An outsider's view of the goings-on in the University of Tennessee's athletic department seems to produce results eerily similar to the average American trying to a form an opinion on New Orleans politics: Whatever assessment you develop is likely to really piss off the locals.
Mike Hamilton is "finally" gone from Tennessee, after a three year stretch that saw the Vols dismiss Phil Fulmer but play cuckold to Lane Kiffin, before having to destroy their own creation in Bruce Pearl. Pick a stance on ascribing all that as for better or worse, and you're bound to piss off your local Volunteer.
That's because Hamilton was the guy who caved in and let the masses overthrow Phillip Fulmer, but he was also the spearhead of an unprecedented fund raising campaign that yielded over $400 million since his arrival in 2003. No tortured memory of the Lane Kiffin era is complete without fans rationalizing how they got "Wild Boy'd" in the first place. But under Hamilton, Tennessee built - ultimately burned down - a nationally relevant basketball program, all thanks to one wildly popular man - a Hamilton hire.
In short, the Tennessee Volunteers are still a venerable, national brand, but damn y'all, coaches be acting up fierce.
But some sensitivity amidst their SEC neighbors is expected for a fan base that's been so often soaked in a piss balloon of embarrassment these last five years. Tuesday's reactions ran from unbridled elation to conflicted misgiving, a range usually not displayed when an A.D. as readily tagged as "embattled" as this one is shown the door. But how the UT community decides to spin their perceived downfall under Hamilton will be of great importance for the program.
After all, they've got the time - no move to hire a replacement can be expected until after the program goes in front of the NCAA later this summer. Were the Pearl and Kiffin hires failures unique to the circumstances of each man's own conduct, or symptoms of that ominous cliche, "lack of institutional control?" Not many executives can be cast out as lepers in the wake of turning take a budget deficit and flipping it tenfold into a surplus in under a decade.