Who Will Write the Big Check?

Dave Hart, coming to the University of Tennessee as athletics director from Alabama, may have some adjustment problems in choosing a new football coach. Just which of the big donors does he listen to, when they disagree about the decision?

Jim Haslam has long been the consensus builder and leader in UT sports, but he has been keeping a low profile of late—leaving the public arena to his son the governor and his son the owner of the Cleveland Browns. There are other big donors who have stepped up to start advising Hart on his job, some of them with open checkbooks. Hart has to maneuver between the various big checkbooks and build a consensus on how to proceed. He has to find a candidate which keeps all (or most) of the checkbooks open. It will be necessary to have their support if UT is to come up with the money for a big-name coach.

UT has to make a successful hire this time around or face a financial calamity. They can't keep paying coaches not to coach without a winning program and the revenue to support the football infrastructure. If a big-time, big-name coach can't be hired, all hell could break loose.

A further complication is now Hart reports to Chancellor Jimmy Cheek (and the Faculty Senate?) rather than having the insulation of reporting to the UT Trustees and the president of the UT system.