Opinion: Currie Could Be Good Hire in Long Run

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)


He's a sitting athletic director at a Power Five conference school. He is, in a way, sort of, a Tennessee guy.

Ladies and gentlemen, your new University of Tennessee athletic director is ... John Currie.

In a hire that comes largely out of the blue, Beverly Davenport has made a statement that her barely begun tenure as UTK chancellor will be a new era. UT announced Tuesday that Currie has been selected as UT's new AD.

Davenport, two weeks on the job, didn't hire the Tennessee guy - make that guys - that the majority expected and had expressed a preference for, David Blackburn or Phillip Fulmer.

Currie has run a department at Kansas State for almost eight years, which trumps Blackburn's time (and budget) at Chattanooga.

Currie is 45, in the prime of his professional life, which trumps the 66-year-old Fulmer.

His Tennessee connection isn't as ironclad. Prior to Kansas State, he worked in the department from 1997 to 2009 (during which time he earned a Master's Degree). Currie's time at UT was almost equally divided under Doug Dickey and later Mike Hamilton. He came to UT from Wake Forest, a Hamilton link.

Does Currie's blood run orange like Blackburn's or Fulmer's? Probably not. He's a Wake Forest alum who grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., and has been out in the Great Plains for a while now.

That said, in his time at UT Currie, like Blackburn, was engaged in the right projects and assignments to understand Tennessee's priorities and challenges. He's not coming in blind. He knows what happens on the third Saturday in October. I bet he still has an orange tie.

Although this process of replacing Dave Hart has gone on for months, we haven't heard much about Currie. Blackburn, and later Fulmer, were obvious candidates and thus obvious talking points. They are well-known UT grads who wanted the job.

But if you were listening from the start of this deal, a sentiment was expressed for a sitting athletic director. Better yet, one from a Power Five conference who walks the same landscape as Tennessee does.

In a sense, it's a curious posture for UT. When's the last time Tennessee hired a head coach in a major sport from another Power Five conference?

I remember Currie from his days working for Dickey and Hamilton. He was clearly a guy on a mission to learn the business and one day captain his own ship. I would imagine his years at Kansas State have broadened his grasp of dealing with the range of constituencies an athletic director encounters.

Currie won't be the most popular choice Davenport could have made. But the long run is what really matters. He has pointed his career toward this moment. He has paid his dues. A number of national media and administrators are saluting the hire.

Currie has a big ship to captain now. If he proves to be up to it, Tennessee fans will eventually climb on board.

Mike Strange may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @Strangemike44.

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March 1, 2017


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