No school in the country has scrambled to change the direction of its athletic department more than the University of Tennessee recently. They got off to a great start Thursday, announcing the hiring of former UCF athletic director (A.D.) Danny White.
Simply put, White became one of the most coveted A.D.’s in the country in his five years with UCF. And the harsh reality was, he’d maxed out his potential here.
Claim, to fame
White became a household name following the 2017 football season, declaring the Knights ‘national champions’ after finishing as the country’s only remaining undefeated team. He held a parade in downtown Orlando. He put signage up at the Bounce House. Power five A.D.’s were upset. Non-Power-five A.D.’s were jealous. That alone made him one of the more polarizing figures in college sports.
During White’s tenure, UCF football had a 47-15 record overall. That includes five bowl appearances, two conference titles and the aforementioned undefeated season. He was responsible for hiring Scott Frost, who coached that undefeated season before using it to land a job at Nebraska. White is also responsible for hiring current head football coach Josh Heupel.
The White hires
Though it may be easy to tie White’s rise to the football programs success, the 41-year-old was truly instrumental in all areas of athletics for the Knights. In 2016, White hired current men’s basketball coach Johnny Dawkins away from Stanford. Since then, the basketball program has four consecutive winning seasons and was just one basket away from defeating top-seeded Duke in the Round of 32 in 2019. That same season, he hired Katie Abrahamson-Henderson as the head women’s basketball coach. All she’s done since then is win 20+ games each season and returned the Knights to the Women’s NCAA Tournament. In 2017, White hired Greg Lovelady as the head baseball coach. Lovelady and the Knights won the American Athletic Conference Championship that year and Lovelady was named the conference coach of the year.
Now, White is taking his talents to Knoxville and there is no telling who is about to follow.
A ‘Rocky’ start
Just days before announcing the hiring of White, Tennessee was in the midst of firing head football coach Jeremy Pruitt. They also drove out athletic director Phillip Fulmer. Those moves paved the way for White, who now takes over the former SEC powerhouse looking to recapture its glory.
“What makes this one different is the opportunity to build. If everything was humming here and going great, I wouldn’t be standing here.” White said at his introductory press conference on Friday. “It wouldn’t be an attractive proposition for me. I was really proud and excited about what we were building kind of from the ground up at UCF, and this isn’t a ground up because it’s been there. But there is a lot of building that needs to happen.” White added.
Building is exactly what Danny White is excels in. Add in some SEC/Power five prowess, one of the more majestic campuses in the country, a few open coaching positions, and Tennessee will find it self back in the conversation not only for football, but for every sport imaginable in the near future.