Tennessee introduced its new athletic director Monday evening. His name is "Some Guy From Alabama."
He wasn't formally introduced that way, though. Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, aka "Some Guy From Florida," called him by his family name, Dave Hart.
And eventually, UT fans might, too. But for now, he's "Some Guy From Alabama."
I know the feeling. When I was hired as a News Sentinel sports columnist in 1987, I was "Some Guy From Alabama."
The identification was somewhat puzzling in that I moved here from Jacksonville, Fla., and I'm a Louisiana native. But most readers didn't know that. They just knew my predecessor was from Alabama. Maybe they thought he changed his name and got a new mug shot for his column.
Dave Hart introduced as UT's Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics - Pt. 1
Twenty-four years later, I'm still asked: "Aren't you from Alabama?"
Hart really is from Alabama, and he's not writing for the local newspaper. He's the face of your athletic department. Some fans won't ever get past that.
The rational thinkers among you would say: "As long as you can do a job, where you're from shouldn't matter."
That's in the real world. This is the SEC.
In the SEC, it's all about where you are from and where you went to school. It's all about "for and against."
This just in: Tennessee is against Alabama.
Cheek said the search committee was only interested in finding the best candidate. It didn't matter to them that Hart played basketball and earned a degree at Alabama, or that he has been helping Alabama AD Mal Moore run the athletic department the last three years.
If Cheek and the search committee didn't consider that Alabama connection, they're naive.
Many fans wanted someone with UT ties for the job. Ties to a rival won't be an acceptable substitute.
Hiring an administrator isn't akin to hiring a football coach. Hiring away a football coach is "sticking it to your rival." Hiring away an rival administrator is "sticking it to your own fans" in some quarters.
Hart knows all about "for and against." His father was a football coach before he became an athletic director. The younger Hart was the athletic director at Florida State when the Florida-FSU rivalry wasn't that far behind Auburn-Alabama.
"I want this to be perfectly clear," he said. "I'm absolutely committed to the University of Tennessee. I wanted to say that early, because I didn't want you to be injured tripping over one another trying to ask the Alabama question.
"I look back to Saturday. Nick Saban is an alum of Kent State. And I didn't see much mercy being shown by Nick at the stadium on Saturday (in Alabama's 48-7 victory over Kent State).
"He's the head coach at Alabama. That's where his loyalty is. That's where his passion lies.
"And this is where my passion is from this night forward."
How's that for reading the situation?
Hart was lavish in his praise of UT's past and present coaches as well as the school's traditions and facilities. Never mind that he inadvertently referred to Cheek as "Witt," as in Alabama president Robert Witt. UT fans can forgive a slip of the tongue easier than they can Alabama roots.
Hart came across as very genuine, a quality that doesn't often come to the surface in such a setting. If he can manage an athletic department as well as he can a news conference, he might even keep NCAA investigators out of town.
He probably could have helped himself with the rabid fringe of UT's fan base if he had burned a houndstooth hat and gone Kiffin on Saban. Or he could have reminded folks what he once said about former Florida coach and longtime UT nemesis Steve Spurrier. Instead, he was complimentary of Spurrier when asked about that quote after the news conference.
Following Florida's 37-13 victory over Florida State in 2001, Spurrier accused Florida State defensive tackle Darnell Dockett of intentionally trying to injure Florida's Earnest Graham.
Hart's response at the time: "It would probably be good if somebody just spanked (Spurrier) and put him to bed and hoped that he wakes up all grown up."
So he's not just "Some Guy From Alabama." He's the guy that said Steve Spurrier needed a spanking.