Chairman hopes slimmed-down UT athletics board will be more relevant

When the University of Tennessee’s intercollegiate athletics board meets next month, chairman Donald Bruce hopes the group will do more than serve as a social hour before the spring football game.

UT’s board of trustees approved a plan last week that would cut the size of the athletics board by more than half, from 41 members to 18, a move that Bruce hopes will make the group more “effective and efficient” in fulfilling its mission to advise the chancellor on the direction of UT’s athletics program and its $100 million budget.

“You can’t have an oversight board if you don’t have good information. And you can’t be informed if you’re not engaged,” said Bruce, who is a professor in UT’s economics department and the school’s faculty athletic representative. “We now have the ability to actually live up to our charge.”

Created in 1951, the board had grown to a size that made substantive work all but impossible, Bruce said. Bylaws required the group to meet only once per year. By tradition, the board met on the morning of Tennessee’s spring football game.

“There wasn’t any purpose, really,” Bruce said. “We got together, heard some reports and then everybody went on their way and enjoyed the game.”

New bylaws require the group to meet once a semester. Bruce said his goal is to meet monthly, or at least twice per academic term.

“I’ve been the faculty athletics representative since May 2012, and I’ve chaired one meeting (of the athletics board),” Bruce said. “The highlight of that meeting was that we actually took a vote on something (to retire Johnny Majors’ jersey), and that hadn’t been done in some time.

“Now the chancellor or (athletic director) Dave Hart is able to say, ‘Let me run that by the board.’ ”

Hart, who deferred comment to Bruce because Bruce is the board’s chairman, supported the changes. In a letter to the full board of trustees, Hart said the proposal had “broad support” among faculty and current athletic board members and that the “leaner” group would be “privy to real-time information on finances, compliance issues” and other challenges.

Bruce said trustees had seen the ineffectiveness of the board firsthand and supported the changes, which will bring UT’s athletics oversight in line with similar universities.

“I feel pretty confident in saying these changes we just passed make us a lot more like our peers, as far as meeting more frequently and having a clear mission and purpose,” Bruce said.

Senior associate athletic director Donna Thomas, UT’s senior women’s administrator, is the vice chairwoman of the group.

The other 16 members are: Hart; Margie Nichols, vice chancellor for communications; the UT faculty senate’s athletic committee chair; two at-large members of the faculty; two members of the Trustees; the director of the Thornton Center; Bill Myers, the athletic department’s chief financial officer; a member of the UT Alumni Association’s board of directors; an at-large member who is not an alumnus; the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee; the SGA president; a representative from the Office of Student Affairs; and the Director of Undergraduate Admissions.

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 21

tovolny writes:

Are we going in the wrong direction? UT Athletics is IMPORTANT to the whole State. It was a way of life when I grew up, and I grew up in the mountains. How did we go from a DYNASTY to a DISASTER?

rockypop writes:

In the corporate world, boards are charged with the fiduciary responsibility of managing the company. When they don't do their jobs, they are legally responsible.

So, that begs the question of why UT would even have an Athletics Board if they had no responsibility or power? It sounds like these folks have been having a tailgating meeting before Spring football practice, watching the game, and then adjourning until the next year.

An even bigger question, which this article doesn't address, is do these folks get paid for their board participation? And if they do, exactly what are they being paid to do? Recommending retiring Johnny Majors' jersey doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment.

DukeDeLuca2 writes:

Unfortunately, UT faculty know little or nothing about athletics. That's why the old system worked well. Having 41 members kept power from being centralized with a few members. They might be more dangerous with 18 members.

Or they may not.

Like too many UT fans, faculty is under the impression that UT sports produces a geyser of money. They want it.

However, those days are over. The athletic department will be hard pressed to make money over the next decade. Commitments have been made based on previous income projections. Now they have to be met.

Further handicapping UT is the money they've been feeding the deficit producing women's athletic department and the general fund.

(SIDEBAR: Before ranting about how women's athletics makes produces a profit take a look at the books. The men's athletics are charged all rent and expenses for facilities like Thompson-Boling while women are charged nothing. It's an accounting con game.)

So while Alabama, Florida and other top schools have been funneling excess profits into a futures fund, Tennessee pumped profits into the women's programs and the general fund.

Now it's gone.

I think Dave Hart has a handle on reality.

It must scare the heck out of him.

DukeDeLuca2 writes:

in response to rockypop:

In the corporate world, boards are charged with the fiduciary responsibility of managing the company. When they don't do their jobs, they are legally responsible.

