Tag Archives: Dave Hart

Tennessee’s $111 million athletic budget in context

Vols AD Dave Hart (photo by Adam Brimer)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee’s $111.6 million athletic budget is 10th-highest in the country and fourth-highest in the SEC.

That’s from the comprehensive USA Today database of athletic budgets released on Tuesday.

The survey also showed that the Vols’ have the seventh-highest expenses in the country and that its institutional “subsidy” of $12.4 million — or 11 percent of its budget — is highest in the SEC.

All these numbers are from the 2012-2013 fiscal year. You can click on the graphic to see the breakdown by category. (Here’s a link if you can’t see it below).

Tennessee’s 2013-2014 fiscal year will end in another month, and should produce some different figures in key areas.

Here’s some context to the current numbers:

* Most of the current subsidy comes from a $11.4 million transfer from the university that helped the athletic department plug a potential deficit caused largely by $7.97 million in “severance payments” to Derek Dooley and his staff.

Even though the money wasn’t all due immediately, buyouts must be accounted for in the current fiscal year.

* In years past, the athletic department has actually made an annual contribution to the main university fund. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, for example, the athletic department sent $5.8 million to the university. Over the last 10 years, the department has given about $40 million to the university (for a net transfer of $30 million once student fees are considered).

* When Dave Hart was hired as athletic director, he asked UT’s administration if he could end the annual transfers. By giving excess funds away at the end of the year, the department struggled to build a reserve fund. And that could cause problems in years (like this one) when expenses increased.

* UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek agreed to “reinvest” some of the athletic department’s contributions to the university back into the department’s budget over the next three years. The biggest payment came from the transfer described in this fiscal year.

* Where does the rest of the subsidy come from? That’s the $1 million in student fees billed to students. USA Today counts student fees in their subsidy total, and most departments — even rich ones — take at least a small bit of revenue from student fees.

Questions? Let me know and I’ll try to answer them. If I don’t know, I’ll try to find out.

Butch Jones on Alabama rivalry: ‘It’s our DNA’

Butch Jones after practice earlier this month (photos by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones said his main concern about the future of SEC scheduling was preserving the Vols’ annual rivalry game against Alabama.

In that sense, the plan announced this week was a victory.

“I was very excited we were able to maintain the Alabama-UT rivalry,” Jones said. “That’s in our DNA….That was the big thing.”

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart had favored a nine-game conference schedule, but SEC presidents voted to stick with the current plan of six games against divisional opponents, one game against a permanent cross-divisional rival and one game against a rotating cross-divisional opponent.

Jones said he recognized there were complications to either an eight-game or nine-game plan. He’s just happy the final plan preserved the Alabama series.

“In terms of scheduling — eight games, nine games, I really don’t think there is any perfect solution,” he said. “We have to do what’s best for the conference, as we continue to move forward, and I support that. This big thing for us is being able to maintain the rivalry with Alabama.”

Potential Vols’ game in Charlotte in 2018 still unannounced

Dave Hart (photo by Adam Brimer)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The potential Tennessee-West Virginia football game at Charlotte in 2018 that was reportedly close to being “finalized” four weeks ago has yet to be announced.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart declined to comment on the report or the potential game in an interview this week with the News Sentinel’s Ben Frederickson.

Any future neutral site game, Hart said, would be announced when the contract is completed.

Regardless, the Vols-Mountaineers matchup — if it takes place — would fit the profile of games that Hart is seeking.

But the recent decision by the SEC presidents to maintain the current schedule format should have little impact on UT’s scheduling goals. Tennessee, like most SEC schools, already schedules one high-profile non-conference game each year. That “high-profile” game will essentially become a league mandate in 2016, when every SEC team will be required to schedule one game against a team from the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 or ACC.

“For us, that’s how we’ve been doing business. And for most people in our league. Not everybody,” Hart said. “For the high majority of people in the SEC, that has been the standard. Now it will be required that everyone do that.”

Hart, who has favored a nine-game conference schedule, didn’t win that battle. But he was pleased that the league “reaffirmed” its commitment to traditional cross-divisional rivalries like Tennessee-Alabama and Georgia-Auburn.

“In our case we will maintain one of the most historic rivalries in the history, throughout all of college football, with Tennessee-Alabama,” he said. “I have been an outspoken proponent for every bit of two years on playing nine league games. But the vote was not there. So we are moving in unison with everyone else toward the 6-1-1 (format) and staying with eight league games.”

