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Hart Press Conference Transcript
Dave Hart brings a championship-winning background to Tennessee.

Dave Hart brings a championship-winning background to Tennessee.

Sept. 5, 2011

Here is the entire transcript of the press conference in which Dave Hart was hired at the University of Tennessee.

(JIMMY CHEEK OPENING STATEMENT)
"It's a great day to be a Tennessee Vol. About three months ago or so, I said that we would have an A.D. by the beginning of football season and I am just two days late. We have taken our time to make sure that we get the right person. We were looking for someone who is an experienced athletic director from a major university with outstanding athletic programs. We've looked long and hard and taken our time to make sure that we got the right person here at the University of Tennessee.

"Today, it is my pleasure to announce that we have found that right person. Dave Hart and his wife Pam. Would they please stand and let's welcome them to Tennessee.

"We welcome you all to the Volunteer Nation and to the Big Orange family. Why Dave Hart? Everyone I called about Dave Hart started out and said, `His character, his integrity and his honesty are superb.' He has 20 years of experience as athletic director at two major institutions, East Carolina University and Florida State University. He is a seasoned administrator. He knows how to manage and lead athletic programs, coaches and staff. He has a strong commitment to academics. He has seen many national championships and he wants to see a lot more right here in Tennessee.

"He is committed to the University of Tennessee for the long term. He's a visionary and true leader in the industry and nationally. He has a passion and drive to lead. He is competitive. He's been at national championship programs. He's also the recipient of the Robert R. Neyland Award honoring lifetime achievement in athletics. Hart was also named by his colleagues as Athletic Director of the Year for the Southeast Region for both 2000 and 2005. Now, before I introduce him I would like to turn and thank (Interim Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics) Joan Cronan for everything that she has done in the interim job. Joan, please stand.

"So far, she is the only athletic director we've had that's undefeated in football. And if she can just carry through these next two games, she'll be the only athletic director at the University of Tennessee that's an undefeated athletic director. Joan, you have a pretty tall order but we're sure you can come through on that. She's done a superb job as Interim Athletic Director and I greatly appreciate what she has done and how she has worked with all of us to make things happen. As you know, she was also on the search committee so she has been there during all of the discussions we have had about athletic directors. Now, I would like to introduce to you the Vice Chancellor and the Athletic Director for the University of Tennessee Knoxville, our newest Vol, Dave Hart."

(Dave Hart OPENING STATEMENT)
"Let me say that I am very, very proud to be sitting before you tonight. This is a special day in the lives of Pam and Dave Hart. We have been very excited as this process has come to this point of conclusion, to be a part of the Volunteer Nation. It is a privilege and I want to stress that word. It is a privilege to be named Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics at the University of Tennessee. Being trusted to lead one of the elite programs of America, I don't take that position lightly. There aren't very many programs in the United States, a handful at best, who have the rich history, the tradition and the resources that exist here in Knoxville, Tennessee. That came through the hard work of a lot of people; administrators like Joan Cronan, coaches like Pat Summitt, coaches like Johnny Majors and Phil Fulmer. You just go across the spectrum of the history and you can't invent that. You can't draw that up. And Tennessee has it. It has all of that, so that's a very exciting element of accepting this position tonight.

"I want this to be perfectly clear. I am absolutely, totally committed to the University of Tennessee. I wanted to say that early because I didn't want you all to be injured tripping over one another to ask the Alabama question. I wanted to go ahead and get that on the table. I look back to Saturday. (Alabama football head coach) Nick Saban is an alum of Kent State. I did not see much mercy being shown by Nick at the stadium on Saturday because he's the head coach at the University of Alabama. That's where his job is. That's where his loyalties lie. That's where his passion is. And this is where my passion is from this night forward.

"I do want to thank (Alabama Director of Athletics) Mal Moore, who I think is one of the finest human beings walking the face of the earth, and Dr. Whitt, our president and obviously colleague of Chancellor Cheek, for the last three years which we have thoroughly enjoyed, as we thoroughly enjoyed being at East Carolina and being at Florida State. And now we're blessed and fortunate enough to be offered this wonderful opportunity to be at the University of Tennessee. I want you to know that beyond the shadow of a doubt that we are here, our passion is here and we'll have a chance to demonstrate that as the months and years progress.

