A day after a disappointing loss to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tourney, Tennessee fans and Vol Nation in general is in disarray with the speculation that Friday's game may have been Bruce Pearl's last as a Volunteer.
It's obvious that Mike Hamilton didn't do the UT basketball team any favors with his public comments on the Knoxville airwaves last week, causing too many distractions for this basketball team to overcome. Hamilton made national headlines last Wednesday, two days before the Vols were to take the court against Michigan, when he stated that Pearl's future was uncertain.
The last four days Vol Nation has been in turmoil. The Pearl supporters (which outnumber the Hamilton supporters 10-1) have been emailing and showing their support for their embattled head coach, stating that Hamilton should go for destroying the Vols' chances of success in the NCAA Big Dance.
Let's step back for a moment and consider everything that has happened.
Yes, there is no doubt that Hamilton's timing on his comments about Pearl were devastating to say the least. No way that should have been aired two days before the game, by Hamilton on a local station.
Most everyone, including Pearl, feels that his body of work over the last six years is deserving of a second chance, or perhaps a third chance after the infamous bump-rule violation.
Before Pearls arrival Tennessee basketball was non-existent.
That is the reason that most Vol fans want to keep Pearl at all costs.
This is where things get tricky.
What if the Tennessee powers that be feel that without Pearl at the helm, the NCAA sanctions will be a lot less against the school if Pearl was gone. What if that isn't just speculation? What if that's true?
Do you keep Pearl even if he is facing a year's suspension? What if the suspension is a year and a half? How much is too much for this basketball program to handle?
What if they give the program two years probation and a loss of scholarships? What if the current coaches still have recruiting restrictions or if Pearl can't recruit off campus for a year or two?
Yes, Pearl made this program relevant again. He has done more for the program than any other coach has in recent memory. Surely, he won't want to be the one that destroys what he has built the last six years.
Is it time to go a different direction?
What if Pearl receives his pink slip in the next couple of days? What happens next?
Do you really want Hamilton making the next hire for your basketball program?
Whether his comments were deliberate or by accident last Wednesday on the Knoxville airwaves, they are inexcusable.
They have done enough damage already. They have turned this program inside-out and made Tennessee a laughing stock with almost every media outlet throughout America.
Lets face it Pearl has been Hamilton's biggest hire since being named the Athletic Director. Many Vol fans also blame him for the Kiffin fiasco.
I'm not lobbying for Pearl to be dismissed. I'm just laying out a lot of vital questions about the issue.
I will state the obvious though: If Pearl is sent packing, Hamilton should go with him.
Do you fire Hamilton and keep Pearl? A big majority of Vol Nation loves this option.
Yes, that may be a possibility, and I'm OK with that as long as it isn't at all cost.
This University, this proud school, should be put first and foremost. No one is bigger than the big Orange. No coach or no athletic director.
The next few days should be interesting. Fasten your seat belt and get ready for a long ride.