By Steve Williams
When a report first came out that John Currie was going to be the University of Tennessee’s new athletic director, it was hard to believe.
Huh … John Currie? Who’s he?
For weeks it looked like David Blackburn was going to be the choice. Then surprising reports came out that Blackburn was out of the picture and Phillip Fulmer was a strong candidate.
Still no mention of Currie.
When new UT chancellor Dr. Beverly Davenport arrived in Knoxville, we began to hear other possible candidates being mentioned other than “Tennessee guys” Blackburn and Fulmer. Currie wasn’t in that group, either.
Soon afterward, it was in the news that North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham was Davenport’s choice. He quickly replied he was not interested.
Fans wanting Blackburn were relieved. Maybe there was still hope for the 70 percent of the Vol fan base that was pulling for the former longtime UT athletic administrator and Loudon native to get the job.
But Blackburn didn’t meet Beverly’s requirements. He was only a successful athletic director at UT-Chattanooga. She had to have an AD with experience at a Power 5 institution.
There have been multiple reports that Fulmer had been told on Monday, Feb. 27, that he was going to get the job. But the next day, Davenport flew to Manhattan, Kan., met with Currie and offered him the post.
The whirlwind developments ended with Currie in Knoxville two days later to be announced as UT’s new athletic director.
Davenport didn’t get her first choice. Instead of the North Carolina athletic director, she got a North Carolina native.
Currie had worked at Tennessee before as former AD Mike Hamilton’s “lieutenant.” There have been reports that he was instrumental in helping push Hall of Fame coach Fulmer out the door in 2008.
It’s believed Peyton Manning was the person who had to call Fulmer, his former coach, and tell him he wasn’t going to be UT’s next AD after all.
A follow-up poll showed 50 percent of the UT fan base was going to take a “wait and see” approach with Currie. I suppose that means 20 percent of Tennessee fans are totally against having Currie as athletic director and 30 percent are somewhat supporting him.
Currie, who had been athletic director at Kansas State, is the ninth athletic director in UT history. He succeeds Dave Hart, who replaced Hamilton in 2011.
Bob Woodruff served the longest as athletic director in Big Orange Country, from 1963 to 1985, and General Neyland held the post twice (1936-41) and (1946-1962).
Tennessee’s other ADs have been Paul Barrows Parker (1931–1936), John Barnhill (1941-1945), Bowden Wyatt (1962-1963), Doug Dickey (1985-2003) and Hamilton (2003-2011).
Appropriately, Currie’s first official day at UT was Saturday, April 1. But it was no April Fools’ joke, even though about a month ago when we first heard he was getting the job, it sure felt like somebody was pulling our leg.