An Open Letter to the University of Tennessee

By Alex Norman

 

Dear Sirs/Madams,

Good day to you and yours on The Hill. I am a proud graduate of the University of Tennessee but I do not make donations to the college or the athletic programs so my connection to those in powerful positions is limited. Thus, the generic greeting.

Please take this letter for what it is. A desperate plea that you do the right thing and you do it today.

Hire David Blackburn as the next Athletic Director at the University of Tennessee.

This is not a difficult decision. You don’t have to hire a search firm. You don’t have to have a panel vote on the selection. You don’t have to ask the boosters.

Just make the call and bring David Blackburn home.

Hey, I get it. You want to do your due diligence. In the recent past your vettings of football coach Lane Kiffin, athletic director Dave Hart and basketball coach Donnie Tyndall were, oh how can I put thi?

Awful. Simply awful.

You couldn’t get a phone number for the Oakland Raiders and find out that Lane Kiffin was a self-centered back stabbing egomaniac? You chose to ignore the news that Florida State’s athletic department mishandled a sexual assault allegation when Dave Hart was in charge. You didn’t care that Donnie Tyndall was already under NCAA investigation when you brought him to Knoxville?

Those are all guys that had no connection to the University of Tennessee. You were starting at square one and never got to square two.

No such worries when it comes to David Blackburn. You know this guy already! Heck, you can still find his bio on UT’s website! From that bio you will learn that Blackburn “Began his career at Tennessee in 1993 working with then-head football coach Phillip Fulmer and the football program in a variety of roles culminating in Tennessee winning the first-ever BCS national championship in 1998.”

He was Tennessee’s assistant director of compliance, director of football operations, and assistant AD for football operations. Tennessee went 99-24 during that 10-year span.

Starting in 2003 he became the assistant AD for development at Tennessee. In 2007 he was promoted to associate AD for administration. The next year he received the title of senior associate AD for administration. This gave him direct oversight over football operations. A few months later this would become a huge deal when Phillip Fulmer was fired and Lane Kiffin was hired. For those tumultuous 14 months, Blackburn camped out in the football complex and severely limited the damage that Kiffin and his staff did in terms of NCAA violations. According to many in and around the program, without Blackburn, Tennessee might have been in “death penalty” range.

In 2013 Blackburn left Knoxville but not Tennessee, taking the athletic director job at UT-Chattanooga. Since then the football program has flourished with multiple NCAA playoff appearances. Men’s basketball and women’s basketball have had success as well. Heck, the Mocs beat the Vols soundly at Thompson Boling Arena earlier this season.

Blackburn has more than enough experience now in hiring coaches as well.

All too often in recent years Tennessee has hired people in positions of power that have no past dealings with the University of Tennessee. Wouldn’t it be nice to finally have a Tennessee guy back in charge of the athletic department?

Dave Hart did some good things at Tennessee, but his tenure will be remembered for Title IX issues, the Lady Vols name deletion debacle, the mishandling of the Pat Summitt retirement, the Tyndall hiring, letting Derek Dooley stick around after the 2011 Kentucky loss, the Nike contract which pays Tennessee well below its peers, and a general lack of awareness when it came to how Tennessee looks in the national landscape. Public relations were a serious problem under Hart since his hiring in 2011.

To many Tennessee fans, Dave Hart will always be an Alabama guy. On the other hand, Blackburn is from Loudon. He is a UT graduate. Heck, he even was a student assistant in football under Johnny Majors.

Seriously, University of Tennessee. What on earth are you waiting for? Dave Hart announced his retirement back in August!

Hire David Blackburn as the next Athletic Director at the University of Tennessee.

Do it now.

Sometimes the obvious choice is the correct choice.

 

Sincerely,

Tennessee fans everywhere

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