NCF Nation: Mike Hamilton

1. After reading Pat Forde’s optimistic column coming out of the NCAA Presidential Retreat, it sounds as if substantive change is nigh. The last time the NCAA made these kind of changes, some 20 years ago, brought an era of relative stability. The problem is that the NCAA hasn’t changed many rules since that Dark Age. The biggest question: if the presidents allow schools to increase a grant-in-aid to full cost of attendance, are they willing to live with how that will widen the gap between Haves and Have-Nots?

2. In Gene Bleymaier’s 29 years as Boise State athletic director, the program has grown from I-AA to become a national power in football. He has had a knack for hiring smart young coaches – Houston Nutt, Dirk Koetter, Dan Hawkins and Chris Petersen – and given them the tools to succeed. His marketing prowess can be summarized in two words – blue turf. After the NCAA penalized the school for a rash of mostly sloppy violations, Boise State president Bob Kustra is making a change. There are big loafers to fill.

3. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, a former athletic director himself, didn’t mention former Vol AD Mike Hamilton by name. He didn’t have to. “It used to be most athletic directors had a background in coaching,” Dooley said. “They understand that world. They’re not driven by the daily public opinion poll. As good as some of those business-model (types) have been for the (bottom line), I think it’s just as far as supporting and managing the product, and evaluating the product, which is your coach and your team.”
Tennessee could be very close to finding its new athletic director.

Sources told that LSU athletic director Joe Alleva has emerged as Tennessee's top target to replace Mike Hamilton as the Volunteers' AD.

The sources said Tennessee is looking to complete a deal with Alleva that could be announced Wednesday.

Alleva joined LSU in April of 2008 after spending 11 years as Duke's AD. Alleva's role at LSU was further expanded in August of 2009 when he was also named vice chancellor by the LSU Board of Supervisors. It was the first time in school history that the AD also held a vice chancellor position.

Alleva was recently appointed to a five-year term on the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee, as well.

When he arrived at LSU, Alleva unveiled a plan for the LSU athletics program known as "LSU: Thru and True." The plan was devised to "ensure the advancement and future of LSU athletics as an exemplary program" and to "create an environment for student-athletes to reach their ultimate potential, prepare them to be champions in life and to set out goals and values for the entire athletics program."
Scratch Georgia Tech’s Dan Radakovich from Tennessee’s list for a new athletic director.

Georgia Tech’s recent NCAA troubles and the NCAA’s assertion that Georgia Tech officials attempted to “manipulate the information surrounding potential violations” makes Radakovich untouchable for a school that appeared before the Committee on Infractions just last month for major violations in both football and men’s basketball.

Tennessee should find out sometime next month what sanctions it will face for violations that occurred on the watch of former athletic director Mike Hamilton, who stepped down in June.

[+] EnlargeDan Radakovich
AP Photo/John BazemoreGeorgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich had been a front-runner to take the same job at Tennessee.
In the meantime, Tennessee is left to pick up the pieces now that Radakovich is out.

What’s most troublesome for Tennessee supporters is that the university forked out six figures to the Parker Executive Search firm to help identify candidates, gather information … and conduct background checks.

If that’s the case, how does a guy like Radakovich emerge as the front-runner when his own shop is about to get hit with NCAA penalties?

Given what Tennessee has gone through with the NCAA over the past year or so, the first directive Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek gives to the Parker search firm is to make sure that any and all serious candidates don’t have even a trace of NCAA baggage.

Yet, until the news broke Thursday that Georgia Tech was being stripped of its 2009 ACC championship and going on NCAA probation, the feeling of many in and around the Tennessee athletic department was that Radakovich was clearly the guy to beat in the Vols’ search for a new athletic director.

Again, good thing they forked over all that money to the Parker search firm, which has collected nearly $300,000 of Tennessee’s money when you throw in the searches that led to the hiring of football coach Derek Dooley and basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.

And one more thing: Who is Cheek listening to?

Better yet, is he purposely trying to botch this one even worse than he did the Bruce Pearl situation?

