With materials collected and Turnkey Search handling the University of Tennessee’s quest for a new vice chancellor/director of athletics to replace the outgoing Dave Hart, contact with candidates and formal interviews are soon expected to begin for UT’s next head of athletics.
While sources have indicated UT has vetted numerous candidates and likely will interview between three and five possible replacements for Hart, who has served from September 2011 through present, the top two finalists and viewed as current Chattanooga athletics director David Blackburn and former UT football player and coach and College Football Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer.
What sources have stressed to 247Sports the past week, in speaking with people on Capitol Hill in Nashville to those on Rocky Top and in Chattanooga, “there is not a scenario that works out for Blackburn to leave Chattanooga in order to be a No. 2 to Fulmer, if Fulmer lands the top post.”
Sources familiar with recent meetings in Nashville and elsewhere emphasized to 247Sports that Blackburn is very happy in his top post at Chattanooga, where he has set records for the Mocs in fundraising and cut costs while increasing operating budget by more than 10 percent, and would only consider leaving Chattanooga for a top athletics director position at a Power-5 school — specifically Blackburn’s alma mater on Rocky Top.
It had been suggested, per others, that speculation had circulated that Fulmer would tab Blackburn for his No. 2 spot, if Fulmer returned to college athletics for the first time since 2008.
However, again, sources close to Blackburn and familiar with UT’s search process emphasized this weekend to 247Sports that Blackburn would immediately hire Fulmer to his staff, if Blackburn is tabbed to UT’s top spot, and would work to change bylaws in Neyland Stadium to get Fulmer’s name in the ring of those honored between the upper and lower decks of Neyland Stadium.