New Tennessee chancellor vows to move ‘quickly’ in AD search
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — New Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport says the school plans to move “very quickly” in hiring an athletic director but isn’t specifying a target date on making the selection.
“As quickly as we can do it,” Davenport said Wednesday in her first day on the job. “To get the very best people, we are kind of on their schedule, but we are going quickly. When you look at what’s coming up, you’ve got all the tournaments coming up. We’d sure like to get going and have the people we want.”
Davenport replaces Jimmy Cheek, who announced last year he would leave the chancellor’s post to return to teaching. She previously worked as Cincinnati’s interim president.
Tennessee announced Jan. 20 that it had hired the Turnkey Sports and Entertainment search firm to assist the school as it seeks a replacement for Dave Hart, who said in August he would be stepping down as athletic director.
The school also assembled a separate search committee last month to assist Davenport in the hiring process. The committee is chaired by Board of Trustees vice chair Raja Jubran and includes former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, Board of Trustees member Charlie Anderson, senior associate athletic director Donna Thomas and business professor Donald Bruce.
Hart’s retirement is officially effective June 30. The terms of his contract allow Tennessee to hire a replacement before that date and put Hart on paid administrative leave if he receives 15 days written notice.
Davenport didn’t mention any candidates for the job Wednesday. Davenport says the qualities she’s seeking include “administrative experience, management experience, people who have integrity, who will not budge on issues of compliance, who know compliance, who’ve dealt with tough compliance issues.”
“First and foremost, this is a job about management,” Davenport said. “Look at the budget. Look at the numbers of people. That’s a huge operation. I’m looking for somebody with integrity, somebody who understands compliance and will have absolutely compliance at the top of their list. Every university in the country is beset with the same kinds of problems. We need people who understand financial management. It’s a big, big operation.”
Davenport also was asked whether she considered it important to hire an athletic director with a Tennessee background. Two people who have expressed interest in the position are Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn and former Volunteers football coach Phillip Fulmer, who both are Tennessee alums.
“We’re looking for the very best candidate,” Davenport replied.
Davenport said she’d need more time to research the issue before stating a position on whether the Lady Volunteers nickname should be restored for all Tennessee women’s sports. Since July 2015, only the women’s basketball team has kept the Lady Volunteers nickname while all other programs have been called the Volunteers.
Fans upset about the switch started a petition drive, rallied outside a Board of Trustees meeting and sought legislative action in an attempt to preserve the Lady Vols nickname for all Tennessee women’s sports teams.
“That’s one of those issues I just simply don’t know enough about,” Davenport said. “People are passionate about it. I want to hear firsthand what all of the issues are surrounding that.”
Davenport, the school’s first female chancellor, said the topic of preventing sexual assaults on campus “probably keeps me up more than any single issue that I deal with.”
Tennessee reached a $2.48 million settlement last summer after a Title IX lawsuit was filed by eight unidentified women who said the school fostered a “hostile sexual environment” through a policy of indifference toward assault complaints against athletes.
After the settlement, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro put together a special independent commission to review the Title IX programs at each of the schools in the University of Tennessee system.
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