Tennessee, West Virginia ‘finalizing’ game at Charlotte in 2018 (report)

Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte (AP photo)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee and West Virginia are close to finalizing an agreement to play a neutral-site game at Charlotte in 2018, the Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette reported on Tuesday.

UT did not immediately comment on the report.

The newspaper quoted Marcus Hammond, the team’s director of football operations, as saying the deal was close to being finished.

“That would give us a marquee game in a marquee venue. It would be exciting for the fans and the team,” he said.

Tennessee has already announced plans to open the 2015 season in Nashville against UAB and play Virginia Tech at the Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart has said he is interested in pursuing neutral site games. The potential game in Charlotte would likely be played at Bank of America Stadium, which seats 74,000.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones was an assistant at West Virginia in 2005 and 2006.

Tennessee did not immediately comment on the West Virginia report.

After a spring break filled with basketball, Tennessee football is back today

Coach Butch Jones (right) talks with offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian before practice earlier this month at Neyland Stadium (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee returns to practice on Tuesday for its sixth official session of the spring season.

The Vols last practiced on March 14, a scrimmage at Neyland Stadium. Most players went home for the break, although some — including running back Marlin Lane — stayed in town to work out or rehab injuries.

Lane injured his hand and received treatment over the break. Coach Butch Jones is expected to provide an update on his status Tuesday afternoon, although his return this spring is questionable at best.

Jones and his staff also took a few days off during the break. Jones joined athletic director Dave Hart and UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek in Raleigh, N.C., to watch the men’s basketball team advance to the Sweet 16.

It’s safe to say that with both basketball teams embarking on a deep NCAA tournament run, this week’s football practices won’t be on center stage.

Check out our full coverage on GoVolsXtra this evening, including instant observations, post-interview updates, video and photos.

[gdoc link=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AgBQnqCTaaxzdEl2aUhqV1FSUkZzTGM3NHNBXzQwZlE&output=html&widget=true” width=”100%” height=”515″]

A look at 2014 salaries for UT football coaches, support staff

[gdoc link=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AgBQnqCTaaxzdHlCNjFUMW4tUnN1ZkhBTC1NUWgwdUE&output=html&widget=true” width=”100%” height=”520″]

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — We’re running our annual review of salaries in the Tennessee football program in tomorrow’s News Sentinel. Subscribers can check out the full story on GoVolsXtra later tonight.

There weren’t many changes between 2013 and now,  as you can see for yourself in the two charts.

Among on-field coaches, there was no change at all. All nine coaches are working under the same contract — and same salary — they had 365 days ago.

That jibes with Dave Hart‘s comments during a round of interviews in December. Hart didn’t seem inclined to give raises for assistants who were in the middle of two-year contracts.

Of course, things can change if another team comes calling. But if UT’s assistants were shopping for new jobs this offseason, we didn’t hear anything about it.

Only one assistant has been given a raise during Butch Jones’ tenure, and that was more than a year ago. Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez signed a new deal on Feb. 10, 2013 that increased his base and supplemental pay from $280,000 to $350,000. About that same time, Martinez added the title of assistant head coach for defense.

All the coaches are under contract through Feb. 28, 2015 — essentially, the 2014 season. One-year contracts were once the standard for assistants, but multi-year deals are becoming more routine.

Because the last pay cycle in the current contract runs from March 1, 2014 to Feb. 28, 2015, we’ll check again in March to see if there have been any alterations to the deals in place now.

[gdoc link=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AgBQnqCTaaxzdEhtRnJITnBZLU9NbzlvcHZJTEd5WFE&output=html&widget=true” width=”100%” height=”520″]

Q&A with ESPN’s Tom Luginbill on Tennessee recruiting, its growing class and Butch Jones

Butch Jones has used the brick-by-brick metaphor in building his team and his 2014 signing class.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — On Sunday we took a deeper look at Tennessee’s bulging 2014 signing class, which is now up to 31 verbal commitments.

The full story is for subscribers only, but here’s the key takeaway.

There are two rules for which there are no loopholes: Tennessee can only offer 25 new scholarships — “initial counters” in NCAA lingo — in each class, and the maximum number of players on scholarship cannot exceed 85.

So how does Tennessee plan to sign 30 if the limit is 25? Teams are allowed to “count back” the scholarships of midyear enrollees as long as the 25-scholarship limit is not exceeded in any single year. The Vols counted two of their 22-man class in 2013 against the 2012 scholarship limit.

This year, UT will count five players against the 2013 class and then take a full 25 in the 2014 class.

