Feb. 28, 2017
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. —University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport on Tuesday named John Currie as the school’s new vice chancellor and director of athletics. Currie currently serves as the Director of Athletics at Kansas State. He will begin his duties at UT on April 1, 2017.
Currie returns to Knoxville, where he earned his master’s degree and served in various capacities from 1997-2009, including time in external operations, development, marketing and ticket operations. He left UT in 2009 to accept his position at Kansas State.
“We are extremely pleased to announce John as our new vice chancellor and director of athletics,” Davenport said. “This is truly an exciting day for the University of Tennessee and our athletics department. As I said when we began this process, we were looking for the best candidate, and we feel strongly that we have him in John Currie. John exemplifies all the qualities we were seeking in an athletics director. He is a man of high integrity, strong values, a progressive thinker, he fully understands the importance of being compliant in everything we do, and he is a leader who will put the well-being of our student-athletes above everything.
“We would like to thank our internal search committee for all its hard work and dedication to the process. In February, the university hired Turnkey Search, a division of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, to conduct a nationwide search for a new director of athletics. Turnkey is recognized as the leading executive search firm spanning college and professional sports and worked tenaciously to deliver an amazing result for the university.”
“It is a very exciting time for my family and me as we return to a place that remains very special to us,” Currie said. “We spent 10 years in Knoxville prior to taking the job at K-State, and I appreciate Chancellor Davenport and the University of Tennessee for providing us this special opportunity. As a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I know how much UT athletics means to the people in the state, and I look forward to serving all of the Big Orange Nation, its wonderful coaches, staff and student-athletes, for many years to come. We are excited to return to Rocky Top.”
Currie, who was hired in 2009 by Kansas State, has guided the athletics department through an eight-year period of unprecedented success with athletic, academic and fundraising excellence. K-State is the only university in Kansas and one of just two dozen in the country to operate in the black without any state tax or university tuition dollars or subsidies. Under Currie, K-State Athletics eliminated approximately $3 million in annual state and direct university funding of intercollegiate athletics.
When Currie took the reins at K-State, he and his staff were faced with a major financial deficit, but they turned KSU into one of the NCAA’s most financially solvent programs. Under his leadership K-State has completed $210 million comprehensive facility improvements, all privately funded with zero state tax or university tuition dollars, including the Vanier Family Football Complex, West Stadium Center, Basketball Training Facility, Intercollegiate Rowing Facility, Mike Goss Tennis Stadium and soccer competition/football practice fields.
Currie’s tenure at K-State has been highlighted by academic excellence with all Wildcat programs boasting multi-year APR marks of at least .944, with football, men’s golf, women’s golf, men’s cross country and women’s cross country sporting Big 12-leading scores. Approximately, one-half of all 450-plus Wildcat student-athletes achieved a 3.0 GPA or higher this past academic year.
The 45-year-old Currie’s eight-year tenure with K-State has included seven straight bowl games for the football program, Big 12 Championships in football (2012), men’s basketball (2013) and baseball (2013), 47 individual Big 12 and eight NCAA titles in track and field, five men’s basketball NCAA Tournament appearances, three in women’s basketball, four in volleyball and three in baseball. In the past seven years, 137 student-athletes have earned All-American distinction, while Wildcats have won nine NCAA individual titles and 50 Big 12 titles.
The 2012-13 campaign was also one of the most successful in school history as the Wildcats became just the fourth BCS school since 1998 to win league titles in football, men’s basketball and baseball in the same year.
K-State’s fundraising efforts have been completely overhauled under Currie’s leadership, with more than $200 million in cash contributions raised for athletics, more money over that period than it had in the previous 48 years combined. K-State donors stepped up with 27 private gifts in excess of $1 million since fall 2009, while grassroots Ahearn Fund membership reached all 50 states. The department operated with a budget surplus in each of the last seven years, allowing for annual investments and budget growth from $44 million to $73 million. K-State’s $46 million in cash contributions raised in the 2014 fiscal year almost quadrupled the annual total prior to his arrival and was the third-highest nationally that year behind only Texas A&M and Michigan.
Currie and his staff worked closely with then-President Kirk Schulz and the KSU Foundation to secure the largest individual donation in university history, a $60 million gift benefitting various academic and athletic initiatives, while the department reached its $50 million private gifts goal for the new Vanier Family Football Complex in just 13 months.
With the tag line of “Welcome to K-State” symbolizing the goal of providing The Best Fan Experience in the Big 12, K-State’s marketing and fundraising efforts were completely overhauled during Currie’s tenure. K-State supporters have pushed attendance to new heights, while $200 million in total gifts have been raised for K-State Athletics since Currie’s arrival.
New ticket initiatives have led to 42 sellout crowds since 2009 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, including a current streak of 33 straight. The Wildcats have also set new season total and average attendance records in baseball, sold a record number of season tickets for volleyball and baseball and rank among the top 35 nationally in attendance in men’s basketball, women’s basketball, volleyball and baseball.
The recipient of the 2013 Bobby Dodd AD Award and a 2013 Under Armour AD of the Year, Currie served as chair of the Big 12 ADs in 2013-14 and is a member of the NCAA Division I Administrative Cabinet. He was one of only two intercollegiate ADs named to Sports Business Journal’s 2011 prestigious Forty Under 40 list of national sports leaders.
Currie joined the Tennessee staff in 1997 as Executive Director of the Volunteer Athletic Scholarship Fund (VASF). Following a two-year stint as Assistant Athletics Director at Wake Forest, Currie returned to Knoxville in 2000 as Assistant Athletics Director for Development and was promoted to Associate Athletics Director for Development in 2002.
As chief deputy to the athletics director at UT, Currie was responsible for the direct management of units that annually produced $84 million in revenue and gifts, including the department’s fundraising, marketing, ticketing, media relations, public relations, internet and broadcasting offices. Currie also provided oversight for the men’s basketball program and other department initiatives.
Currie’s accomplishments at Tennessee included helping the university secure a $50 million commitment in 2006 for academic and athletic needs, a gift which represented the largest from an individual in Tennessee history. Under his leadership, giving to Tennessee athletics more than doubled from $19.5 million in 2003 to $41.6 million in 2008.
An integral member of the facility planning team for UT’s $200 million master plan renovations for Neyland Stadium, Currie led the negotiation and implementation of new student season-ticket sales for football in 2008, resulting in $900,000 of new department revenue in its first year. He also implemented new regular-season football sales strategies that helped Tennessee set a school single-game attendance record of 109,061 in 2004.
Currie also oversaw a $36 million arena renovation and the Pratt Pavilion basketball practice facility construction project that was completed in the fall of 2007. He developed and implemented the revenue models to fund both projects without outside funding from the state or local government, tax dollars or university-derived support.
Tennessee’s athletic facilities as a whole benefitted from Currie’s efforts as the development office secured individual-naming recognition gifts that included $4 million for a new aquatic center, $2 million for a new softball stadium, $1.5 million for a new soccer stadium and $2 million for baseball renovations. During his last year at UT, ground was broken for the Day Golf Facility.
He began his professional career at Wake Forest in 1993 as a Deacon Club intern before being named Assistant Deacon Club Director in 1994, a position he held until 1997.
Currie earned his master’s in sports management from Tennessee in 2003 and is a 1993 Wake Forest graduate. He and his wife, Mary Lawrence, have three children: Jack, Virginia and Mary-Dell.