Dan Fleser: Tennessee Moves Quickly To Fill A Gaping Need

Thursday, January 21, 2021 - by Dan Fleser
Danny White
Danny White

Tennessee moved quickly to address arguably the most important job opening associated with demolition Monday.

 

Central Florida’s Danny White has reached a deal with UT to become the school’s new athletic director. USA Today first reported the news and the university released White’s hire later Thursday afternoon.

 

“Danny White is an innovative leader in college athletics with a strong track record in recruiting and developing leaders,” UT Chancellor Donde Plowman said in the release.

 

Said White: “My first task will be taking on the search for a new head football coach.

But I want all Vols to know that I am deeply committed to excellence in all our athletic programs.”

 

Tennessee fired football coach Jeremy Pruitt and nine others for cause three days ago for alleged recruiting violations. In conjunction with the personnel moves, Phillip Fulmer announced that he would be stepping down as AD to allow his successor to make the football coaching hire.

 

White has been UCF’s athletic director since 2015. In that time, he’s hired Scott Frost (2016) and Josh Heupel (2018) as head coaches. The Knights, who were winless in 2015, won six games in Frost’s first season before going 13-0 the following season. UCF was the lone undefeated team in college football.

 

When Frost left for Nebraska, his alma mater, White hired Heupel, who was offensive coordinator at Missouri. He’s won 28 games in three seasons as UCF’s coach.

 

White also has made strong hires in both men’s basketball (Johnny Dawkins) and women’s basketball (Katie Abrahamson-Henderson). Dawkins, who’s in his fifth season, has 86 victories. The Knights nearly upset Duke in the second round of the 2019 NCAA tournament. Abrahamson-Henderson has 89 victories in her first four seasons.

 

Prior to UCF, White was at Buffalo. There, he hired Lance Leipold from Division III power Wisconsin-Whitewater. He’s 37-33 after six seasons at Buffalo with 24 victories the past three years. In basketball, he hired Bobby Hurley and Nate Oats, who’s now at Alabama.

 

His track record for hiring coaches is encouraging, considering UT’s football program is in a tough spot after firing Pruitt. The school has been conducting its own internal investigation and the NCAA has opened a case.

 

In the meantime, the team has lost 15 players from last season’s roster. On Wednesday, running back Eric Gray, linebackers Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch and offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson all entered their names into the transfer portal.

 

On Monday, the same day UT announced its sweeping changes, former starting offensive lineman Wanya Morris announced that he was transferring to Oklahoma.

 

Hiring the next Tennessee football coach is going be a Sequoia-sized challenge for a new AD. At least White has a strong record for getting it right.

 

* * *

                
Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com.


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