The University Of Tennessee officially introduced new athletic director Danny White on Friday afternoon in Knoxville. It didn’t take him long to grab the attention of his bosses and supporters.
This rebuilding job at Tennessee needed someone who could also bring life into a program that’s been unstable at times. The university decided it was time to hire a guy that was coveted by others, a choice they haven’t made in the past. If you’re going to hire a contractor to reconstruct your house, it’s always smart to hire the guy who knows how to do it.
“The Tennessee opportunity, I saw an opportunity, and I am flattered by the chancellor’s comments about classifying me as a builder. That’s how I have always thought of myself. I have never worked at the big-brand place until now, and I actually like the fact that the brand needs to be polished a little bit. It needs to be elevated back to where it was not that long ago in the college athletics space. I am really excited about the prospect of doing that and bringing Vol nation together.”
The Chancellor and President of Tennessee also decided to go after their first target and not just go through the motions of a regular search. On Tuesday night, Plowman held a virtual interview with Danny White, as she noted during the press conference Friday. As Plowman mentioned, they were discussing the future, as Tennessee basketball was playing in Gainesville. On Wednesday morning, Plowman was joined by Randy Boyd on a zoom call with White; by Wednesday afternoon, they were on a flight to Orlando to offer him the job.
“Our search firm presented us with an impressive and diverse list of prospects, but it was clear who the top candidate was. It was Danny White. We moved swiftly, and I had my first conversation with Danny on Tuesday night over Zoom during the Tennessee-Florida basketball game actually, we both missed that. On Wednesday morning, president Boyd, chairman Compton, and I had a 90-minute Zoom meeting with Danny, and that evening, the three of us flew to Orlando to meet with Danny and his lovely family. We were blown away by his ideas, his character, and his commitment to both academic and athletic success”.
The hiring of Danny White should also bring an exciting feel to the Tennessee fanbase, not saying you should jump into the deep end, but at least he said the right things on Friday. This job was an opportunity for White that he couldn’t pass up.
“I can’t wait to get to work with everyone on what that vision is. What does Tennessee athletics need to look like five and 10 years from now? How do we regain our stature as a dominant college athletics brand in the Southeastern Conference and across the country?”.
The current players on the roster will have the opportunity to meet with White as he searches for a new head coach. White will be tasked with hiring a coach that will have to bring life back into this program, and he made it a point to say that the leaders on the team will be asked to provide their input on the qualities they want in a head coach. As the new AD searches for the right candidate, the players I imagine will appreciate the opportunity to present their ideas.
“Before anything else, I am extremely student athlete-centric, and I want the student-athletes here at Tennessee to hear that from me as the Director of Athletics. Call the student-athletes at UCF; they’ll confirm it. Every single decision we make will start and stop in their best interest. That’s what we’re going to be all about, and if we do that, we’re going to see greater and greater success and will help them become the best version of themselves as an athlete, a student, and a person, so that they will leave here and have every success in life.”
As Danny White discussed this job with Tennessee leaders, he was also made aware of the current situation involving the investigation into alleged NCAA infractions. He didn’t seem to back down from the challenge, and it certainly sounded like it didn’t deter him in any way. Thanks to the previous head coach, the Tennessee program might be fighting an uphill battle over a certain period of time.
“One of the things I think I mentioned that evening, or maybe it was in the Zoom earlier in the day at some point; if everything were humming here and going great, I wouldn’t be standing here. It wouldn’t be an attractive proposition for me. I was really proud and excited about what we were building, the kind of from the ground up at UCF, and this isn’t ground up because it’s been there. But there is a lot of building that needs to happen. The challenges in terms of the NCAA investigation, the challenges in terms of not being where we want to be competitively in football—that excites me that energizes me, and I want to be a part of fixing it and building it.”
The biggest hire remains, in the eyes and pocketbooks of the folks on the Hill. Which way does Danny White go for his new head coach, and how will he get there? White touched on that subject Friday while not giving away too much of his playbook.
“I can get a candidate’s opinion from folks and really understand who they are from a character standpoint. I don’t want even to be interviewing someone if I have questions about that. We need to make sure the person we’re bringing in to run our program is going to do it the right way, is going to do right by these kids, and is going to have an aggressive vision to get us highly competitive.”
The introduction of Danny White went as good as the leadership at Tennessee could’ve hoped for, but now it’s time to get busy. The newly hired athletic director knows he will be judged by the coach he signs to a contract sometime shortly, so he won’t be catching up on sleep anytime soon. But, as the college football turned their eyes back on Knoxville Friday, this time it was for something good, finally.