Cheek openly supported Pearl after the former basketball coach admitted to lying to the NCAA and was adamant that Pearl was going to be the Vols’ coach. Cheek reiterated that support even after the SEC suspended Pearl for eight games. And then after allowing the whole thing to fester for a season and Tennessee to take a public relations bloodbath nationally, Cheek then decided it was time to pull the plug on Pearl.

Needless to say, his handling of the matter didn’t exactly inspire confidence among the Big Orange Nation.

He faces an even more important decision in this next hire, because if Tennessee football doesn’t get back to playing for and winning championships -- and doing it the right way -- Cheek might be the next one Tennessee is searching to replace.

No word yet on whether a search firm would be necessary.

As for the athletic director candidates remaining on Tennessee’s board, Tulsa’s Bubba Cunningham, Buffalo’s Warde Manuel and Cincinnati’s Mike Thomas appear to be at the top of the list.

From the day Hamilton stepped down, Cheek’s initiative was to attract an established athletic director from a bigger school, and he assured key people it would be somebody with a strong football background.

Tennessee took its shot at several so-called bigger names, but those candidates weren’t interested in making the move. It’s no secret that righting the Vols' ship is going to be a major undertaking for anybody.

Part of Tennessee’s problem in this whole search might be that it hasn’t looked closely enough within the family.

Senior associate athletic director David Blackburn is a candidate. Where he is in the pecking order at this point is anybody’s guess.

But if Cheek genuinely wants to get this one right, Blackburn ought to be at the very top.

He’s a Tennessee guy. He understands what’s important to the Tennessee people. He’s willing to fight for Tennessee, and he’s also willing to fight against those (coaches, boosters, anybody) who put Tennessee at risk.

It was Blackburn who saved Tennessee’s football program from a failure to monitor charge in the whole Lane Kiffin-NCAA mess. For that matter, Blackburn saved Tennessee football from much worse charges because of his diligence, his integrity and his willingness to stand up to people.

Simply, he’s the right fit at Tennessee, the kind of person and the kind of administrator the Vols’ athletic department desperately needs.

And it doesn’t take a $100,000 search firm to figure that out.
I was able to track down former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer on Wednesday to get his take on Mike Hamilton's resignation and whether Fulmer would be interested in the athletic director's job.

Here's the link to what Fulmer had to say.

Fulmer, who's sure to be a College Hall of Famer as a coach, chose his words carefully in discussing the situation. There's no doubt he would be interested in talking to Tennessee officials about the job, but he also wants it to be right for everybody concerned.

It's obvious that he cares deeply about Tennessee, and in his words, wants to see the football program get back to playing for and winning championships as much as anybody.

He understands that there's a certain sect of fans who probably wouldn't want him back in any capacity. That said, he firmly believes that he could help his alma mater and is willing to listen.

It doesn't hurt that Fulmer has a good relationship with current football coach Derek Dooley, and coaches like the idea of working for athletic directors who were themselves football coaches.

That model certainly worked well with Fulmer and Doug Dickey.

Ultimately, Tennessee will probably choose to go down another path and make a clean break, but Fulmer will be there if his alma mater calls.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- As Mike Hamilton said himself on Tuesday, it was inevitable that he wasn’t going to be around much longer as Tennessee’s athletic director.

One way or the other, he was going to be out.

My sense is that he resigned himself to that fact months ago and felt it was best for him and best for the university to go ahead and step aside prior to Saturday’s hearing before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.

He’ll still be in Indianapolis this weekend as Tennessee defends itself against 12 major violations levied against the football and men’s basketball programs.

Those 12 violations all came on Hamilton’s watch and on the watches of coaches hired by Hamilton -- Lane Kiffin in football and Bruce Pearl in basketball.

There will be some who blame Hamilton’s downfall on his hiring of Kiffin and Pearl, the two coaches who landed the Vols in hot water with the NCAA.

Kiffin bolted for USC after 14 tumultuous months at Tennessee that included almost as many secondary violations as he had wins (seven) during the 2009 season.

Pearl totally revolutionized the Tennessee men’s basketball program, taking the Vols to a No. 1 ranking in the polls during the 2007-08 season and an Elite 8 appearance during the 2009-10 season. But he was fired along with his staff following this past season after admittedly lying to NCAA investigators.

