New University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport announced in an interview on Wednesday that the current search for an athletic director is ongoing and that a decision could be reached soon.
With Wednesday as Davenport’s first day as first female chancellor of UT, the former University of Cincinnati chancellor announced that an AD will be named as soon as possible.
“Our timeline is, now that I’m here on campus, as fast as we can go,” Davenport said in an interview with The Daily Beacon on Wednesday, Feb. 15. “I was in touch with the search firm yesterday and have been since we hired them. We’re going to go very quickly.”
In a story posted on UT’s website on Jan. 20, 2017, the university announced that a search firm had been hired to assist the chancellor with the hiring of a new AD.
The search committee consists of former Vol quarterback Peyton Manning, senior associate athletics director Donna Thomas, UT trustee Charlie Anderson, CEO of Pilot Flying J and owner of the Cleveland Browns Jimmy Haslam and UT’s faculty representative for the SEC and the NCAA professor Donald Bruce. Davenport also added Raja Jabrun, vice chair of the UT Board of Trustees, to chair the search committee for her.
Manning, Anderson, Haslam and Jabrun are all UT alumni.
“I’ve said to the search consultants, ‘Bring me a diverse pool of talented people,’” Davenport said. “We’re looking for excellence. I’m looking for strong management experience. I’m looking for people who’ve competed at the highest level – integrity, compliance, people who’ve dealt with Title IX issues.
“All of those are at the top of my list.”
On Aug. 18, 2016, current Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart announced his retirement, prompting the university to begin the search for a new commander of athletics.
After the announcement, many speculated that former UT senior associate athletic director for administration and current Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn would be a shoo-in for the job.
However, since January 2017, multiple reports have stated that former UT head coach Phillip Fulmer would be the one given the job.
Although there were reports released over the weekend that the job had Blackburn and Fulmer listed as its finalists, Davenport assured that the search is still ongoing and that there are “absolutely no” finalists for the job.
“First, I’m looking for the very best talent,” Davenport said. “This AD job is one of the best jobs in the country, so there is stiff competition for this job. We’ll be looking for the very best person we can find.
“I’m not going to speak about any specific candidate … We have a search consultant for a reason. They are experts. They know the people who are out there.”
Multiple issues arose out of the university while Hart was athletic director. The Title IX lawsuit that claimed the university had a “hostile sexual environment” and did not handle sexual assault cases properly was settled in July 2016 for $2.48 million.
The eight unidentified women in that case criticized Hart, now-former Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and UT President Joe DiPietro in court documents filed by the lawyer.
Two separate gender discrimination acts, one in 2014 and one in 2016, were also filed under Hart’s tenure. Each were settled for a little over a combined $1.5 million.
“Those are national issues,” Davenport said. “There’s not an athletic director, chancellor or president in the country that’s not dealing with those issues.”
In November 2014, Hart announced all women’s athletics programs at UT, besides the women’s basketball team, will drop the “Lady Vols” name and will be known as “Vols” going forward.
After outrage from fans and former athletes and a proposed legislation to keep the name, the university announced in February 2016 that all women’s athletic programs could wear a commemorative “Lady Vols” patch on their respective uniforms. State lawmakers withdrew their legislation once this decision was made.
The official end of Hart’s tenure as athletic director will be on June 30, 2017.