Groundwork laid for merging of UT's long-separate athletic departments

Arkansas AD consulted

Dave Hart talks about his role as the University of Tennessee's new Vice Chancellor of Athletics during a press conference at Neyland Stadium on Monday, September 5, 2011. Hart was previously the executive director of athletics at the University of Alabama. He replaces Mike Hamilton who resigned in June. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2011

Dave Hart talks about his role as the University of Tennessee's new Vice Chancellor of Athletics during a press conference at Neyland Stadium on Monday, September 5, 2011. Hart was previously the executive director of athletics at the University of Alabama. He replaces Mike Hamilton who resigned in June. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Before he officially started as athletic director at Tennessee, Dave Hart reached out to Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long to pick his brain about the process of merging two long-separated, male and female departments.

Like Hart is now, Long was tasked with merging the Razorbacks' two factions when he was hired to replace Frank Broyles in 2007. The complexities of bringing two departments under one roof certainly aren't lost on Hart, and he's made it clear that he was wide open to feedback.

Though it's unclear just how much Hart plans to take from Long's playbook, he appears to have borrowed at least one idea.

Earlier in the month, Hart and members of his tight-knit leadership team, the UT administrators who will guide the program through this complicated and important process, escaped from the office and retreated to an undisclosed location in the city. There, the groundwork was drawn up for what one, cohesive UT athletic department will stand for and how that plan will be executed during the two to three months after the holiday season.

"Our plans for what our priorities are going to be, what is our mission, what is our vision statement, what do our core values look like?" Hart said in an interview with the News Sentinel. "It doesn't do us any good just to put those on a piece of paper. Can we live them? Will people understand them? Will they know that this is who we are?

"It's important we know that, that we know where we're going, that our fanbase and alumni know where we're going and all of our coaches and student-athletes know that we are going to be student-athlete centered."

Six months after he started at Arkansas, Long took his key staff members 155 miles off campus to a resort atop Petit Jean Mountain, according to a

2008 ArkansasSports360.com article. Similarly to how Hart talks now about UT's future, Long called the meeting an "advance" because the future was all that mattered.

"Whether it is an athletic department or Fortune 500 company, organization and communication are the key to success," Long told the website. "We've created some new lines of communication. We've worked very hard to do that."

Throughout his first three months at UT, Hart opened up those lines of communication through a long series of one-on-one meetings with about 60 members of the athletic department. Lasting roughly an hour apiece, the meetings, which focused on similar talking points no matter who was on the other side of the table, provided Hart with a sense of what he could consider as the program's "strengths and weaknesses."

"I got to know people, they had an opportunity to get to know me," Hart said. "It really helped me gauge whether I was missing the mark or on the mark with what my eyes were seeing.

"It was very, very productive and beneficial."

Asked if there was the potential for consolidating the number of employees in the $100 million athletic department, Hart said, "we're looking at all of that because you have to." No dramatic turnover came out of Long's reorganization at Arkansas, but there were plenty of title changes.

At UT, Hart will see longtime women's athletic director Joan Cronan shift into her new position as a senior adviser to Hart and chancellor Jimmy Cheek in July 2012. Hart is still in the process of naming a replacement to Cronan, but it's clear the responsibilities of the position will differ. Whomever it is will join senior administrators Chris Fuller, David Blackburn and newly hired Jon Gilbert and Mike Ward — both of whom worked with Hart at Alabama — as members of Hart's leadership team.

The only employee known to be on his or her way out from UT is longtime media relations director Bud Ford. The 45-year veteran had planned to retire at the end of the year and assume a role as the department's part-time historian, but that position has since been eliminated.

"We were separate programs for so very long," Hart said. "We have a lot of duplication as you might imagine, so we have to assess that and say 'OK, we want to be one program.' "

The goal of "comprehensive excellence" won't be lost when the merger is completed, Hart said. "Erosion," he said, is not an option.

"I think one artificial fear might be, if we're going to be one program ultimately, will that take away from our level of achievement and success in women's athletics?" Hart asked. "Absolutely not. It will strengthen it. We won't allow erosion to take place, we won't allow a lesser priority on the total program.

