Rocky Top Welcomes New AD John Currie

Dr. Beverly J. Davenport, University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor

(Opening Statement)
“Welcome, welcome, welcome! What a day! Today marks my second week, my 10th day, as the chancellor of the University of Tennessee’s flagship campus. I want to thank the system president, Joe DiPietro, for your confidence and trust in me, and of course, the board of trustees. I am prouder, every day, to be leading this great university. Our students, our faculty, our staff, you have been so very, very welcoming. I am just overwhelmed, every day, of the support that I’ve been receiving, and thank you, to all of you, for what you have been doing to help me get acclimated to this city, and certainly, this university. Tennessee, certainly, is truly a special place. I also want to thank Dave Hart, for his leadership, as athletic director, for the past five years. He’s been a great source of support, for me, even before I came, certainly, since I’ve arrived, and every day, since I’ve been here. I want to thank him for all he’s done for UT Athletics. I knew when I accepted this position, that finding a new athletics director was my first priority. That was clear. To say that there has been some interest, in who I was going to hire, or who I should hire, might be quite an understatement. But our goal has never changed. We wanted the best athletics director for the University of Tennessee. And from the beginning, people asked me what I was looking for. And those of you that have heard me, know that I have stood fast about that. I continued to say, I wanted a sitting AD at a Power Five school. These are complex jobs. Experience matters. And of course, someone who is committed to winning. It is the University of Tennessee. Yes, we moved quickly, but we moved thoroughly. We moved efficiently. And that is in part to the people who served me, who recommended to me and who helped me through the process. Those people were, in part, the search consultants, Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, Gene DeFilippo and Len Perna, were the consummate professionals. They worked tirelessly. They partnered with us. They worked with the search committee and I want to acknowledge, before I go any further, the members of our search committee, who worked throughout this process to bring forward the very best candidates. Don Bruce, our faculty representative to the SEC and the NCAA. I don’t know if our search committee members are here, but let me just call their names. Donna Thomas, our Senior Associate Athletics Director, Peyton Manning, who I think needs no introduction, and we’re so proud of Peyton Manning. He’s here with us today, and thank you so much for being here. I have to share this with you. I’ve gotten so many letters, and so many wishes. Someone wrote just last week, `If you do anything that people don’t like, just tell them that you love Peyton Manning.’ So, I’m here today to tell you, I love Peyton Manning, and I’m going to keep loving Peyton Manning! You can just clap all you want to for that. So, thank you, Peyton. I loved you, even before I came to the University of Tennessee. So, every time I do something that people don’t like, I’m just going to tell you, `I love Peyton Manning.’ UT alum, and UT trustee Charlie Anderson worked with us, and we thank him. UT alum and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam thank you so much. And of course, our vice chair who works tirelessly for our board of trustees and also a UT alum, Raja Jubran. Thank you, so much, for chairing this committee. So, thank you to all of you for your work, for your recommendations and for your service. This really was a time, an effort and a common goal from the beginning. The best person for Tennessee — and we believe, we truly believe, we found someone who meets all of those criteria that we were looking for — that person is John Currie. I want to say a few things about John Currie. When I first talked to John Currie, we had an instant connection. I asked him a lot of questions, and he can keep right up with me. I talk pretty fast. My first impression: he’s honest, he’s transparent, he’s high-energy, he’s pretty intense. He has a strong history with the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Athletics. He’s worked in some tough situations. We talked about the tough situations that we had both faced, and he thrived in that role. I asked him, `How strong are you? Do you have a backbone?’ He does. He’s not afraid of a challenge. He’s a man who possess strong leadership skills. So, I flew out to Manhattan, Kansas. I met his family, sat down at the kitchen table. We sat at the kitchen table, and (his kids) had gone off to school. I’m sorry, John, but I think it was your mother that really put you over the goal line. John picks me up at the airport and he had in his front seat the state of Tennessee. And what does it say? `I will give my all for Tennessee today.’ I said, `Funny, John. Did you happen to see my tweet?’ By all means, we are going to give our all for Tennessee, and I love that, John. I love that sense of humor. He served me out of a Tennessee glass. He had orange all over his house, and I said, `Wow! Here’s a guy who loves Tennessee.’ It was a great meeting, and it reassured me that we had found the right person. We had found the right person to lead this department into the future. So, John, Mary-Lawrence, your three children, who all were born right here, in Knoxville. No question about it, they’re Tennesseans. I look forward to working with you. I look forward to success. I look forward to championships. I look forward to one UT. Please join me in welcoming, the next athletics director and vice chancellor, John Currie.”

