Vols' athletic director now on the hot seat

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Not surprisingly, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said he struggled mightily with his decision not to bring Phillip Fulmer back for an 18th season.

But in the end, Hamilton came to the conclusion that Fulmer was simply not the guy that was going to lead the Vols to another SEC championship.

Thus, he pulled the trigger Monday rather than prolonging the inevitable and waiting until the end of the season.

"Our discussions leading to Coach Fulmer's announcement did not come without great consternation or thought," Hamilton said. "But it's in my opinion the best solution given our current circumstances."

In other words, Hamilton doesn't want to wait to start the process to find the Vols' next coach.

Whereas Fulmer was the one on the hot seat the last couple of years, it's now Hamilton whose seat is pretty toasty. This is a hire he better get right.

He's already scored big at Tennessee with the hiring of basketball coach Bruce Pearl. But football is still the sport that drives the ship, and finding the right fit at Tennessee won't be easy.

For one, it's not the easiest job in the SEC. Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU are all better jobs. There's not a natural recruiting base in the state of Tennessee, which means you have to be able to recruiting nationally to win here.

The Pearl mold (at least the football version) may be the way Hamilton decides to go. He will use a search firm to aid him in the whole process.

Some of the names likely to be on Tennessee's list include former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, TCU coach Gary Patterson, Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen and Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.