While Hamilton will forever be tied to Kiffin and Pearl and the embarrassment they caused the Vols off the field and off the court, what ultimately led to Hamilton’s demise was his inability to manage either coach.

Simply, it’s why Tennessee is staring down the barrel of the NCAA right now.

Hamilton did a lot of good things during his time at Tennessee, and he’s a genuinely good man.

But in the SEC, if you can’t manage coaches (and tell them "no" every once in a while) and aren’t a rock in crisis situations, you’re not going to be very effective as an athletic director.

And that was Hamilton's undoing in a nutshell.

He could no longer be effective as Tennessee’s athletic director, not with this NCAA cloud hovering and not with the way he had become (fairly or unfairly) a lightning rod for so much negativity directed toward the university.

For Tennessee fans, these past two or three years have represented one of the darkest periods in athletic department history.

There’s been one public relations hit after another off the field, both the football and men’s basketball programs facing NCAA major violations, and two of the last three football seasons ending with a losing record.

Just like a U.S. president, Hamilton gets the credit for everything that goes right on his watch, and he gets the blame for everything that goes wrong.

The wrong mounted to intolerable proportions for most of the people who count at Tennessee, meaning a change at the top of the athletic department tree was inevitable.

Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek said a national search would be conducted for Hamilton’s replacement.

If Cheek is wise, he’ll at least take a look fairly close to home.

In alphabetical order, senior associate athletic director David Blackburn, former defensive back and current FOX television analyst Charles Davis and IMG Worldwide senior vice president Mark Dyer, formerly an executive at NASCAR, are three guys with Tennessee ties who would make excellent candidates.

Also, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart was at Tennessee for 12 years as an assistant under former Tennessee athletic director Doug Dickey.

Being a “Tennessee guy” shouldn’t be a prerequisite for the job, but finding the right guy who just happens to be a “Tennessee guy” could go a long way toward healing what’s been a fractured Tennessee family for some time now.
The fallout continues at Tennessee, as Mike Hamilton is out as athletic director.

A news conference is set for 11 a.m. on Tuesday to announce his resignation.

It's been inevitable for a while now that Hamilton wasn't going to make it, but the timing is a bit odd. Tennessee is set to go before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions this coming Saturday in Indianapolis.

Hamilton will still attend that hearing along with several other Tennessee officials. The Vols have been charged with major violations in both football and men's basketball. The football violations occurred under Lane Kiffin, who's now at USC after coaching one season at Tennessee. The basketball violations occurred under Bruce Pearl, who was fired in March after admittedly lying to NCAA investigators.

We'll have much more on Hamilton's resignation and what it means for Tennessee later Tuesday on the SEC blog.

The wise thing for Tennessee to do now is put senior associate athletic director David Blackburn in charge of the athletic department in the interim, and he's also a solid candidate to be Hamilton's full-time replacement.

Had it not been for Blackburn and his diligence, the Vols would be looking at even more severe NCAA penalties in football.

NCAA probing alleged workout by Orgeron

February, 4, 2011
Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron have been gone from Tennessee for more than a year, but try telling that to the Vols' compliance department.

On the heels of a report by AOL Fanhouse that the NCAA plans to cite the football program with a failure to monitor during Kiffin's one-year tenure at Tennessee, sources are now telling that the NCAA is looking into whether Ed Orgeron personally worked out a recruit on that recruit's high school campus in May 2009.

When contacted Friday, Orgeron said he'd been told that he was not allowed to comment. Orgeron is now an assistant on the Southern California staff under Kiffin, but was the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Tennessee during the 2009 season when Kiffin was the Vols' head coach.

The prospect, Brandon Willis of Byrnes (S.C.) High, became the No. 10 rated defensive lineman in the Class of 2010 (No. 110 in the ESPNU 150). Byrnes athletic director Bobby Bentley said the NCAA is investigating the charge. "I don't think it would be for me to say anything," he said.