 

John Currie, University of Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics

(Opening Statement)
“Well, good afternoon, and thank you so much, Chancellor (Beverly) Davenport, for that wonderful introduction. This is an unbelievable day for the Currie family. This morning, when I walked into the building, (Administrative Assistant) Rita, (Wilson) handed me a letter from Dr. (Joe) Johnson, welcoming me here. To think that I’m standing right here, basically in the same place, that he handed me my diploma, 15 years ago, that’s pretty cool. Dr. Davenport called me on Monday afternoon. We had a great conversation. Of course, I already knew about her vision, her reputation for vision and energy and her strong leadership. We all know how incredibly complex a Chancellor’s position is. For her to drop everything, just a week into her job, to fly out to Manhattan, Kansas, shows me that she gets it, and that she is committed to the Tennessee athletics program achieving at the highest level. We had a fantastic visit in our kitchen, as she mentioned, with my wife Mary Lawrence. My mom was there too, but not for the whole conversation. But, she was there. The Chancellor pulled out that piece of paper after a few hours, and all I could think about was Maxim No. 2, Mr. (Jimmy) Haslam. `Play for, and make the breaks. When one comes your way, score.’ So, I pulled out that pen and signed that piece of paper, real fast. Thank you, Chancellor, for your trust in me. I’m also honored to be here with Dr. (Joe) DiPietro. As an alumnus, I’m proud of the tremendous growth across the system under his leadership. The Chancellor mentioned Dave Hart, and Tuesday afternoon, I had a wonderful conversation with Dave Hart. Throughout my 24 years in college athletics, he’s been someone I’ve followed and looked up to. I’m grateful for his hard work for Tennessee. He was down with our women’s basketball team, today, in Greenville, (South Carolina). Being here, in this building, in this spot, brings back so many special memories, like my first `Third Saturday in October,’ when Coach (Phillip) Fulmer led us to victory at Legion Field, extending our streak in that great rivalry. One of the many magical moments in that decade of dominance, as Coach (Phillip) Fulmer gave us the greatest run, in the modern era, of Tennessee Football. I remember watching those Lady Vols banners go up, and when we named this court, in honor of the greatest basketball coach of all, Pat Summitt. Coach (Rick) Barnes, I apologize, but I remember Chris Lofton hitting that 35-footer over Kevin Durant, back in ’07, ’06, or whatever it is. I’m glad you’re on our side, now, and after you beat my team a couple of weeks ago, I’m glad I’m on your side, now. Talking to Karen and Ralph Weekly this morning, brings back memories of Monica Abbott mowing (opponents) down. Of course, so many moments of high athletic achievement, across the Tennessee history. Coach (Doug) Dickey always used to tell us, `We’re either playing for the title, or we’re biting on the butt of the guy that is.’ Right? We talked about those great moments, athletically and academically. I get so excited, knowing that the University of Tennessee, can and should be, the very best athletics program in the country. Now, as you’ve already heard, I carry General Neyland’s seven maxims with me, when I left in 2009. For the past eight years, I’ve been blessed to work in support of Coach Bill Snyder, who joined Coach (Phillip) Fulmer, Coach (Bill) Battle, Coach (Doug) Dickey, Coach (Bowden) Wyatt, Coach (Johnny) Majors, and General (Robert) Neyland, in the College Football Hall of Fame, last year. Bill Snyder has built his program around 16 goals. My two favorites, which I talk about all the time in my letters and in my conversations with the folks there are… : Goal No. 12: `No self-limitations’ and Goal No. 3: `Unity.’ I can’t wait to get started, and as the Chancellor said, nothing is more special to my beautiful wife Mary Lawrence that Jack, who is trying out for baseball right now – he couldn’t miss that –Virginia and Mary Dell were born, right here, on Rocky Top. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for bringing us right back, to where we come from. Go Vols!”

 

Additional Quotes From Press Conference

Dr. Beverly J. Davenport, University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor

(On the at the home visit in Kansas)
“He picked me up and he had that great big sign in his car. We got to his house and he asked me if I would like any coffee or anything to drink. I asked for some water and he pulled out a great big Tennessee glass, it had a big power T on the glass. He had orange in his house, I think he had more Tennessee things than I do. We actually did not eat. I think John talks more than I do so we went right to work. I was asking him questions, he was asking me questions. We worked. It was a working meeting. No food, just work and water.”