So, that begs the question of why UT would even have an Athletics Board if they had no responsibility or power? It sounds like these folks have been having a tailgating meeting before Spring football practice, watching the game, and then adjourning until the next year.

An even bigger question, which this article doesn't address, is do these folks get paid for their board participation? And if they do, exactly what are they being paid to do? Recommending retiring Johnny Majors' jersey doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment.

Good points, but please don't let your thoughts be imprisoned by the word "board."

I wouldn't want UT faculty to have fiduciary responsibilities. Teaching French and Physics have absolutely nothing to do with managing a large money fund. Academicians should be allowed autonomy in teaching their subject matter and athletic directors should have autonomy in executing their responsibilities, too.

They need to stay out of each others' business.

DukeDeLuca2 writes:

in response to tovolny:

Are we going in the wrong direction? UT Athletics is IMPORTANT to the whole State. It was a way of life when I grew up, and I grew up in the mountains. How did we go from a DYNASTY to a DISASTER?

I think everyone knows we "went wrong" with the hiring of Mike Hamilton as AD.

Disaster was insured when Hamilton fired Phil Fulmer.

We all know what has happened since.

The genie is out of the bottle.

jt45 writes:

A board consisting of 41 members who were doing what? I wonder how much they get paid to go watch the Spring game ? I have a hard time believing things have gotten this bad sometimes. The good ole boys club needs more than just a little fat trimmed off of it.

Orange_Beach writes:

in response to tovolny:

Are we going in the wrong direction? UT Athletics is IMPORTANT to the whole State. It was a way of life when I grew up, and I grew up in the mountains. How did we go from a DYNASTY to a DISASTER?

Dynasty? Really? I mean UT has won one National Championship in mine and your lifetime. A couple of SEC crowns and that's it. And you call it a Dynasty? Spot on with the disaster part of your comment.

rocky_topper writes:

Who cares! Wait til they see the attendance over there this year.....they will then see the fruits of their previous years hard work!

miketn6 writes:

Somehow, between the Haslams and Charlie Anderson, all of the decisions get made. The board has become irrelevant.

Sir_Spanky writes:

They're possibly finding it rather sobering about now that their football program has been in the toilet for the last 5 years.

Classof72 writes:

1. Hart should report to the UT President, not the Knoxville Chancellor.
2. The Thornton Center should have a permanent director and be run by UTAD, with academic oversight.
3. UTK must maintain a curriculum option and admission flexibility expressly to admit and retain outstanding football players, as do UT's peers, inluing Vandy. Instead, Jimmy Cheek has an oversight group which appears to be dedicated to prevent outstanding football prospects from getting into UT.
4. The Governor should appoint athletically oriented and qualified individuals to the UT Board of Trustees.

According to recent media reports, little or no progress is being made in these areas. Football is the university's front porch. Until these areas are addressed, the porch will continue to sag badly and fail to support its mission for the university and the state.

Classof72 writes:

in response to Classof72:

1. Hart should report to the UT President, not the Knoxville Chancellor.
2. The Thornton Center should have a permanent director and be run by UTAD, with academic oversight.
3. UTK must maintain a curriculum option and admission flexibility expressly to admit and retain outstanding football players, as do UT's peers, inluing Vandy. Instead, Jimmy Cheek has an oversight group which appears to be dedicated to prevent outstanding football prospects from getting into UT.
4. The Governor should appoint athletically oriented and qualified individuals to the UT Board of Trustees.

According to recent media reports, little or no progress is being made in these areas. Football is the university's front porch. Until these areas are addressed, the porch will continue to sag badly and fail to support its mission for the university and the state.

3. (should read) ... "including Vandy."

OrangePride writes:

Board Agenda Items: 1. Putting reigns on coaching buyout agreements. 2. Putting rules in place to insure all parties operate INSIDE the budget and severly limit debt service costs (oh, send that memo to Washington while we're at it). 3) Put reigns on coaching buyouts. Yes....that's a good first day's work.

underthehill writes:

in response to Classof72:

1. Hart should report to the UT President, not the Knoxville Chancellor.
2. The Thornton Center should have a permanent director and be run by UTAD, with academic oversight.
3. UTK must maintain a curriculum option and admission flexibility expressly to admit and retain outstanding football players, as do UT's peers, inluing Vandy. Instead, Jimmy Cheek has an oversight group which appears to be dedicated to prevent outstanding football prospects from getting into UT.
4. The Governor should appoint athletically oriented and qualified individuals to the UT Board of Trustees.

According to recent media reports, little or no progress is being made in these areas. Football is the university's front porch. Until these areas are addressed, the porch will continue to sag badly and fail to support its mission for the university and the state.

