director told ESPN’s Joe Schad, “The reality is we’re not back to where we want to be back yet.” Schad reported that Hamilton noted the 71 players currently on scholarship and the need to “lighten the load” a bit regarding next season’s brutal schedule. 

▪  Vs. Montana
▪  Vs. Cincinnati
▪  @ Florida
▪  @ North Carolina
▪  Bye
▪  Vs. Georgia
▪  Vs. LSU
▪  @ Alabama 

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While that certainly is/was a rough schedule, should Mike Hamilton have risked the PR hit by cancelling the series?

Obviously, perception is the key in the matter. And if perception outweighs an otherwise smart business move, shouldn’t Hamilton be aware of that? 

I won’t deny that the buyout makes all kinds of sense from a competitive and monetary standpoint.

Hamilton added an automatic win over a non-BCS conference opponent and an eighth home game in one fell swoop. Thus, the Vols would be at least one win closer to becoming bowl eligible, which carries with it a nice monetary reward, and it gains another week of the revenues that the average college football home game brings. 

If that’s what the Tennessee football program has become then why not leave the SEC? Why not cut your losses, and realize that you aren’t going to succeed in this conference as long as Nick Saban and Urban Meyer run the show, and jet off to the ACC or Big East? 

Tennessee is actually a much better fit geographically in either of those two conferences. While the program languishes in the depths of the SEC for the next two years, it could actually be near the top tier of either of those conferences right now. 

Mike Hamilton, and by extension, the Tennessee Vols program, is sending out a clear message to the nation’s elite programs: “We’re not close to what we used to be, and it appears that we’re not going to be there anytime soon.” 

With this very public display of cowardice, Mike Hamilton has effectively signaled to all the SEC sharks, that Tennessee is nothing more than a wounded fish just waiting to be torn to shreds. 

What does it say about new Tennessee head coach, Derek Dooley, who admitted today, “I kind of defer to him (Hamilton) unless I adamantly oppose.” 

My question is how can a coach worth his salt not adamantly oppose his AD publicly declaring that the coach’s program is dead in the water? 

Tennessee fans, your program’s credibility is shot. This program that has been a proud member of the SEC for 77 years is officially done.

Your athletic director has admitted that very notion to anyone who will listen. 

Hamilton, known for his business acumen, took over the athletic department at UT after former Tennessee head coach Doug Dickey retired as Vols athletic director following the 2002 season. Dickey served as AD from 1985-2002 and oversaw perhaps the most prosperous era of Tennessee football in the 90’s. Dickey was a football man. 

Mike Hamilton is not a football man. Mike Hamilton is a businessman. 

Today, on the Nashville radio show, Three Hour Lunch, Hamilton admitted to host Clay Travis that making a bowl game with Derek Dooley was “mission critical.” 

Why is it so critical that Tennessee’s third head coach in three years makes it to a bowl game, Mike? You mean to tell me that fans and boosters will be breathing down your neck should Dooley not make it to a bowl game in his first two seasons as head coach? 

Chances are they’re already breathing down his neck.

This move was as much about self-preservation for Mike Hamilton as it was about getting Derek Dooley to a bowl game. 

The truth is Hamilton screwed up Phillip Fulmer’s firing and the Lane Kiffin hire. Now, he’s in the midst of experiencing one PR hit after another, which all began with the program’s decline, under his watch. 

If it’s all about business, Mike Hamilton needs to initiate a move to an less-competitive conference. 

If it’s all about football, Mike Hamilton needs to be fired.