(utsports.com) University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman
“I want to thank everyone for being here with us today. To be in front of you twice in one week, truly says something about the sense of urgency we have in the leadership here at UT to move Volunteer athletics forward to greatness. Today, we are here to formally introduce Dr. Danny White, who we announced yesterday as our new vice chancellor and director of athletics. Before I hand it over to Danny, first I want to thank president Randy Boyd and chairman John Compton for their support in helping me find our new athletic director. More importantly, helping me convince him he wanted to come here. Their guidance and support has been absolutely invaluable. I also want to thank the many others in Vol Nation who have offered great advice and great support.
“I want to give you all some insight into how this all transpired over the last few days. We retained Parker Executive search firm on Saturday and they began to compile a list of potential AD candidates. I spent Monday evening and all-day Tuesday taking calls and talking to different groups inside athletics such as head coaches, senior leadership teams, student-athlete advisory council, the faculty-senate committee on athletics and groups of donors, just try to try to find out what we should be looking for in our next athletic director. We were confident that the position would be attractive and attract robust interest. We were immediately proven correct. 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. Shawn, Aidan, Molly, Caitlin and James, welcome to Knoxville. We are so happy that you can be here today to help us celebrate this great day for your husband and father and our next athletic director. Danny is a leader, an innovator, a builder. He comes from an extraordinary family of college athletics administrators, including the renowned and respected athletic director at Duke University, his dad Kevin White.
“As a matter of fact, a little side note. As I was reaching out and asking people for input about what we should be looking for in an athletic director, I was speaking with Peyton Manning and he said ‘I called coach Cutcliffe and said ‘what should I tell her about qualities in an athletic director?’ And he said tell her to pick someone exactly like our athletic director, Kevin White.’ And that was just really amazing because we did our best because we hired his son. The irony is, Peyton had no idea that Danny was on our short list. Danny has a stellar record of hiring great coaches and winning championships. His first task will be to hire a new head football coach and then to support the hiring of assistants and others in the athletic department. In these searches, he will of course be looking for fierce competitors and proven champions. But he will also be looking to assemble a team with diverse backgrounds and talents, a team with character and integrity, and a team that reflects his own commitment to all of our student-athletes and to the best traditions of the University of Tennessee. It is my sincere honor and privilege to welcome Dr. Danny White to the great University of Tennessee.”
Director of Athletics Danny White
“Good morning, good afternoon—what time is it? I don’t even know what day it is right now. I appreciate you guys for making the time to join us this afternoon. I’m really excited to be here and so proud to be able to step into this unbelievable opportunity. I want to thank Chancellor Plowman, Chairman John Compton and President Randy Boyd. I just met these guys in the last couple days and its been an absolute whirlwind. I’m so impressed with their leadership, their commitment and their obvious love and passion for this place.
“When I finished the Zoom on Wednesday morning, I got a call from the search executives and they said it went pretty well. I said, ‘Okay, what are the next steps?’ They said, ‘They’re going to be in your living room this evening.’ At that point I thought that they were being pretty aggressive and I like that. I would like to think that I’m pretty aggressive and we need to be aggressive here at Tennessee to get to where we need to be and to get this athletic department where it belongs at the very top of college athletics nationally.
“I will be remised if I didn’t talk about some folks that gave me an incredible opportunity at UCF. Dr. John Hitt, the president that hired me there. President Whittaker and President Cartwright who is the current president there. The student athletes, the coaches, the staff and the staff that bought into a vision that five years ago people thought we were insane. We talked about doing some things that had never been done before and it’s all been accomplished and it’s only going to continue. I’m very proud of all of the work we did there and proud of the folks that contributed in that effort.
“Our success and any success that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of at both UCF and Buffalo starts with building a strong plan. And I really look forward to doing that with student athletes and coaches here at Tennessee and other key contributors. I just had the opportunity to meet with folks that have invested not only financially, but also emotionally and in every way possible in this place for many, many years. 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?
“Chancellor Plowman had mentioned about my background a little bit. I would like to consider myself a product of college athletics. I grew up around student athletes and around coaches. I was on campuses and had donors and teams over to our house. Like these guys, I was probably pulling on players jerseys and trying to get them to give me piggy back rides as a kid. My mom incidentally was telling me the stories of when she was a track coach, and she would bring her team here to spend a week in Knoxville for big meets back in the day. We have a long history in college athletics. I would like to say that we’re not smart enough to do anything else. We’ve all kind of found ourselves working in this profession, but it’s really because it’s such a unique industry, but it’s bigger than that. On our staff we talk a lot about college athletics not being a job, but a lifestyle and you have to be bought into it. You have to believe in it and you have to believe in the student athlete experience. 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 with 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.”