Tennessee hires UCF's Danny White as next athletic director

Sam Cooper
·3 min read

Tennessee moved quickly to find its next athletic director.

A few days after the school announced the retirement of Phillip Fulmer and the firing of Jeremy Pruitt under the cloud of internal and NCAA investigations, Tennessee has hired UCF’s Danny White to be its next next athletic director.

"Danny White is an innovative leader in college athletics with a strong track record in recruiting and developing leaders. He brings the combination of winning attitude, competitive drive, and dedication to integrity and academics that we are looking for," Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman said.

At Tennessee, White’s first order of business will be to hire a new football coach. UT’s administration brought in former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to serve as acting head coach after the firing of Pruitt. Pruitt was fired for cause after an array of “serious NCAA rules violations” were discovered.

Despite Steele’s presence, White is expected to begin the search for a new coach immediately. He has a strong record of hiring successful coaches.

When White became the athletic director at UCF in 2015, he led an unparalleled level of success for the Knights, specifically in football. White hired Scott Frost as UCF’s head coach in December 2015. Frost inherited a program that went winless the previous season and coached the Knights to an undefeated record in his second season.

After UCF capped off that season by beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl to finish 13-0, White infamously declared UCF as the national champions despite the Knights finishing No. 12 in the final College Football Playoff rankings. During his time at UCF, White often voiced his displeasure with the CFP system that has continually excluded top teams from the Group of Five conferences.

When Frost left UCF to coach Nebraska, his alma mater, White hired Josh Heupel to run the program. Heupel has a 28-8 record over his three seasons at UCF.

At Buffalo, White hired Lance Leipold, a six-time national champion at the Division III level. He also brought in Bobby Hurley and Nate Oats to coach UB’s men’s basketball team. Both Hurley and Oats subsequently moved on to Power Five jobs (at Arizona State and Alabama, respectively) after successful tenures coaching the Bulls.

White, the son of longtime Duke athletic director Kevin White, signed a five-year contract to remain at UCF back in March, but Tennessee “made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” according to Yahoo Sports’ Thamel. And despite potentially serious NCAA penalties looming, White accepted the job.

"I am thrilled to be headed to Knoxville and to a university with a great competitive tradition and a spirited and devoted fan base,” White said. “Volunteer fans have an expectation to win, and my first task will be taking on the search for a new head football coach. But I want all Vols to know that I am deeply committed to excellence in all of our athletic programs."

Whoever White hires to succeed Pruitt will have plenty of work to do. The Vols went 5-7 in Pruitt’s first season and 8-5 in his second season before plummeting to 3-7 in 2020. A slew of Tennessee’s top players entered the transfer portal, both before Pruitt’s dismissal and after the school made the change.

UCF athletic director Danny White smiles during action against at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. UCF won, 35-24. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
UCF athletic director Danny White has a strong record of hiring successful coaches. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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