(UPDATED: 4:30 p.m.)
Tennessee is looking for a basketball coach after firing Bruce Pearl. Finally.
They also should be looking for an athletic director because how Mike Hamilton still has a job after allowing Pearl to keep his job for the past six months boggles the mind. (Hamilton is the same guy who hired Lane Kiffin as football coach, so it’s safe to conclude he doesn’t think clearly under pressure.)
There is a potential ripple effect with the Pearl firing — and it’s not good for Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets have significant company in their job search. Even with Texas Tech hiring Billy Gillispie, there are still at least six programs from major conferences with basketball openings:
Georgia Tech (ACC), Tennessee (SEC), North Carolina State (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 12), Arkansas (SEC) and Providence (Big East).
There is good and bad with the Tech situation. The good is that, even with the program down right now, the Jackets’ basketball coaching position still can be a top five job in the ACC, and therefore a top 25 job in the nation. The bad is that athletic director Dan Radakovich is dealing with a tight budget and the school already is paying Paul Hewitt $7.2 million over the next five years to not coach.
It’s a world of supply and demand, and Radakovich likely can’t afford to get into a bidding war with other schools. He also is facing increasing competition for potential top candidates like Chris Mooney (Richmond), Brad Stevens (Butler), Shaka Smart (VCU) and anybody else that might be high on his wish list. (Personal viewpoint: Mark Price is not a serious candidate and certainly would not be central to a bidding war. The first call should still go to Stevens, the second to Mooney.)
Now let’s take a look at those openings again. Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas all have mammoth athletic budgets and have the resources to outspend Tech. North Carolina has shown a willingness to make a splash in the past, and would like to do so with this hire. Providence is smaller and can’t compete with Tech in the big picture, but the basketball program has a strong tradition.
According to a financial database by the U.S. Department of Education for equity in athletics, Tech is a distant fifth among the athletic programs in annual total revenue (based on 2009-10 information). Tennessee leads all six at $100.730 million. It is followed by Oklahoma ($98.662 million), Arkansas ($78.072 million), North Carolina State ($50.336 million), Georgia Tech ($46.983 million) and Providence ($18.527 million).
Obviously this doesn’t take into account current economic situations at each school, nor what each school will choose to allocate for the hiring of a new coach. But the big picture isn’t in Tech’s favor.
If Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas or possibly even North Carolina State want a candidate as much as Tech, what are the Jackets’ realistic chances of getting their top choice?
Radakovich will need to sell Mooney (or whomever) on the ACC’s tradition, Atlanta as a recruiting base and the impending renovation of Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Money likely won’t sway things in Tech’s direction.
Then again, the Jackets have at least one significant advantage over Oklahoma and Tennessee. NCAA investigators aren’t knocking on their door.
By Jeff Schultz