"I think we have some exciting opportunities in that arena as well and that's what we'll spend the next two or three months working toward bringing that to conclusion."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 25

Ringleader writes:

We hired two more administrators from Alabama???????

Why...............

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say Bwahhhaaa the "plan" has begun...........Witch Doctor say Hart is gonna fix this thing. Witch Doctor say good for him and the rest of the staff. Witch Doctor say both depts SHOULD work together! Go Vols
Bones never lie.

wigmeister writes:

Don't knock it till you've tried it!

Pullingguard writes:

in response to Ringleader:

We hired two more administrators from Alabama???????

Why...............

New blood and ideas were needed for there needs to be change in the dept., and rid itself of the stale conditions that have been in place with Hamilton and others.

FWBVol writes:

in response to volman2010:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I doubt seriously if 99 percent of UT fans want Bruce Pearl back. He did a great job for a while, but he lied, and that is something he even admitted to. The fact that he was given a two-year show cause penalty by the NCAA is reason enough for him not to be the men's basketball coach at Tennessee.

When you say false lies that's a double negative, which in essence us saying that an accusation was true.

I won't even respond to the rest of your rant as it seems obvious that you've had a little too much liquid "Christmas Cheer."

Voluvr writes:

I'm glad it seems that we have direction. It didn't make sense to have the dept's separate anyway.

Hart bringing in his staff is no different that a coach bringing his asst's. I know of Gilbert...sharp cookie.

These guys came from a National Title program. They know what that looks like. I think Hart is the biggest news of the year for UT athletics.

I like Pearl. He might be back one day, but he made his bed. He was caught doing this very thing before at the last school. He was censured. He didn't learn his lesson. He did it AGAIN here. So...when he starts coaching again will he do it again? He was run out. Maybe it wasn't done the best way. The result was the same.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to volman2010:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Are you sick in the head?

punkin writes:

in response to volman2010:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And Dave Hart thinks our fans are "educated". I hope he doesn't read this.

frblalack writes:

As I stated in the Memphis newspaper, Coach Hart by eliminating Bud Ford's position you have tromped on UT tradition. Please take care to tread ever so lightly...I'm certain Dr. Andy Holt, Dean Edward Thompson, and other Volunteer legends would not approve of his dismissal.

Change for the sake of a few $$$$$ doesn't sit well with some Vol fans. Our program should be held in the ABSOLUTE highest regard at all times. SECOND TO NONE!!! There's quite a few Governors and Congressmen both past & present who might agree.

GBOEngineer writes:

in response to volman2010:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I hate it when you skip your medication.

SummittsCourt writes:

I still think this is a bad idea.

crimsonviper writes:

in response to volman2010:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If there was such a thing as justice in this world,you would be forced to read your post 100 times when you finally sober up.

us43137415#376444 writes:

in response to Ringleader:

We hired two more administrators from Alabama???????

Why...............

Because..... THEY'RE GOOD AT WHAT THEY DO???????

Take off the orange shades, and put on the green ones.

The ones that the same color as money.

Welcome to the new world of college athletes.

us43137415#376444 writes:

One more thing.. I don't see the problem the same as everybody else on this thread..

And yeah, it IS a problem.

I view merging the two departments as a win-lose situation.

On the men's side, the men's athletic department will benefit from the grass-roots, highly-efficient, nuts-and-bolts way the women's athletic department runs.

Unfortunately, on the women's side, they will inherit the bad-boy, fly-by-night, only-concentrating-on-going-to-the-pro's mentality of the men's athletic department.

Merging is a bad idea. Don't do it right now.

The UT Women's Athletic Department under Joan Cronin are model divisions of efficiency and graduation rates, that strengthen the mind educationally and philosophically.

The UT Men's Athletic Department under Mike Hamilton, and now Dave Hart, is a jumble of under-achieving, arrogant, hard-headed divisions who think the whole world revolves around them. That's the way the department spends our money on them.