So that brings the Vols to 30. But what about 31? Or 32, 33 or 34, if UT keeps adding more verbal commitments?

There are some strategies that teams can use to manage overflowing classes:

Gray-shirting: A grayshirt agrees to delay his enrollment for at least one semester to count against the following year’s class.

In this case, a prospect would agree to push back enrollment from the summer of 2014 to January 2015. Grayshirting can be a great solution for a player who is rehabilitating a serious injury or who needs time to mature physically. But the player must be self-motivated, working out on his own and paying his own way to take classes for a semester.

Blue-shirting: This scheme was originated by New Mexico State but has not been practiced widely around the nation. Here’s how it works: Officially, a player arrives in the summer as a walk-on. Once football practice begins, he’s awarded a scholarship. The school is allowed to count the scholarship forward — against the 2015 class — but the player can play immediately.

There’s a big catch: The student-athlete may not have been recruited, as defined by NCAA bylaws. That means no official visit to campus, no in-home visits from coaches, no signed National Letter of Intent or athletic aid.

Only a handful of players, if any, would meet that criteria.

I spoke to Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s national director of recruiting, to get his thoughts on the Vols’ 2014 class and the recruiting effort of Butch Jones and his staff overall.

Here’s some of the stuff that didn’t fit in the story.

(On how Butch Jones built his staff with largely his own guys, with only linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen qualifying as well known name among those who follow SEC recruiting)

If you look at the places that Butch Jones and his staff have been, they haven’t been places that are easy to recruit to. So when you’re successful at programs that are difficult to recruit to, I think that speaks volumes to what type of recruiter you are. So whether it’s Central Michigan or Cincinnati, he knows what (his staff) brings to the table and he has a comfort level with their work ethic. They understand, more important than anything else, the type of player that they want. And proof has been in the pudding on whether they can get them.

Tommy Thigpen coaches Malik Foreman in August (photo by Evan Woodbery)

Going out and hiring the high-profile guy, is that a necessity? Probably not. In the case of Tommy Thigpen I think one of the reasons why he went that route was being mostly a Midwest staff, he was getting into somewhat uncharted territory as far as the recruiting pool and the landscape down here in the Southeast. So I think it was wise to bring a member to the staff that had deep-rooted recruiting experience in the South.

(On the importance of this class given its size and the amount of gaps on the current roster)

A: The importance of this class is that it’s going to be 30 guys, so it’s going to be a big class. The most important thing about this class is the number that will be mid-year enrollees. That’s critical because they’re going to have to have those guys play and have a role. So going after a player that you know can come in mid-year becomes a part of the plan, a part of the blueprint. A lot of people don’t think of it that way. You’re trying to get the best player, the player that fits — that’s true. But in their particular case, they need guys who can come in and get acclimated quickly and be part of the equation.

I think the one thing that Butch Jones and his staff have going for him, or have on their side that maybe Derek and his staff did not, is you’re off the APR list now and they have completely overhauled and revamped their academic support service program, which is not only going to be critical for the current roster, but is huge from a recruiting standpoint. I just think the resources available to Tennessee right now so far outweigh the resources that may have been available to previous staffs, and that’s going to be an advantage of them.

(Butch)  knows there’s no magic wand here. This isn’t going to happen overnight. But I think the pieces of the puzzle are in place. And it’s not just Butch and the staff and their philosophy. Keep in mind, Dave Hart knows what it takes to be great in football, as far as building a program. They hired Mike Vollmar, who was instrumental in the implementation of the Alabama process. He was with Nick (Saban) for a lot of years. So they’re putting all the components in place to blanket the athletic, academic, social atmospheres of Tennessee so that it can move forward in the right direction.

(On whether geography is a liability for Tennessee in recruiting)

Not just the city or the region, but the state. That’s always been a challenge at Tennessee. You might have, on average, four to six big-time, BCS-caliber players within your state every year, which basically means you can’t lose any of them. You have to get all of those guys, and then to supplement your roster you have to go into Nick Saban’s backyard and Mark Richt‘s backyard and Will Muschamp‘s backyard. And not just in the SEC, but in the ACC, too. So the competition is intense.

What Tennessee has — let’s just compare it to Missouri or Arkansas, two other teams that are in states that, by in large, don’t have great pools of talent, year in and year out. Tennessee has a national brand, nationally branded tradition, fan base, facilities, resources that allow for them to compensate and be able to go into other areas in recruiting and immediately be a recognizable figure. Whereas those are challenges for, let’s say, a Missouri or an Arkansas. Missouri goes down and recruits in Alabama and people are looking around: ‘Really?’ Tennessee goes into Alabama and they’re recognized immediately. So those are some of the things that allow them to maybe compensate or have a chance in other people’s backyards.