Tennessee officials said Friday they have yet to receive the NCAA notice of allegations, but are expecting it any day. The university will have 90 days to respond upon receipt of those allegations, and athletic director Mike Hamilton has said it may be August before Tennessee appears before the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

Blame to go around for Vols' struggles

September, 14, 2010
I’m sure Phillip Fulmer’s recent comments about it being difficult for him to see Tennessee struggling like this will raise a few eyebrows on Rocky Top.

After all, there’s a sect of fans (a loud sect) who blame Fulmer for everything that’s remotely gone wrong at Tennessee from the time he was pushed out the door.

I’m sure somehow he’ll get the blame for basketball coach Bruce Pearl lying to the NCAA.

In a CBS teleconference earlier this week, Fulmer said it was “terrible” to see what’s happened to Tennessee’s program and then added, “It’s hard to watch something you’ve put most of your adult life into, and we’d just played for the (SEC) championship (in 2007) and all of a sudden you’re watching what’s transpiring now through the program -- an obvious attempt to change the culture of Tennessee football that failed.”

You don’t have to read between the lines to figure out what Fulmer is saying.

In short, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton felt like he had to bring in somebody as diametrically different from Fulmer as he possibly could -- Lane Kiffin -- and the whole thing wound up being an unmitigated disaster.

The remnants remain in the form of an NCAA investigation.

But let’s be fair here.

Tennessee, coming off its worst beating in Neyland Stadium history against Oregon, didn’t get to this point overnight. Similarly, one person didn’t bring this program down by himself.

Fulmer absolutely deserves part of the blame. After all, the Vols experienced two losing seasons in his last four years on the job. He’s said it himself, that he allowed the program to dip to a point where the brass at Tennessee felt like a change needed to be made.

And don’t kid yourself. Hamilton didn’t make the decision to fire a future Hall-of-Famer like Fulmer himself. He got the green light from most of the prominent power brokers at Tennessee before pulling the trigger.

Of course, the whole Kiffin hire and the fallout that’s come with it, not to mention the basketball program’s NCAA troubles, now has Hamilton in hot water.

If Hamilton doesn’t make it, the Fulmer supporters will push him (and already are in some cases) to be the Vols’ next athletic director.

Fulmer isn’t about to touch that one publicly, but he’s made it clear that he’s on board with Derek Dooley and has asked fans to be patient.

“You’re looking, I think, at a fairly long-term problem, certainly with all the transition that the program has been through in the last couple of years from me to Kiffin, a good number of players that left the program, just I think a general attitude,” Fulmer said. “I know my last few years, if you talked about only winning nine (games), it was an act of terror. And, now, they’re pushing and hoping to win six to get in a bowl game some way.”

He’s right.

Tennessee’s program ain’t close to being what she used to be, and it was Fulmer who helped to create such gaudy standards. That’s what happens when you go 45-5, win two SEC championships and a national championship over a four-year period (1995-98).

It’s debatable whether or not the Vols will ever reach that level of success again.

What’s not debatable is that Fulmer, Kiffin and Hamilton -- each in his own way -- all played a part in this program being where it is today.

The lower echelon of the SEC.

Running scared from the Tar Heels?

August, 18, 2010
The news that Tennessee plans to buy its way out of the North Carolina series in 2011 and 2012 didn't sit well with a lot of Vols fans.

More than anything, they were embarrassed. Dodging the Tar Heels in hoops would be one thing. But in football?

It's further proof of where Tennessee's program is right now, and athletic director Mike Hamilton is doing his best to make these next couple of years as manageable as they possibly can be with the Vols down in talent, depth and experience.

What Hamilton is trying to do is ensure that Tennessee gets to a bowl game next season by dropping North Carolina and adding a lesser team, reportedly Buffalo. He'd requested that the North Carolina series be moved back until later this decade, but North Carolina wasn't interested in moving.

If Tennessee fans think it's embarrassing now, how bad is it going to be if the Vols still don't make it to the postseason in 2011 and 2012 with a watered-down schedule? Here's another take on the whole thing: Maybe Tennessee had overscheduled in the first place. Hamilton said there had been discussions for a couple of years now about getting out of the North Carolina series. And, really, North Carolina is one of those games that doesn't help you a whole lot if you win it anyway.

At least, not if you're one of the SEC powers.

