Surprising Currie Hire A Safe Choice By UT

Posted at 5:07 PM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-01 18:07:23-05

After months of debate over whether Tennessee should name Phillip Fulmer or David Blackburn as it's next athletics director, the school hired someone else. But while the announcement itself was a surprise, the hire of John Currie as the next Athletic Director should not be.

Currie has something on his side that neither Fulmer or Blackburn could match; experience as an athletics director at a power five school. He spent the last eight years fundraising, developing and, most importantly, winning at Kansas State.

That's why the Tennessee hire was largely celebrated by national media types Tuesday while a significant portion of the fanbase bemoaned the school's decision on social media and radio shows throughout the state.

"We were looking for the best candidate," school chancellor Beverly Davenport stated in the announcement. "We feel strongly that we have him in John Currie. John exemplifies all the qualities we were seeking in an athletics director."

In Manhattan, Currie inherited an athletic department in debt and turned it into one of only about two dozen programs that operate in the black nationwide. He is known as a terrific fundraiser, who spearheaded $210 million dollars in facility upgrades and increased the departments operating budget by about $25 million without the aid of any state tax or university subsidies.

That's a resume of administrative achievement that neither Fulmer or Blackburn can match. It's also the promise of financial stability for a Tennessee athletic program that had significant financial troubles until the 2014 launch of the cash cow that is the SEC Network.

And Currie's teams had success at K-State. The Wildcats posted seven bowl games in eight years, went to five NCAA Tournaments in men's basketball, three in women's basketball, four in volleyball and three in baseball. In 2012-13, K-State won the Big 12 in football, men's basketball and baseball in the same year for the first time ever. That trifecta won Currie the Bobby Dodd A.D. of the Year Award the following year.

It will ultimately be the success Currie can bring the Vols on the field or court that will determine whether he can win over the Tennessee fans that had their hearts set on "Tennessee men" like Fulmer or Blackburn.

But it's not like Currie will be a stranger in Knoxville. He worked in several administrative roles in the Tennessee athletic deparment first in 1997, and then again from 2000 until his hire at K-State. He also earned his master's degree from the school in 2003.

"I appreciate Chancellor Davenport and the University of Tennessee for providing us this special opportunity," Currie said in a statement. "As a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I know how much UT athletics means to the people in the state, and I look forward to serving all of the Big Orange Nation, its wonderful coaches, staff and student-athletes, for many years to come. We are excited to return to Rocky Top."

The big knock on Currie has been his involvement in the day to day activities of his coaching staffs. It bothered Frank Martin so much, he left Manhattan to take the basketball job at downtrodden South Carolina. Legendary football coach Bill Snyder has also had some squabbles with Currie's micromanagement, and it will be interesting to see how that approach will mesh with Tennessee's coaches, especially as Butch Jones tries to regain stability in the football program.

Like with coaches, there are realtively few sure things when it comes to hiring an athletic director. But with Currie, Tennessee gets a proven power five athletic director that understands the financial duties of running a multi-million dollar athletics business and the pressure to win at a place like UT.

Currie was not the first or second choice of fans, but he was the safest choice for a school in need of stability at the top position in it's athletic department.