A trusted source tells Channel 3 Sports Director Paul Shahen that he would be surprised if UTC Athletic Director David Blackburn isn't on Tennessee's short list to replace Athletic Director Dave Hart who is stepping down in June of 2017.
The same source also says David Blackburn "would have the support of UTC boosters" to interview for Tennessee's Athletic Director job, citing not only his success under the University of Tennessee umbrella at Chattanooga but his two decades in a number of athletic administrative roles at UT in Knoxville.
Here's the University of Tennessee Press Release on Dave Hart's retirement:
"Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics, Dave Hart, who is entering his sixth year at the helm of the Volunteer Athletics program, announced Thursday that he will retire from the position of Director of Athletics, effective June 30, 2017.
In accepting Hart’s decision to retire, UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said, “Dave’s greatest accomplishment is making UT a student-athlete-focused department. His drive for comprehensive excellence has touched all facets of athletics. Our student athletes have the highest overall grade point average in the history of the program, exceeding a 3.0 and fundraising is having a record year. He has restructured the department for greater efficiency and created a long-term sustainable financial model.”
Cheek added, “Dave has worked with our coaches to make us nationally competitive. He has focused on compliance and doing things the right way in the class room and on the field. His work and determination have put UT sports in a strong position for the future.”
UT System President Joe DiPietro also acknowledged the significance of Hart’s many contributions to the athletics department and the university. “I appreciate Dave’s decision and his willingness to work with us as we recruit a new Chancellor and a new athletics director,” DiPietro said.
Hart has turned around the athletics department financially, structurally and academically while re-energizing a now healthy Volunteer football program. His department has seen record-breaking historical results in fundraising and academic success.
“As I thought about finishing this job well and how extremely proud I am of what everyone in our department has contributed collectively to get us to where we are today, I decided that this was a good time to set a target to wrap up my career as a Director of Athletics,” Hart said.
“Our University will name a new Chancellor at some point prior to the conclusion of the academic year which has just begun. This decision will allow that individual to select his or her own person to this leadership role and allow me to lead us through what promises to be a very exciting upcoming year in many respects. The positive energy is tangible, not only in our building, but among Volunteer fans everywhere. That is very gratifying to witness.”
Hart said he does not have any specific plans beyond his focus on this coming academic year but does not envision becoming idle after that.
“We will wrap up our three year fundraising campaign this fall which has enabled all of our facilities enhancements to come to fruition,” Hart said. “There are other priorities to address as we progress through this year.
“My intent is to retire from the role as Athletics Director on June 30, not to retire in the purest sense of the word. There will be another challenge out there. I plan to continue to assist and inspire people in some manner moving forward. Right now, I am excited about what this year has in store for us on Rocky Top.”