But, then, it would be a reach at this point to still label Tennessee an SEC power. This is a program that's lost 13 games over the past two seasons and hasn't been nationally ranked in the Associated Press poll since the opening week of the 2008 season. The last time the Vols played in a BCS bowl game was the 1999 season.

So the reality is that it's been a while since Tennessee was truly a power.

But regarding the North Carolina series, Hamilton probably did the right thing -- even though it's a P.R. nightmare. That grueling six-game stretch in 2011 wasn't going to do Derek Dooley any favors as he tries to get the program back on track, and it's silly for an SEC team to play two tougher nonconference games when it's already playing conference games that season against Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and LSU.

The Vols also get a pass because they already have high-profile series coming up against Oregon, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Ohio State later in the decade.

Even so, it sure looks weird for Tennessee to be dodging North Carolina in any fashion.
1. Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton wrote an open letter to Volunteer fans on Monday to ask for their “unity of purpose and support” of the football team. Hamilton wrote, “the last three years we have had our fair share of turmoil and divisiveness.” I’m sure Hamilton’s intentions are pure. But he had a hand in creating the aforementioned turmoil. If this football season sours, the posse isn’t coming for Derek Dooley. It’s coming for Hamilton.

2. Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh prides himself on his intensity and ability to focus. Most coaches disappear for a few days in June or July. Those months are the slowest on the coaching calendar. But Harbaugh did no such disappearing. “I don’t take vacations,” he said. “I don’t get sick. I don’t observe major holidays. I’m a jackhammer.”

3. The Big Ten and the Big 12 both have signaled their intention to join the Pac-10 and play nine-game league schedules in the next couple of years. That means the era of rent-a-victim home games may be ending -- there will be 22 fewer league games. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott believes that fans are wising up and don’t want to pay big-league ticket prices for mismatched games. He is right. But what of the financial well-being of all those rented victims?

Vols pass on USC matchup

July, 7, 2010
Lane Kiffin would like a shot at Tennessee. The sooner, the better.

The Vols obviously want no part of Southern California, at least not in the next couple of years.

ESPN The Magazine's Bruce Feldman is reporting that Tennessee has turned down an opportunity to face USC in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton says there's no way to make the game work in the Vols' schedule in 2011, but that they would be interested in playing the Trojans on down the road.

The truth is that first-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley already has a difficult enough job cleaning up the mess that Kiffin is partially responsible for during his one-year rampage through Knoxville. But with the Vols' 2011 schedule already loaded with nonconference games against Cincinnati and North Carolina, and away dates against conference foes Alabama, Arkansas and Florida, Hamilton would have been crazy to add USC to the mix.

And if he had, can you imagine Dooley's reaction? After all, Hamilton's the guy responsible for bringing Kiffin to Tennessee in the first place.

Either way, it's only fitting that Tennessee and USC face off at some point and do so when all the key principals (Kiffin, Hamilton, Dooley, Ed Orgeron, Lance Thompson) are still in place.

Recruiting most vulnerable for Vols

January, 13, 2010
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The most damaging fallout for Tennessee in the wake of Lane Kiffin’s departure for Southern California centers around this recruiting class.

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said he met with the eight early enrollees Wednesday morning and advised them to go to class.

However, there have been reports that some of the players didn’t start their semester classes.

Hamilton said it’s a moot point because, “after 12:01 on the first day of class, if the student-athletes are here on campus and enrolled in a minimum of 12 hours of class, they have matriculated to the University of Tennessee.”

He was responding to several players saying on Tuesday night that they overheard former recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron on a speakerphone telling the freshmen not to go to class and that they instead had scholarship offers from USC.

If that indeed occurred, Hamilton said he would consider such methods “unethical.”

Hamilton later added that those players on campus were already locked in at Tennessee “contrary to what they were told by someone else,” which was obviously a shot at Orgeron.

Hamilton said he had no intention of letting any of those players out of their scholarships.

Kippy Brown, hired last month as the Vols’ receivers coach, has been named interim coach until a new coach is hired. Brown previously worked on the staffs under both Phillip Fulmer and John Majors.

Linebackers coach Lance Thompson has also remained and will help bridge the gap, Brown said.

