The last time the University of Tennessee hired an athletic director, it toyed with several outside candidates and then promoted Mike Hamilton from within the department. This time around the university has said it will go outside and thus blocked the boom-let to hire former Coach Phil Fulmer. Fulmer has withdrawn from contention, to prevent splitting the fan base.
This would seem to doom the prospects of David Blackburn, from within the department. Blackburn is seen as a really nice guy whom everyone likes, but is not considered a top executive for what is a tough job. (Translation: He isn’t a hard-ass.) Going inside the department again would also raise questions about spending money on a search firm.
The boosters are restless, wanting to see a decision before football season opens up next month. Some are chafing about former Women’s Athletics Director Joan Cronan being temporarily in charge of the department. The Board of Trustees reorganized recently to move the Athletic Department under the purview of Chancellor Jimmy Cheek instead of the university president as in recent decades. Cheek is catching heat from fan message boards, accused of being a Florida fan and “botching” the AD search. Everyone has had to deny the job was offered to the AD at Georgia Tech, who it has been revealed is under NCAA investigation. UT is itself awaiting word from the NCAA on sanctions, ticket sales are down, and both football and basketball are in “rebuilding” mode—factors which may make a sitting AD hesitate to commit to the job.