Copyright 2017 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved
Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
CHATTANOOGA — There was a time for much of the 2016-17 school year that Chattanooga fans thought that they were going to have to replace David Blackburn.
They ultimately were right, although it wasn't under the circumstances they initially imagined.
Blackburn, who only a few months ago, at least from a public perspective, was a frontrunner for the AD opening at Tennessee, stepped down from his positions as the school's vice chancellor and director of athletics, after four years to "pursue other interests," according to a press release.
The Times Free Press reported Tuesday morning that Blackburn was expected to resign, according to multiple sources. Attempts to reach Blackburn for further comment were not successful.
"We appreciate the time and attention that David has provided our athletic programs," said UTC chancellor Dr. Steve Angle. "The Mocs have reached unprecedented heights over the last four years under David's leadership and we thank him for his efforts."
UTC will conduct a national search for his replacement, with senior associate athletics director for internal operations Scott Altizer taking over in the interim. Altizer has been with the school for three years and previously worked at UT.
During Blackburn's time, Mocs' programs won 13 regular-season Southern Conference championships and claimed 10 SoCon tournament titles. In the 2015-16 season, the Mocs captured the football, men's basketball and women's basketball championship, a first for the school in the same year.
He was hired after over 20 years involved in UT athletics on April 20, 2013 to replace Rick Hart, who left for a similar position at Southern Methodist University. At the time he was hired, the athletics program was without a basketball coach on either the men's or women's side. Blackburn quickly moved, hiring Will Wade to head the men's program and Jim Foster to coach the women.
Foster has led the women's program to 103 wins and four regular-season SoCon championships in his time. Wade laid the groundwork for the turnaround of the men's program, winning 40 games in two seasons before taking the head coaching job at Virginia Commonwealth. He has since been named the head coach at LSU.
Blackburn replaced Wade with Matt McCall, who guided the Mocs to a 29-win season in 2015-16 and the program's first NCAA tournament trip since 2009 in his first season. He added a 19-win campaign in his second season - one filled with internal turmoil - before taking a job at Massachusetts of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Blackburn also hired John Carroll's Tom Arth, the 2016 NCAA Division III Coach of the Year, to replace Russ Huesman - who left for Richmond after eight seasons, 59 wins, three conference championships and three Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances - and hired Lamont Paris to filled the slot vacated by McCall.
"The time has come for me to resign as vice chancellor and director of athletics," Blackburn said in the press release. "I love UTC and the city of Chattanooga. I'm grateful for the time allowed to serve this great school and city."
Blackburn also made successful coaching hires in soccer (Gavin McKinney), women's tennis (Chad Camper) and cross country/women's track and field (Andy Meyer). The new director will be riddled with finding a new leader for the men's tennis program, as longtime head coach Carlos Garcia resigned recently.
His ability to make hires, combined with his past connections to the school, made him an attractive candidate for the vacant Tennessee athletic director job in August of 2016 after Dave Hart announced his retirement. Blackburn's name gained a lot of traction from Tennessee fans wanting a "Tennessee guy" to take over, and the process affected Blackburn, who admitted in a May interview that he "didn't handle things well" throughout. He went on radio shows and politicked for the opening, which ultimately went to former Kansas State athletic director John Currie.
Student-athletes have posted a 3.0 or higher GPA for seven straight semesters. The Mocs have also been at or near the top of the league each year in attendance in the revenue sports.
Read More of Today's AB Headlines
Subscribe to Our Daily E-Newsletter