Interesting..the mission of the board..to advise..so why have a board at all..with no authority..How can Hart get away with the Sunseri sunami and no one question UT still paying him..the board should ask this question..

Pompey writes:

....well do tell, the "ole boy" club took a hit...more of this needs to be done to return UT to the national conversation in sports. This has been a form of corruption and much more of it still exist.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to DukeDeLuca2:

Unfortunately, UT faculty know little or nothing about athletics. That's why the old system worked well. Having 41 members kept power from being centralized with a few members. They might be more dangerous with 18 members.

Or they may not.

Like too many UT fans, faculty is under the impression that UT sports produces a geyser of money. They want it.

However, those days are over. The athletic department will be hard pressed to make money over the next decade. Commitments have been made based on previous income projections. Now they have to be met.

Further handicapping UT is the money they've been feeding the deficit producing women's athletic department and the general fund.

(SIDEBAR: Before ranting about how women's athletics makes produces a profit take a look at the books. The men's athletics are charged all rent and expenses for facilities like Thompson-Boling while women are charged nothing. It's an accounting con game.)

So while Alabama, Florida and other top schools have been funneling excess profits into a futures fund, Tennessee pumped profits into the women's programs and the general fund.

Now it's gone.

I think Dave Hart has a handle on reality.

It must scare the heck out of him.

1. It is and has been for over a year, one department. So building is charged to one line for all.
2. Florida Alabama, and other top schools pump just as much money into women's as men. Its the law. And learn to look at the standings for other women's teams besides BB and you will see it is true.
3. Like it or not we had to spend millions to upgrade facilities including those for football and men's BB and baseball. It had to be done because we had slipped behind other SEC schools and it was hurting recruiting in all sports.
4. Compare the average annual wage in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. This is not a rich state. It is somewhat surprising it can support this level of budget.
5. Until recently UT was the only AD that sent so much more money back to academics. It had to because the fools in the legislature continued to lower the allocation to UT. But they still expected their tickets. So they could not build as much of a reserve as others.
6. Fulmer was the reason for the start of the downslide. He needed to go. The mistakes were in the hires to replace him.

Ayres_Hall writes:

Complain, moan, and gripe. Gloom, despair, and agony on me... whoa!

Some of you guys seek out the worst in everything. Legion of the Miserable.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to Classof72:

1. Hart should report to the UT President, not the Knoxville Chancellor.
2. The Thornton Center should have a permanent director and be run by UTAD, with academic oversight.
3. UTK must maintain a curriculum option and admission flexibility expressly to admit and retain outstanding football players, as do UT's peers, inluing Vandy. Instead, Jimmy Cheek has an oversight group which appears to be dedicated to prevent outstanding football prospects from getting into UT.
4. The Governor should appoint athletically oriented and qualified individuals to the UT Board of Trustees.

According to recent media reports, little or no progress is being made in these areas. Football is the university's front porch. Until these areas are addressed, the porch will continue to sag badly and fail to support its mission for the university and the state.

3. I issue you the same challenge I issue to any other poster who writes this. In the last 20 years name one football player who has been denied by UT and went on to play for another SEC school. Going to prep or CC first does not count.
This is just not true and I don't care what Doug Matthews said on his radio show. Now I can name you a player who was denied by Florida and accepted by UT. Omari Phillips

Classof72 writes:

in response to budd#207344:

3. I issue you the same challenge I issue to any other poster who writes this. In the last 20 years name one football player who has been denied by UT and went on to play for another SEC school. Going to prep or CC first does not count.
This is just not true and I don't care what Doug Matthews said on his radio show. Now I can name you a player who was denied by Florida and accepted by UT. Omari Phillips

Fair enough. I'll inquire and see if I get any responses to share.

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

in response to OrangePride:

Board Agenda Items: 1. Putting reigns on coaching buyout agreements. 2. Putting rules in place to insure all parties operate INSIDE the budget and severly limit debt service costs (oh, send that memo to Washington while we're at it). 3) Put reigns on coaching buyouts. Yes....that's a good first day's work.

Mike Hamilton is no longer involved with contracting and more importantly the university. The new coaching contracts will be written by somebody with a decent amount of intelligence.

underthehill writes:

in response to WetumpkaThumpa:

Mike Hamilton is no longer involved with contracting and more importantly the university. The new coaching contracts will be written by somebody with a decent amount of intelligence.

You might be just a bit off base here..I don't think Mike Hamilton had anything to do with the Sunseri..bama buddy of Hart..thing..

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