Contrition is all the rage in college sports these days. Jim Tressel made it a memorable Memorial Day by resigning before one more bit of shame could be heaped upon his program while he was in charge of it. If it helps Ohio State with the NCAA, all the better.
That's why they call them "mitigating factors", moves that soften the blow of potential major penalties. In the NCAA's eyes, flight is definitely better than fight. Officially, Tressel resigned. Unofficially, he had become too much of a burden for Ohio State to carry headed into its Aug. 12 infractions committee hearing.
The same might be said of Mike Hamilton and his relationship with Tennessee on Tuesday. Except that the school is cutting it close if it wants to make an impression with the NCAA. Three days before Tennessee goes before the infractions committee, Hamilton resigned after eight-plus years in the position and 19 years at the university.
He will stay on through June 30, including for Friday's infractions committee appearance in Indianapolis. That just adds to the mystery. Is it proper to assume that Hamilton was pushed out? (These "resignation" announcements are frequently semantic mating dances so the affected party can collect buyouts etc.) UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek said no, but what was he supposed to say?
Will Hamilton's departure and appearance as a lame duck in Indy, truly make any difference to the NCAA? It certainly makes a difference to UT fans who wanted him out as the NCAA closed in and instability continued.
"If I could end the turmoil by stepping aside," he said. "I thought that was important."
Are they dancing in the streets of Knoxville? Maybe just a small jig. The haters got their wish. If you get close to the Tennessee border, you can hear an entire state shout, "What took you so long?" Those voices will tell you that Hamilton's resignation was way overdue.
More importantly, the school continues to prepare its case in a dangerous bundling of alleged football and basketball violations. We know for sure that Bruce Pearl lied. Lane Kiffin bailed after a year with slightly more wins (seven) than secondary violations. Forget the violations, the ultimate sin for Kiffin was UT's love was not reciprocal.
More significant at this point is that Kiffin failed to promote at atmosphere of compliance according to the NCAA.
Let's not ever forget that, at the time, Hamilton's hiring of Kiffin was considered a home run. No one blinked when Daddy Monte made $1.2 million a year as defensive coordinator or that Lane made $2 million in his first head coaching job. It was the price of being a big-time SEC program. And Vols everywhere crave to be big time in the SEC.
It didn't work out and the big time seems like a Hail Mary away. For now, Derek Dooley is more famous for the NCAA rule that bears his name than for picking up after Kiffin. Even as the problems arose, Hamilton could boast about hiring Pearl. Not now. The man who tried to renovate Tennessee athletics left a lot of blank drywall, but not for lack of trying. Pearl lied. Kiffin bailed. The man who hired them both, failed to sustain the momentum. The athletic department he leaves behind is still waiting to be picked over by the NCAA.
"I think today," Hamilton said Tuesday, "was inevitable."