"I've been blessed throughout my career to work with some outstanding people, administrators, coaches and legends, certainly (former Florida State football head coach) Bobby Bowden fits that category. Now, I have the rare opportunity to work with another legend in Pat Summitt. Not too many athletics administrators get to walk those hallowed halls so I also feel very blessed that Dr. Cheek has given me the opportunity to work with another legend and some really, really good coaches, who I'm anxious to meet and will do that tomorrow. That's going to be my primary priority tomorrow, will to be to get in front of administrators and coaches and visit with them.

"I also value our family legacy in this profession. My father was a football coach for many years and then was in athletics administration. He was the athletics director of Louisville, Missouri and finished his career as commissioner of the Southern Conference. Then, there's a guy down the road here that I'm really proud of and that's our son Rick, who is the Athletics Director at (University of Tennessee) Chattanooga and will probably emerge as the best of the three, one day. It's nice to be in this environment both from a personal and from a professional perspective. Again, I want to thank you Chancellor Cheek forth confidence that you've shown in me. I also want to take a minute and applaud the job that Mike Hamilton did here. When I looked at the facilities for the first time and really studied the facilities, obviously I've been here. I'm a product of the SEC. As you know, I went to Alabama on a basketball scholarship -- I always pause here for laughter. You can do that. See, you wanted to. You're suppressing it."

(QUESTION & ANSWER SESSION WITH MEDIA)

Q: Dave, after the ECU job and the Florida State job, why get back into this after having background and the extensive experience you have to get back into the craziness of what being an AD can be sometimes?

Dave Hart (DH): "Well, that's a simple answer. My passion for that. I've never had my head on a swivel in my entire career. I've also been very blessed there. I've been very happy every place I've ever been. Pam and I were very happy at East Carolina. People used to say to me, '12 years you've spent here, why are you passing up some opportunities?' which we were fortunate enough to get. And my response was, `We're happy. We're happy here.' I told the chancellor at East Carolina that gave me the good fortunate to be hired, Dick Eakin, about eight or nine maybe even 10 years into that tenure because we had some opportunities that we have never pursued or initiated pursuit of an opportunity - never, not in my entire career. But I said to Dick, I handed him a list and I said, `Dick, here are five universities that if I'm lucky enough to have them approach me, I want you to know upfront as my boss and my friend, that I would look. I would not initiate but I would look.' The University of Tennessee was on that list. That's part of my response to your very good question.

"I do have a passion for this. My driver's license has my number on it. I know how old I am but I don't feel that. I have the same energy I had 15 years ago. I enjoy people. I enjoy building relationships with coaches. Again, Tennessee has that passion. Listen, there aren't a lot of schools that have the passion and display it the way that the University of Tennessee does. All five of those schools that I put on that list shared that passion. I hope that answers your question."

Q: Dr. Cheek, was there any discussion on the search committee about a concern maybe that you were hiring an administrator from one of your biggest rivals?

Jimmy Cheek (JC): "I think you always in a search for any particular position go after the very best person in the country that you can go after and try to convince them to come here. That was not a consideration."

Q: How big of a factor was it that Tennessee's NCAA problems were behind them and the resolutions had been handed down?

DH: "That's a very good question, but it really wasn't a factor. I got that word probably about the same time you all did - from a national perspective. Obviously, the chancellor and people here at the university knew. I thought - and I'm being very candid about this - that was a very fair result. That was a result that I felt was very fair given the circumstances. I think you're seeing a shift within the NCAA in that regard. But no, it didn't have a factor."

Q: What do you see as your biggest task now that you've arrived?

DH: "I think bringing everybody back on the same path. I know the history and I'm aware that there are still wounds out there for a variety of reasons. But I think that's not where your focus should be. Your focus should be on getting those people back moving towards - they all love Tennessee to the fullest degree possible. They all love Tennessee. I think that's one of the first priorities is to reach out to everyone who's meant so much to this university and helped build that aura that I just articulated a moment ago."

Q: Dr. Cheek, you talked a couple months ago here about bringing Tennessee back to stability. Is that the feeling right now or is it still going to take some time to kind of pad the stability?

