Hamilton Speaks

Despite a series of unfortunate events, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said he does not believe the football program is out of control.

``No, I don't,'' Hamilton said Monday when asked about a program that has seen helmet tossing by players, alleged spitting in the face of a camera man and unruly behavior at a movie theatre.

``We're at the point where we've got to make decisions about how to manage it going forward. I'm pretty discouraged coming off the loss (to Vanderbilt) Saturday, but we'll be resilient.

``It's how you react to the scenario. Sometimes it takes a situation to highlight a weakness. . It's what you learn from those weaknesses. And do you make the necessary changes?''

Then, Hamilton said what has become a great concern when analyzing the state of the football program: ``Player discipline starts with coaches.''

Make no mistake, the football program is undisciplined.

Hamilton wasn't happy about the Vols who threw their helmets at the end of the Vanderbilt game and left them on the field.

``I don't condone it,'' Hamilton said. ``At the same time, we haven't had a losing season since 1988 and haven't lost to Vanderbilt since 1982 and we lost a chance at a bowl game and lost at the last minute. I understand the significant level of frustration.''

Hamilton may understand it, but it's certainly not acceptable.

Fulmer said a player he declined to identify threw his helmet and apologized to the team. Fulmer did not say if the player would play against Kentucky. He shouldn't. Anything short of a suspension for the Kentucky game is unacceptable for the player - or any other player who threw his helmet and left it on the field.

Earlier Monday, Hamilton said UT could only identify two or three of the helmet-tossing players. Ask if would suspend those players for leaving their helmet on the field, Hamilton said:

``I don't know. I don't approve of it, but I know how frustrated I was as well. I'm not sure where I am on that right now.''

Hamilton did say if he felt the punishment issued by Fulmer was not appropriate, ``I would step in.''

Hamilton didn't appreciate the behavior of several UT football players at a movie theatre. The team went to Pinnacle theatre to watch ``Jarhead.'' Some players left the reserved cinema to watch another movie, ``Get Rich or Die Trying,'' in another screening room and used profanity, sources said. Hamilton said he apologized to Regal officials for the players' behavior.

``I don't think very highly of it,'' Hamilton said. ``It was no acceptable. We're out there as a privilege from Regal Cinemas at a team event. We need to participate as a team. We need to respect others in the theatre.''

Hamilton said he dealt with the movie theatre incident internally and with Fulmer. Hamilton said he did not know if Fulmer punished the players involved.

Fulmer's suspension of Toeaina was long overdue. Earlier this fall, Toeaina left the practice field, upset when he was told he would have to share snaps at the right tackle spot with another player. Fulmer had to retrieve Toeaina to return to practice.

Also at a practice more than a month ago, Toeaina threw his helmet at a manager or trainer, who was standing les than 5 yards away. The helmet almost struck the person.

Hamilton said he did not know of either incident.

How Much Would UT Pay?

How much would UT be willing to pay for a new offensive coordinator?

``I don't know if I can tell you that, yet,'' Hamilton said. ``We have to make sure we make the decision to get the right person in place.''

The Tennessean reported that six SEC coordinators make at least $300,000. Is UT willing to play that much for an offensive coordinator?

``I don't know,'' Hamilton said. ``I haven't been asked to do that.

``Tennessee football is important to the institution and to the athletic department. We're at a crossroads.''

David Cutcliffe remains the leading candidate to replace Randy Sanders. But you've got to wonder if Cutcliffe is having second thoughts about joining a program in such disarray.

Also, Cutcliffe has expressed a desire to become a head coach. Fulmer wants an offensive coordinator in place soon so that he when he goes on the road recruiting Sunday, he can have someone in place. Cutcliffe might prefer to wait another week or two before accepting the UT job to make sure an attractive head coaching opportunity doesn't pop open.

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