The bad apples are the ones that spoil the good ones in the bunch. Again.. now is not the time to merge departments.. if there will ever be a time. Title 9 has nothing to do with this. Leave them separate.

SevenT writes:

Leave it to UT to go hire a washed up loser AD from Alabama, that ain't going to change facts Alabama is a National Power and Tennessee is the National Laughing stock

rainbow6 writes:

I wouldn't trust Cheek, Stanton or Hart as far as I could throw them. They are deceitful and dishonest in their dealings with Coaches and other athletic department employees.
With no sense of Tennessee history or Tennessee traditions they are preparing to destroy both Tennessee sports history and Tennessee traditions and there is no one with any connection to the past presently who has any power to prevent it.

It is a black day for Tennessee athletics.

us43137415#376444 writes:

Whoa.. hold up a minute.

We're the laughingstock where? At some biker bar outside New Orleans?

You say, "the national laughingstock." Yeah.. I'm sure they're laughing in Columbus, Ohio... Los Angeles, Chapel Hill, Miami, Boise, Norman, Phoenix, Conneticut, Chicago, Boston, Gainesville, and all the other communities NATIONALLY with schools who have been investigated by the NCAA.

Again, who's laughing at us? Can you pinpoint somebody actually laughing at us?

Your uncle in Abilene doesn't count, and neither does your sophomore cousin at Clemson.

Nobody's laughing at us. Nobody at all.
You know why? Because everybody is in the same boat as we are, or they've been there before.

Try Penn State and Stamford. Those programs have never faced an NCAA investigaiton. So I guess they're laughing at us, huh?

Check the map. That's not quite "national."

National laughingstock. Quit making blind statements that you cannot prove.

The UT Trustees could hire The Man upstairs Himself, and people like you would find fault with Him.

jgl#233810 writes:

Bad idea in practice, although I suppose the men's programs being merged under the women's programs leadership wouldn't be bad in theory.

rhmhrh writes:

Throws Dooley under the bus for the Ky game,fires Bud Ford from a part time job,and brings in his cronies from Alabama.
I still don't trust this man.

rhmhrh writes:

And wasn't Hart fired at FSU for the same reason we fired Hamilton?

underthehill writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

I still think this is a bad idea.

Ignoring that Dave Hart was run off from Fla State and hired by UT is something NO ONE has explained. The lowering of expectations in the athletic dept will be reflected in attendance. I too think this is a bad idea for women's sports. By the way, who is the asst coach of the Lady Tide?

underthehill writes:

in response to rhmhrh:

Throws Dooley under the bus for the Ky game,fires Bud Ford from a part time job,and brings in his cronies from Alabama.
I still don't trust this man.

I would like to hear a reasonable explanation as to why a person with his baggage would be hired and given a long term contract at a ridiculous wage when there were people already on board who could and in my opinion would do a better job.

underthehill writes:

in response to rainbow6:

I wouldn't trust Cheek, Stanton or Hart as far as I could throw them. They are deceitful and dishonest in their dealings with Coaches and other athletic department employees.
With no sense of Tennessee history or Tennessee traditions they are preparing to destroy both Tennessee sports history and Tennessee traditions and there is no one with any connection to the past presently who has any power to prevent it.

It is a black day for Tennessee athletics.

as UT continues to get worse ..Vandy continues to get better. Is anybody noticing?

vols2#227315 writes:

Like I told my friend, Vandy is the new UT. Anytime you have to hire someone from (al dam bama) to work at UT, you should expect trouble.

FanNotSheep writes:

If I was a huge Lady Vol fan (I like Pat and all, and have enjoyed watching the softball team play, but I don't live and die with the teams) I would be very upset.

Why in the world would you entrust a winning athletics department to the suits who have absolutely destroyed the men's top three programs in the past four years? I guess you can say the new guy in charge wasn't responsible for that, but then again, he was leading your biggest athletic rival wasn't he? Of course, even the world's biggest conspiracy theorist wouldn't accuse Alabama of planting a mole to ruin UT athletics. We had already accomplished that mission before Hart arrived on campus.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features