JC: "We're on the right path upwards. We have the NCAA violation out. As Dave said, they took our penalties, did not impose any additional penalties and committed the institution for what we did to cooperate with them in that whole process. We're very pleased that they did not impose any other penalties. We have that history behind us. What we have to do is look to the future and I think our future on the academic side and the athletics side is very positive. I think having this last piece, the new Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics, is a critical part so that he and his team can focus on being the very best athletic program we can in the country. And at the same time, the very best academic program that we can have in the country."

Q: Will Joan's role still be the same as planned before that she'll stay on as the women's director until next June?

JC: "That is correct. That was decided back when she graciously accepted the offer to be Vice Chancellor and Athletic Director. That was a very key part I think in this whole process. Some people say, `Why did you put the words Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics?' I wanted to make sure that everybody understood that there's an academic component of athletics and there's an athletic component of athletics. She's served on the cabinet ever since I became in charge of athletics. I think this vice chancellor role is just ideal. When I talked to Dave about this job he said, `That's one of the things that attracted me about it, that you changed it to Vice Chancellor and - that's a very important step.' He fully subscribes to that."

Q: Will Joan Cronan's role still be the same as planned before where she will stay as women's athletics director until next year?

JC: "That is correct. That was decided back when she graciously accepted the offer to be the interim vice chancellor and athletics director. That was a very key part, I think, in this whole process. Some people ask why we put the words vice chancellor and director of athletics. It was because I wanted to make sure everybody understood that there is an academic component of athletics and an athletic component of athletics. (Joan) has served on the cabinet since I became in charge of athletics and I think this vice chancellor role is just ideal. When I talked to Dave about this job, he said, `That is one of the things that attracted me about it. That you changed it to vice chancellor.' That's a very important step and he fully subscribes to that."

Q: Do you plan on bringing anybody with you? Possibly somebody you might be working with at Alabama already.

DH: "There is a lot of discussion and ground to be traveled relative to building a leadership team. I feel very strongly about this. What separates really good corporations and really good organizations from great ones always comes back to people. Always. You look at an athletic team, you name the sport, that might be struggling and suddenly a new coach is infused into the program. Same players, different result, better result. Corporations will tell you that it always comes back to people. There will be a very fair assessment process to go through before we make those types of decisions. I feel very fortunate to have Joan here. I've known Joan a long time and Joan is an outstanding administrator and highly respected. It's good to have Joan as a sounding board, as well as other people in the department. We'll put together, as (Chancellor Cheek) said, an outstanding leadership team. The chancellor is committed to supporting that."

Q: Have you had a chance to talk to any of the coaches and what are your thoughts on stepping into a program where you have three relatively new coaches?

DH: "I think it is exciting. You could look down the road in five years and be talking about three of the greatest coaches in the country. You've got three young people that have all the right things that you need to be successful, in terms of their priorities, the way they organize, they are going to be demanding in a positive way. I think the future can be very, very bright in that regard, so I think that is an exciting element of taking this position. To answer your question, I have not had a chance to get face-to-face with those coaches, but that is a priority for tomorrow."

Q: How do you view your responsibility in each particular sport, especially with somebody like Derek Dooley who is very involved, knows what he wants and is driven? Are you hands off or how do you view what you do for a particular sport?

DH: "I really enjoy building relationships with coaches and creating an open line of communication with coaches. I really enjoyed Nick Saban and I've said that for three years. When I came back to Alabama and Mal (Moore) said I want you to spend 15-20 minutes with Nick, we about tripled that in that conversation. I really admire Nick Saban. Here is what Nick Saban wants, here is what Derek Dooley wants and here is what Dave Hart wants. Excellence all around, from everybody. From the custodial staff, which plays a key role and never gets enough credit, but I take the time to make sure they understand what a role they play, all the way through the assistant coaches and the administration. Excellence. That's the tone that has to be set."

Q: What have you learned from your previous stops about leadership and what do you bring here?