Tennessee’s outdoor practice fields with the Anderson Training Center in the background (photo by Evan Woodbery)

(On the importance of facilities or whether they are rapidly being equalized)

It’s more about staying caught up now. Ten to fifteen years ago, it was about getting out in front of it and having something no one else did, which a lot of programs were capable of doing, but by and large, they were all programs that had money and resources. Not everyone was playing with the same deck of cards — not that they are now. But when you look now and fast forward to this point, just about everybody in major college football has a football operations facility or an indoor facility or an academic services center for athletics. All those sorts of things came at some point in the last 10 to 15 years.

So now what’s happening is a one-up type of scenario. ‘All right, we’re pretty much on par with them, how can we offer something they don’t offer?’ Or, just a general overhaul and enhancement of facilities as a whole. That’s where you need the money. That is an area right now where Missouri is frantically trying to keep up. Because from a stadium standpoint and a football operations standpoint, they’re not at the level of their competitors in this conference. They know it. They know that’s the next phase, the next step.

It is a bit of a rat race. People like to call it the arms race.

Then you’ve got Oregon and they’re in a different class all their own. But I would argue that this facility here (at Tennessee) being finished now rivals anything in the country, certainly in the conference.

(On how Tennessee will handle having so many prospects)

<span style="line-height: 1.714285714; font-size: 1rem;"

Alabama beat writer Q&A: The view from Tuscaloosa

A.J. McCarron against Texas A&M. (AP Photo. David J. Phillip)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — No. 1 Alabama seems to have few flaws, at least few that have been exposed by anyone other than Johnny Manziel.

We asked Andrew Gribble, Alabama beat writer for AL.com and its associated newspapers, just how good the Tide is.

Gribble previously covered Tennessee for the News Sentinel. Since he started on the Alabama beat, the Tide is 20-1.

1. Does the injury to Vinnie Sunseri leave the Tide’s secondary vulnerable in any way, or is it just on to the next one?

The biggest loss that comes from Sunseri’s injury is the leadership void it creates on the back end of Alabama’s defense. Sunseri had really emerged as the commander of Alabama’s secondary and was in charge of putting players in their proper positions. This aspect of his game was incredibly valuable during a stretch in which CB Deion Belue dealt (and continues to deal) with a nagging injury, S HaHa Clinton-Dix was suspended and a rotating crew of underclassmen was filling the other CB spot.

Sophomore Landon Collins will replace Sunseri in most formations. Collins is incredibly talented and has been playing his butt off wherever Alabama has asked. He’s an absolute monster on special teams. So from that standpoint, Alabama has other positions with a greater drop-off in talent than the one they’re testing at strong safety. That said, a team never gets better when a player like Sunseri goes down.

2. There’s been a lot of talk about the relevance of this rivalry. There have been streaks in the series before, but the margin of Alabama’s recent wins have been very large. How do fans, players and coaches view this series?

I think this rivalry had understandably grown a bit stale with Alabama fans and players over the past couple of years, but Tennessee’s big win against South Carolina seems to have rekindled some of the back-and-forth that makes it one of the best in the SEC. Alabama’s administrators are just as serious as Dave Hart when it pertains to making sure this rivalry game remains in place on future SEC schedules.

With the way Alabama’s 2013 schedule has played out, I think Crimson Tide fans and players have been looking for something to get excited about other than the LSU game, and this seems like the perfect time heading into a bye week.

3. Texas A&M is the only Alabama opponent that has kept the game close. Is there anything that a team without Johnny Manziel on its roster can learn from that game?

That’s tough because Manziel really appears to be this defense’s only version of kryptonite. Perhaps because of what Manziel has done to Alabama over the past two years, there’s a misguided perception that it struggles to stop mobile quarterbacks. That’s not true at all. This defense struggles to stop quarterbacks who can run as well as a running back, scramble for seven or eight seconds and then find a super talented receiver open down the field with accurate passes.

If anything, I suppose this year’s Texas A&M game highlighted Alabama’s need for a cornerback other than Belue to step up and hold his own against man coverage. Belue isn’t at 100 percent and likely won’t be during the rest of the season because of a toe injury. Alabama has started three different players at the opposite cornerback spot and drawn mixed results. No team since Texas A&M has been able to take advantage of it.

