Vols AD Retires
Could Fulmer step in as the new AD?
On Thursday University of Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics, Dave Hart announced his retirement from the position that will become effective on June 30, 2017.
The announcement came in a press release early Thursday morning and was followed by a noon ET press conference.
“I just want to recognize her (Pam Hart). 46 years she’s put up with me and it means a lot. The people in this building, the people in the back, the coaches, the administrators they’ve provided for me an unbelievable five years, will be six year memory,” said Dave Hart.
Those were his opening remakes as he started the press conference. You could tell that he was at times fighting the emotions and trying to hold back some tears at several points throughout the press conference.
Rightfully so, Hart has put a great amount of effort and passion in to the AD job at UT.
He has helped to turn around what was a proud athletic university down on its luck, back into a winning program once again.
Hart has accomplished a large number of his goals from when he took the job at Tennessee. He has helped to raise record amounts of money, set academic highs and improved the overall facilities for the athletic deportment possibly more than any athletic director before him at UT.
Including a new study and renovations in to improvements for Tennessee’s famed Neyland Stadium.
Most impotently, like it or not he has helped to turn around the Vols football program. The football program when Hart arrived at UT was at possibly an all-time low. Now at the start of his sixth year on Rocky Top the Vols are back in the National Championship pitcher and series contenders in the SEC.
Like it or not a healthy football program means more money for every sport on a university’s campus. Even Kentucky Football makes more money than Wildcats men’s basketball. It’s just the world we live in when it comes to college sports, football makes the most money at basically every school.
While Hart can say he has had a lot of success as the Vols athletic director there have been plenty of hard times. Some of which Hart pointed out himself.
“We’ve been through some tough times, we’ve been through some painful times with the passing of Pat Summitt. Extraordinarily emotional and painful time, but we’ve had some really good times and we’ve done it together all of us,” Hart said.
Hart was also the recipient of as some people say a bit of bad press coverage. One of the first jobs he was given at UT was to complete the merging of the men’s and women’s athletics programs into one.
This was one of the most scrutinized and unfavorable task he accomplished in many fans eyes.
There was also the removal of the Lady Vols nickname from all women’s sports teams, but the women’s basketball team. Not to leave out the Title IX lawsuit, which was the most resent negative issue for Hart to deal with.
Of course as is with any high level leadership position no decision you make will be met with an 100% approval rating.
Hart also had to handle his fare share of coaching decisions in his five year on Rocky Top. He had to make the hard choice of firing head football coach Derek Dooley, the Lane Kiffin fiasco, Cuonzo Martin and Donnie Tyndall controversies and replacing Pat Summitt.
Not every hire Hart made panned out like he hoped, Tyndall comes to mind right off the bat, but he has gotten plenty of coaching hires right. For example, Butch Jones, Beth Alford-Sullivan and despite some fan’s opinions Holly Warlick.
Hart also praised several other coaches that were in attendance. In addition, he motioned how it was important to him that the coaches hear the news from him and not a second or third party source.
It wasn’t only Hart that spoke on Thursday, as many coaches and others commented on Hart’s retirement news.
“I have enjoyed my relationship with Dave Hart in his role at two SEC institutions where he has provided valuable insight from his experience as a veteran athletics administrator. I look forward to working with him in his final year at Tennessee and will always value his friendship,” Said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey to UTSports.com
University of Florida Director of Athletics, Jeremy Foley also commented on Hart’s retirement to UTSports.com.
“Dave and I have been colleagues for a number of years, we’ve had shared many experiences together and have enjoyed competing against each other often. Whenever we won a championship in any sport, one of the first calls I received was form Dave, and I always appreciated it,” said Foley.
Vols head football coach Butch Jones had this to say.
“I’d like to thank Dave Hart for everything he’s done for the University of Tennessee and Tennessee football and for Butch Jones, as well. Everything is about leaving a place better than it was when you came here and I can tell you this; I think I speak for everyone and for every single coach that Dave Hart has made Tennessee Athletics much, much better because he’s a leader,” said Jones.
While his relationship with the coaches was very important to Hart, it was the student athletes that he cared for the most.
“For me I have always been a student athlete centered administrator and our coaches know that. Our coaches know I love them, but if I had to choose I’d take the kids and that’s why I’ve been in it (the athletic business),” Hart said.
While it’s no secrete Hart has not been the most beloved AD in Tennessee history by the fans and there are more than a few people happy to see him go. One thing is clear, like him or not he has improved Tennessee’s athletics programs and put the athletic department in a much better place that this time almost six years ago.
Already the attrition has turned to who will replace Hart and it will be a major story for the next few months to a year, but one thing will have a greater impact than any other. Does UT hire a new Chancellor first or hire a new AD.
The new Chancellor could have their own list and people in mind for the job, but for now we can speculate a bit on who the next athletics director could be for Tennessee.
Tennessee may look no farther than the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for its new AD. David Blackburn has already emerged as a favorite amongst fans in Knoxville and why not. Blackburn has been in the Vols athletic department before and is a UT grad. He also checks off a lot of the boxes dispute UTC being his first AD job.
Former Vols football coach Phillip Fulmer’s name has also been tossed around a lot since Thursday’s press conference.
Another name to watch could be Kansas State athletic director John Currie. He is also a UT grade and done good work at K-State. Tennessee could also look at promoting form with in and give Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director Jon Gilbert and Senior Associate Athletics Director, External Operations Chris Fuller a shot at the job.
As we advance through the weekend more names will likely surface.
“My intent is to retire form the role as Athletics Director on June 30, not to retire in the purest sense of the word. There will be another challenge out there. I plan to continue to assist and inspire people in some manner moving forward. Right now, I am excited about what this year has in store for us on Rocky Top,” Hart said in the press release sent out by the university.
Hart has helped to turn the Vols football program around and it should be competing for an SEC Championship this season. Hart’s constant support of Jones has been critical in getting the football program back to where it is now.
Tennessee fans should remember Hart in a positive light, but as we all know that won’t happen completely. You may also have to wonder with the close relationship that Hart and Jones had, if Hart was pushed out of his job would that have rubbed Jones the wrong way.
This probably isn’t an issue, but in today’s world you never completely know.
For a look at UT’s press release and a video of Dave Hart’s press conference click here.