Hamilton understands how challenging the SEC is in all sports.
``You've got to go to work every day,'' Hamilton said. ``There's never a time for a letdown. If you let down in this league, someone will sneak up on you and beat you. Our coaches are motivated by that. Everyday you've got to have your A game.''
The only UT sport not to make postseason play was baseball. Rod Delmonico, who made it to the College World Series in 2005, hasn't made the NCAA Tournament the past two years.
Over the past 10 years, he has failed to make the NCAA Tournament more often than not. But in 17 years, he's made three College World Series appearances.
What are Hamilton's expectations for baseball?
``I want us to be a consistent NCAA performer and compete for championships,'' Hamilton said. ``Some would argue we're a quote, unquote northern school in the league. With a February start, that can be problematic because we have suspect weather in Knoxville.''
``Rod has done a nice job getting us in the World Series three times during his tenure,'' Hamilton said. ``I'd like to see us more consistent in terms of being in the NCAAs every year. But it's a tough league, toughest baseball league in the country.''
For example, Auburn went 10-20 in SEC play but was No. 16 in the RPI.
Tennessee simply didn't do enough to merit an NCAA bid. The Vols were eighth in the SEC with a 73 RPI.
``I feel bad for our guys because we had some early season injuries,'' Hamilton said. ``We were hot late for a while but didn't do enough to get into the playoffs.''
Therein lies the rub. When Delmonico is hot, he's hot. When he's not, his teams struggle mightily. The Vols are more than 30 games below .500 in SEC play over the past decade. Why the ups and downs?
``I don't know if I can pinpoint it specifically,'' Hamilton said. ``We want to build a more consistent program. Baseball is a transient sport; we've had some transition in our sport.
``We've built more teams that programs. There's a difference there. Programs are more consistent. Teams pop up periodically and we've not been as consistent as maybe we have the capability of being, but we've had some great moments along the way with some great wins and certainly the times we've had in Omaha were nothing short of phenomenal with those two thirds in ‘95 and ‘01 and being there again in ‘05.''
But when you don't make the NCAA Tournament with three potential first-round draft choices, that's problematic.
Delmonico was rumored to have talked to Florida International about a job. Hamilton said Florida International had not asked for permission to talk to Delmonico and he wasn't aware of his baseball coach talking to the Miami-area school.
Will Delmonico be back next season?
Hamilton didn't say. He is at the SEC Spring Meetings. He said when he returns this weekend, he'll talk to fourth-winningest coach in SEC history.
Then we'll know if three College World Series appearances outweighs the poor seasons that have often followed.
BASEBALL CHANGES SHOULD HELP APR
Across the nation, baseball has taken the biggest hit from the APR.
Hamilton believes two new rules – making a transfer sit out a season and upping the minimum scholarship to 33 percent – will help baseball APRs.
``The transfer rule has been problematic because it's hard to justify requiring someone on a books scholarship to sit out a year,'' Hamilton said.
Hamilton said he thinks the NCAA will look at making adjustments in men's basketball soon to help that sport with APR concerns.