KNOXVILLE (WATE) - University of Tennessee Athletics Director Mike Hamilton is stepping down from his post at the end of the month.
He and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek announced the decision Tuesday morning in a press conference at Stokely Family Media Center in Neyland Stadium. His resignation is effective June 30.
Hamilton will attend the hearings before the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Saturday in Indianapolis. These stem from allegations of wrongdoing in the men's basketball and football programs.
The length of the NCAA investigations is problematic and causes "collateral damage," Hamilton said, adding that he plans to discuss this on Saturday.
He described the last 18 months as athletic director as filled with "challenges and frustrations" and said he first approached Chancellor Cheek last week about resigning.
Hamilton described his resignation as "inevitable" considering the operating environment in college sports and said he had become a "lightning rod" for the program.
Chancellor Cheek said during the press conference that Hamilton was not forced out and he was pleased with his performance, but he did not try to talk Hamilton out of his decision.
When asked why he decided to resign now, Hamilton said he had prayed about the decision for several weeks. He also said his trip to Africa in January to help establish clean water changed his perspective about his commitment to his family.
"My family and I love the University of Tennessee, and we love Knoxville. We have poured out our lives over the last 19 years to try to make this a better community, a better athletic program and a better university," Hamilton said.
Hamilton and UT have signed a separation agreement. He will receive $1,335,000 over the next 36 months.
Hamilton was hired at age 39 in 2003 to replace retiring AD Doug Dickey, and had been on the UT staff for nearly 20 years. He leaves at the age of 47.
His tenure since then has had several ups and downs.
Most notably have been the troubles in the football and basketball programs, starting with head football coach Phil Fulmer's resignation in 2008. That was followed by the hiring and then sudden departure of Lane Kiffin.
Head basketball coach Bruce Pearl was Hamilton's first major coaching hire, and for the first few seasons it looked like a successful choice. Pearl turned around a floundering program and took the Vols to the NCAA tournament six seasons.
Then earlier this year Hamilton fired Pearl following Pearl's admission that he lied to NCAA investigators looking into recruiting violations.
There have been many off the field and off the court problems, as well. Among these were the arrest of star basketball player Tyler Smith on weapons charges and two football players arrested for an attempted armed robbery.
In May, Hamilton fired head baseball coach Todd Raleigh, who had a 108-113 record in four seasons. A replacement for Raleigh has not been named.
Chancellor Cheek said a national search to replace Hamilton will begin immediately and a search firm will be involved in the process. He also said current staff members will be considered.
"We hope to have someone in place before the football season begins," Cheek said. "However, it is important to get the right person, and we will not rush the search to meet this timeline."
Cheek said he hopes to name an interim AD in the next few days.
Head football coach Derek Dooley released this statement Tuesday afternoon: "I will always be grateful for the opportunity Mike gave me to be the head football coach at Tennessee. The tremendous support he provided our staff and program has allowed us to set a strong foundation for the future of Tennessee football."
UT said fundraising has more than doubled during Hamilton's tenure as athletic director and the Neyland Stadium Master Plan is 60 percent complete.
UT's athletics department is one of only 14 that is self-sustaining. It gives $10 million a year back to the campus.
Hamilton said it's likely he will be an athletic director again.
He served as chairman of the Knoxville Chamber Partnership and chair of the 2010 United Way campaign.
Hamilton and his wife, Beth, have five adopted children. Three were adopted from Ethiopia. The couple has raised money and support for children's issues and clean water in Africa.
"I hope my legacy is that lives have changed," Hamilton said adding a slightly choked, "Go Vols" at the end of the press conference.
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