Vols’ new AD plans to move quickly hiring new coach

Caitie McMekin/Pool via News Sentinel
5 Comments

Danny White is embracing the opportunity Tennessee is giving him to rebuild a Power Five program and not even the prospect of potential NCAA punishment deterred him from taking the athletic director job.

“I’ve never worked at the big brand place until now, and I actually like the fact that the brand needs to be polished a little bit, needs to be elevated back to where it was just not too long ago,” White said at his introductory news conference Friday.

Tennessee hired White, 41, as its fourth different athletic director since Dave Hart took over in September 2011.

White’s first job is hiring a new football coach with the Volunteers in the midst of both an internal and NCAA investigation into recruiting issues that cost coach Jeremy Pruitt, two assistant coaches and seven others their jobs Monday.

Chancellor Donde Plowman did not have an estimate for when Tennessee’s own investigation will be completed. White said he has a long-term view for his third different program as athletic director.

“Nothing’s insurmountable,” White said. “We can get through this, and we’ll get through it the right way and we’ll get the program back to where it needs to be.”

Tennessee is paying White a starting salary of $1.8 million a year and an annual pay hike of 5%, twice the $900,000 base pay for retiring AD Phillip Fulmer. White also will be eligible for up to $300,000 annually for team athletic performance, academic performance and operational goals in the five-year deal.

White signed a five-year contract at UCF in March 2020 paying him more than $1 million a year, and Tennessee will pay the $2.5 million buyout for his leaving before May 11, 2021.

He said everyone is a candidate and he will be moving “quickly” to hire a new coach. White planned to meet with up to nine members of the football team and also had a meeting with acting head coach Kevin Steele.

White cited his own hiring as how quickly he might move, hired just three days after Tennessee announced Pruitt’s firing and Fulmer’s departure.

Plowman spent Monday night and Tuesday talking with people connected to Tennessee about what to look for in the next athletic director. She said Peyton Manning asked Duke coach David Cutcliffe on advice he could give Plowman and that Cutcliffe recommended someone like Duke’s AD Kevin White, Danny White’s father.

The Tennessee chancellor interviewed White via Zoom, then interviewed him again with the university system president, Randy Boyd, and the chairman of the Board of Trustees. They flew to Orlando and met with White that night and announced his hiring Thursday.

“It was clear who the top candidate was,” Plowman said. “It was Danny White.”

UCF hired White in November 2015, and his first job then was hiring a football coach. Scott Frost was so successful he left for Nebraska after going 13-0 in 2017, then White hired Josh Heupel. The UCF men’s basketball team made the 2019 NCAA Tournament and lost 77-76 to Duke in the second round.

As athletic director at Buffalo between May 2012 and December 2015, White hired Bobby Hurley, who took Buffalo to its first NCAA Tournament and then Nate Oats, now at Alabama, continued that success. White hired Lance Leipold in football who led Buffalo to its first ranking this season and finished No. 25.

White also has worked at Mississippi, California State-Fresno and Northern Illinois. His brother, Mike, is head coach of Florida’s men’s basketball team. His brother, Brian, is athletic director at Florida Atlantic, and his sister is assistant athletics director for administration at SMU.

He said Tennessee has to be aggressive to get to where the athletics department belongs.

“We can compete,” White said. “This place has already shown, and is showing in many sports, we can compete for Southeastern Conference championships, which means we can compete for national championships. And in the future, we want to do a whole lot more of that.”

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

air force
Peter Joneleit/Getty Images
0 Comments

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

florida gators
Donald Page/Getty Images
0 Comments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”