Vols should move quickly on Muschamp

January, 13, 2010
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton’s hope is to have a new coach hired by this weekend.

And, really, with the recruiting period set to go live again Sunday, the Vols can’t afford to go much past this weekend without a coach.

The sooner, the better.

Will Muschamp, Texas’ defensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting, remains the Vols’ top target, and Hamilton was expected to have talks with Muschamp later Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

One of the keys in landing Muschamp will be going in and getting him and not letting this thing drag out in search-like fashion.

Tennessee is prepared to offer some serious cash, potentially more than $3 million per year.

Muschamp has made it known that he will certainly listen for that kind of money. He’s making close to $1 million right now with the Longhorns.

It’s going to take a sweet deal to pry Muschamp away from Texas. But if Hamilton goes about it the right way, moves in quickly and makes it known that Muschamp is unequivocally his man, then the Vols will have a chance.

If Muschamp elects to stay at Texas, then former Tennessee assistant and current Duke coach David Cutcliffe may end up being the guy. At this point, it looks like Hamilton is interested in talking with Cutcliffe.

Former Tennessee star quarterback Peyton Manning would be a strong advocate for Cutcliffe.

Others to watch include Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Connecticut’s Randy Edsall.

Would Muschamp really leave Texas for Tennessee job?

January, 13, 2010
The fallout from Lane Kiffin's abrupt departure from Tennessee for USC is already shooting through the Big 12.

Texas head coach designate Will Muschamp has emerged as the leading candidate for the vacancy at Tennessee, according to various sources across the South.

It might appear far-fetched that Muschamp would leave the Forty Acres for a shot at the Tennessee job, but there are other forces in play that make it seem like it could happen.

For all of the promise of replacing Mack Brown someday in the future, the shot at the Tennessee job might appeal to Muschamp.

First, by any measure, the Tennessee job is a good one. I would include it among the top 12 to 15 jobs in college football when fan support, facilities, conference affiliation and tradition are factored into the equation.

I'd say Texas is among the top three by that measurement. But Muschamp might have to wait several years until Brown retires for that job. The Tennessee job is available now.

Also, Muschamp knows the lay of the land in the Southeastern Conference after playing at Georgia and serving as an assistant at LSU and Auburn. He knows that Urban Meyer's uncertain status at Florida and Georgia's recent downturn make the SEC East winnable on a consistent basis for the Volunteers with the right coach.

Whether he leaves Austin will be determined in the next several days. I would be shocked if Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton doesn't try to talk to Muschamp about the job.

Hamilton needs to hit a home run in filling Kiffin's vacancy.

And Muschamp would provide the big splash the Volunteers so desperately need.

Muschamp at the top of Vols' list

January, 13, 2010
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee's top target to replace Lane Kiffin as head coach is Texas defensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp, according to several people close to the situation.

Muschamp was also high on the Vols' list when they hired Kiffin, but Texas took him to nearly $1 million per year and also gave him the coach-in-waiting title for when Mack Brown retires.

Will Muschamp
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesTexas' Will Muschamp heads Tennessee's wish list.
Tennessee is prepared to pay big money to get Muschamp, and the two sides could talk as early as Wednesday. Ultimately, prying Muschamp away from Texas will be difficult. Plus, if he's intent on staying at Texas, Tennessee's interest will only help his leverage with the Longhorns and perhaps give him a clearer definition of when he might take over as head coach.

Some other names to watch are Ole Miss' Houston Nutt, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, Air Force's Troy Calhoun, TCU's Gary Patterson, Connecticut's Randy Edsall, Duke's David Cutcliffe and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

The long shot would be Jon Gruden, whom the Vols had interest in when they hired Kiffin. But with Gruden out of coaching now, he might not be as much of a long shot anymore. Plus, he does have Tennessee ties. He was a graduate assistant under John Majors in the 1980s, and his wife is a former Tennessee cheerleader.

If Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton is looking to make a splash, the two biggest splashes he could make with Vols fans right now would probably be Muschamp or Gruden.

And make no mistake: Given what just happened with Kiffin, Hamilton definitely needs to make a splash.