4. How does this team compare to past Alabama national championship teams?

When Alabama appeared to be struggling early in the season, many folks started making comparisons to 2010, when Alabama had a loaded roster but ultimately never lived up to expectations and lost three times. Those comparisons have stopped because of what the Crimson Tide has done over the past three weeks. While the 2010 team never seemed to improve, this Alabama team — other than its letdown stinker against Colorado State — has gotten better with each game.

The offense is a bit behind last year’s pace because of the season opener against Virginia Tech and the defense is just off the pace set by the 2011 team because of Texas A&M. This season’s special teams is probably the best Nick Saban has ever had at Alabama. It probably wasn’t until last week when Alabama was able to get all three facets clicking at the same time. When it does, games like Saturday’s 52-0 rout of Arkansas happen.

5. What is the biggest hurdle in Alabama’s path to another title?

From an on-field perspective, LSU and Auburn remain the two toughest challenges. On paper, Alabama has the clear advantage over LSU, but only one game between the teams has been separated by fewer than 10 points since Saban was hired. Auburn has been playing incredibly well, but the Tigers’ strength (running the ball) plays into one of Alabama’s top strengths (stopping the run.) This team has the depth to survive a few more injuries, but there are key spots such as quarterback, left tackle, cornerback and now safety where Alabama’s title run would really be jeopardized if something happened to the starters at those positions.

This year’s Crimson Tide has seemingly dealt with more off-the-field issues than any of Saban’s previous teams. The “clutter” hasn’t seemed to affect the players much, as Alabama scored its biggest win of the season just days after the Yahoo! D.J. Fluker story dropped. The only one that truly affected the on-field product, though, was Clinton-Dix’s suspension. Alabama outscored the competition 93-10 during his absence, so it clearly came at an ideal time on the schedule.

A quick guide to the ‘bitter’ battle between band and Tennessee administration

The Pride of the Southland Band (Photo by Adam Brimer)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The Pride of the Southland Band feels marginalized on game day.

Tennessee thinks some of the band’s complaints are disingenuous or just plain dishonest.

The battle played out Wednesday in a series of public statements that center on the game-day atmosphere at Neyland Stadium. Our Megan Boehnke wrote a great story about the controversy that is available to News Sentinel subscribers.

Here are the Cliff’s Notes:

* The band brought the controversy into public view with a petition on Change.org followed by a two-page statement distributed by band director Gary Sousa.

The band claimed, among other grievances, that UT was limiting its time to play in favor of canned music over the public address system, turning the college atmosphere into an NFL one.

* UT answered back with a detailed statement of its own, either refuting or downplaying many of the band’s complaints.

* Sousa then talked to the News Sentinel and Daily Beacon (David Cobb wrote a great story you can read here) and added more to fuel to the fire.

“That’s probably the issue that really ignited our alumni in reacting the way they did. For anyone to use prerecorded music while a live musician is in the stadium is very disrespectful to musicians…They’re basically telling these kids to go home.

“It’s just one of those things where you can only get pushed so long and then the students just said, ‘We’ve had enough, why are we killing ourselves to be out here when we’re basically being pushed out.'”

Sousa also was critical of athletic director Dave Hart, calling his relationship with the band “non-existent.” That’s compared to good relationships with earlier ADs.

* Senior associate AD Chris Fuller, who spoke extensively to the News Sentinel, said that’s about right, which makes it strange that Sousa is trying to personalize the issue.

“The assertion that there’s been a bitter battle with Dave Hart is really interesting since Dave Hart has had hardly any communication with Dr. Sousa at all.” 

 Fuller also said the band hasn’t exactly been a team player, skipping out on the weekly game day production meetings. University officials were also a bit miffed that the band decided to air its grievances publicly without even attempting to work things out more amicably.

Fuller said he talked about the game day atmosphere with Sousa about a month ago.

“He gave us a tour of the new building, we hit on all those issues, everything is sunshine and light, and that’s not my definition of antagonistic or bitter.”

* What’s next? The band has a large and passionate alumni base, but in my experience picking a fight with athletics is always a losing battle.

The bigger picture question has to do with the game day atmosphere itself: Is it becoming too much of an NFL-style atmosphere, forgoing college traditions? Or is it necessary to rev up the crowd with some modern touches?

The next home game is Oct. 19. Stay tuned.

Evan Woodbery

October 8, 2013

Pig Howard on the reaction around campus to his fumble: “All positive. Not one person came and said anything negative about it.” Howard said he even had a nice talk with AD Dave Hart.