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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
KNOXVILLE -- Amid conflicting reports regarding the timeline and nature of its search for a new athletic director, Tennessee finally broke its silence with an official statement on the process of hiring a replacement for the retiring Dave Hart.
And according to the university's statement, obtained Thursday by the Times Free Press, don't expect a hire until next month at the earliest.
New chancellor Beverly Davenport, the interim president at Cincinnati who was approved in December, officially assumes her post in mid-February, and Tennessee remains in the process of hiring a search firm and forming a search committee, according to its released statement.
"Dr. Davenport arrives on February 15 to begin serving (as) UT-Knoxville's chancellor. She has said that filling the AD position is one of her top priorities. The athletic director serves as a member of the chancellor's cabinet," the statement read. "Dr. Davenport has emphasized the importance of finding the best person for this key role.
"The university is in the midst of a procurement process to hire a search firm to assist with the search. Once that process concludes, UT will release information about the firm that is selected. At that time, the campus will also announce the members of the search committee and provide a tentative schedule for the search process.
"We hope to announce these details soon. From there -- the search committee and the firm will begin working together to begin the national search. Dave Hart continues to serve as the athletic director for the UT-Knoxville campus. His retirement date is June 30, 2017."
Tennessee has a long-term contract with Parker Executive Search, the firm the university used in the past to land former football coach Derek Dooley, former men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and current baseball coach Dave Serrano.
Dave Odom, the former basketball coach at Wake Forest and South Carolina, told a Knoxville television station last week that the firm for which he's a consultant, Collegiate Sports Associates, had been hired to help Tennessee in its athletic director search.
CSA was involved when Tennessee hired men's basketball coach Rick Barnes in 2015.
According to Sports Radio WNML's Jimmy Hyams, Tennessee's search committee will include trustees Bill Haslam, Raja Jubran and Charlie Anderson; former Tennessee and NFL quarterback Peyton Manning; senior associate athletic director and Thornton Center director Donna Thomas; and Don Bruce, the university's faculty representative to the NCAA and SEC.
Public reports have added to the confusion around the search as the timeline has continued to be pushed back from the fall to sometime in January and even well into the spring.
UT-Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn, who spent more than two decades in multiple administrative roles in Tennessee's athletic department before the Mocs hired him in 2013, long was considered the favorite for the job, particularly in the eyes of many Tennessee fans.
It's unclear where Blackburn stands as the search lingers past the five-month mark since Hart's announcement in August.
Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer's growing candidacy in the past week crescendoed in a 247Sports.com report this week that his hiring as Tennessee's athletic director was "almost done."
Though his administrative experience is limited to a consultant role at East Tennessee State as it revived its football program, Fulmer and university system president Dr. Joe DiPietro have spent considerable time together through Fulmer's service on the President's Council.
Those around the championship-winning coach believed his chances of running Tennessee athletics have gone from slim to strong.
There's the possibility, too, Tennessee could end up with both Fulmer and Blackburn in some combination atop its athletic department in what easily would be a best-case scenario.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org
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