University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek will be out of town all next week on a long-planned vacation, and his original deadline has been passed, but the search for a new vice chancellor of athletics won't be put on ice.
Cheek's five-member search committee will continue to work with Parker Executive Search, the firm UT hired to help facilitate and expedite the process, during his absence. Unless something unforeseen occurs, a replacement for Mike Hamilton, who resigned June 7 and ended his duties June 30, will not be named while Cheek is away.
When Hamilton resigned, Cheek said he hoped to name a new vice chancellor of athletics within six to eight weeks.
UT's contract with Parker, which was signed June 13, expires Saturday. Uncertainty remains as to whether or not there are plans to extend the contract.
UT paid Parker $90,000 for its two months of services and is liable to pay the firm as much as $105,000.
UT women's athletic director Joan Cronan, a member of Cheek's search committee, continues to oversee the entire athletic department as the interim vice chancellor.
A source with direct knowledge of the search told the News Sentinel that there was "absolutely no truth" that the committee was entertaining the possibility of putting the search on hold until the spring.
Names of potential candidates have been few and far between throughout the past few months, though it's clear the committee is in favor of finding a sitting athletic director from another institution. UT senior associate athletic director David Blackburn is the only in-house candidate in the running for the position.
Last month, one day after Georgia Tech was hit by the NCAA with major violations in its football program, multiple media outlets reported that UT had recently extended a formal offer to Yellow Jackets athletic director Dan Radakovich, but rescinded it once news of the transgressions broke.
Though it's unclear how much communication took place between Radakovich and representatives from Parker, a source told the News Sentinel that UT was never close to hiring him. The source said Cheek did not draft a formal offer for Radakovich, and has never even met him, talked to him on the phone or communicated with him in any way.
The same source, though, would not go as far to say that UT hasn't formally offered the position to a potential candidate or candidates.
Amid a firestorm of reports that LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was considering an offer from UT, LSU chancellor Mike Martin ended the speculation with a letter to fans on the school's website.
"It was brought to my attention that the University of Tennessee was interested in Joe becoming their athletic director," Martin said in the release. "In concert with the leadership of the Board of Supervisors, we determined it was in the best interests of the university to make him a sufficiently fair offer and opportunity to remain at LSU."
Two other potential candidates for the position recently received adjustments to their respective contracts, though it's unclear whether UT's search was the direct reason for them.
South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman received a $75,000 raise Friday, but did not have his contract extended. Hyman, a North Carolina alum, has had his name linked to both UT's and North Carolina's openings at athletic director.
Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, a former UT assistant athletic director who picked up his doctorate while with the Vols, received a new contract Wednesday that will keep him at the school until 2020. Phillips' name had been tossed around for the UT job, but was strongly linked to the same opening at the University of Illinois.