(On how everything came together with the search committee) 
“Turnkey worked with us and for us. Turnkey looked for candidates for us throughout the entire process and they had been working with us. They brought candidates to our search committee, our search committee brought candidates to me and that is how it worked.”

 

John Currie, University of Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics

(On how being at Kansas State changed him as a person)
“I think all of us and I hope people in higher education are always learning. Going out to Kansas State, when we got there we had some major problems. We had major facility problems, we had lawsuits, we had secret contracts. It was just one thing after another. We had low confidence and one of the things we did in the process was getting out there with our fans. There are some similarities between the schools. Tennessee has Big Orange Caravan, K-State has the Cat Mover, so we got out and about and re-earned trust. Part of the way that we worked hard was being very transparent and very accessible. So we will do some things here over from an athletics perspective to ensure that the Tennessee faithful and the whole Tennessee family feel like they have a good opportunity to connect and share their passion and feelings.”

(On whether it was a goal to get back to Tennessee and what is priority No. 1)
“Let me start with priority No. 1. My first priority is to get to know folks around here. There are a lot of things that have changed since I had been here, so the first thing I have to do is get around and listen, see, learn and reconnect with folks. I cannot wait to start doing that. The opportunity to go to Kansas State University eight years ago was really special. To have a president take a chance on someone who has never been an AD, I think that is a reflection on the University of Tennessee and how well they prepared me.”

(On how important winning a National Championship is)
“Did you hear me out there? We have a bunch of banners around here and we have trophies. Like Coach Dickey used to say, ‘You are either biting on the butt of the guy who is playing for the title or you are either playing for the title.’ That is what Tennessee is about. We did not talk a lot out there about academic integrity in the once-in-a-lifetime-completely-unique American animal that is the intercollegiate athletics opportunity that is so special and gets better every single year. That is really why we are here. One of the things that has happened to college athletics over the last five or six years as this conference realignment stuff has happened and the television money has exploded. There is not nearly enough talk about the young people who wear our uniforms and compete. Tennessee has got an outstanding history of academic excellence. People like Kara Lawson, and of course Peyton Manning and lots of others. I was there when Michael Munoz was named the Campbell Trophy winner in New York a number of years ago. We want to do all of that stuff, and we want to represent at the highest level academically, but we do not have 100,000 seats and 21,000 seats and a beautiful baseball stadium, Alan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center, — we do not have all of this for intramurals, right? We got that stuff because we should be representing intercollegiate athletics at the highest level and winning championships. That is absolutely critical. Joan Cronan, Coach Dickey, Donna Thomas, all of us, we do exit interviews with student-athletes right after their time is through to learn what you can learn to make their student-athlete experience better. I have yet to have a student-athlete who didn’t tell me winning was a great part of their college experience.”

(On how he is different now than when he left UT)
“Mary Lawrence and I have been married for 19 years. I think she would say, in our marriage, I’ve evolved, or she would be married to someone else. I think we all evolve in our lives. I remember when I first got here, Coach Dickey said, ‘Now John, the wheels aren’t off this thing; you don’t have to fix everything.’ So, I think as young people we believe we have to solve every problem right now and in a certain way. Over time, you learn to sit back a little bit. (Sometimes) Bud Ford needs to get in your face a little and tell you why you’re wrong. And a lot of times, you learn and adapt from that.”

(On how he will unite the fan base)

“All I can do is go out there and work hard every single day. I think listening and recognizing the heritage and all the people (is key). This is a very special place. People have poured their heart and soul into this place. You have to spend time and appropriately honor, recognize, and get around. Those things will work out.”

(On how his history here will make it an easier transition)
“I’ve been really blessed. I have been to three places. So many ADs, chancellors, and coaches have to go to a lot of places. I’ve only been to three, and I get to come back to one of the ones I’ve already been at. It’s an advantage and a disadvantage. It’s a disadvantage when you’ve been somewhere a while and part ways because you hurt some feelings. But there is the advantage that you know a lot of folks, too. I think my two good buddies, that took jobs at Florida and Alabama, have a learning curve because they’ve never been to those places. I too have a learning curve, and I also have a re-acquaintance curve, and I’m looking forward to getting after it.”

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