DH: "Very good question. I think in the arena of organization, I think when developing that staff you have to have an organizational chart that makes sense and that takes time to figure out. But I have an idea there, and one that has worked in the past. From those experiences, I've grown a lot. That's what the profession is about for coaches, for student-athletes, for administrators, is growth. Now, you're not going to grow if you can't make tough decisions and you're not going to grow as a young administrator if somebody doesn't give you the authority to do your job. I'm not a micro-manager and I don't want to be micro-managed. I want to play my role and know what the role is for the athletics department. Athletics has never been, should not be and never will be the most important thing on a university campus, but it is absolutely the most visible element within the university structure. With that comes accountability and responsibility from everybody who touches the athletics department at the University of Tennessee because that is how people form their impression and come to the image that they want to apply to the university. Unfortunately, it's not through the many great things the university has going on in many cases, but it is driven by the image that is demonstrated by the department of athletics."

Q: Was it a no-brainer to leave Alabama?

DH: "No, it's never been a no-brainer for me and for Pam to walk away. We're not transient people and I say this in a very, very positive vein. Our history would obviously verify that. It was hard for us to leave East Carolina. It was hard for us to leave Florida State and it was hard for us to leave Alabama, but each time that we left, we immediately, immediately, knew who we were, where we were and where our passion would be. That has already transpired. Our passion is for the University of Tennessee. It's like respect. Respect is not granted, respect is earned, so I understand that is, in some people's minds, an issue because of the nature of the rivalry and the history. I do understand that, but I don't think that people should act probably as vigorously as they might in some corners. We'll take time. You know, you prove yourself again and that will occur in time."

Q: Did Alabama make a counter-offer to you?

DH: "Alabama was wonderful. As I shared with Chancellor Cheek throughout the last few days here, even leading up to two or three hours ago, I still had, and this makes me feel good, I still had coaches and administrators and faculty and people on campus saying `We want you here.' I'm flattered and I know that is heart-felt, but the decision to come to Tennessee was one that I think anybody would be foolish to reject."

Q: What type of commitment did you make today in terms of a contract to ensure that Dave is going to be here for a while?

JC: "All of that information is on the website now. It's a complicated document and if you go to (the website), you will get the answer to that. What I think (Dave) was most interested in, with the way this search unfolded, was how he and I would get along. He wanted to make sure that he and I could establish a very good relationship. Over the last few days we've seen each other a lot and we've established a very good working relationship. He also wanted to make sure that he had overall control of athletics and that I didn't micro-manage athletics. All those issues were resolved to our satisfaction. I'm delighted he chose to come to Tennessee. The first time I talked to him, within five minutes I knew he was serious about Tennessee. Like I started off my comments, he has very high character, integrity, honesty and he comes through very well when you sit down and talk to him. I think our fans are really going to be proud of him as our athletics director and vice chancellor as they get to meet and know him."

Q: When did that initial conversation take place?

JC: "About a week ago, a little over a week ago."

Q: Are you at all surprised to find yourself sitting here tonight?

DH: "I was surprised again, and I will always give you candid responses, I was surprised when I went to Florida State. I was surprised when I went back to Alabama. It goes back to what I said earlier. Pam and I like to get roots. We don't like to bounce around. Once I met Chancellor Cheek and got to spend some quality time with him, I knew this was the place for Pam and I."

Q: Chancellor Cheek, were the violations that occurred at the end of Dave's tenure at Florida State a concern for the committee and then Dave, were you kind of open with the committee and how they were able to let you explain things?

JC: "I think as you look at the academic issues, the provost at Florida State and I are real good friends. His explanation of this was that it was an academic matter affecting students at FSU and obviously, athletes are students at FSU. But it was not an athletic matter that influenced academics."

DH: I'll only add that the two events were totally separate. When I left Florida State, we had already made that decision before we even knew there was an issue with the online music course and those types of things. I worked hand-in-hand with the provost, with legal counsel and with our faculty athletics rep looking into what did happen. The two events are unrelated chronologically."

Q: One of the big changes in the next year is combining the two programs. Can you touch a little bit on how you see that happening and your vision?

DH: This would leave - and correct me if I'm wrong Joan - but I know this is accurate just the University of Texas as a stand-alone program that has separated men's athletics and women's athletics. Most recently, I know that (Stanford Director of Athletics) Bob Bowlsby, who is a colleague and a friend now at Stanford, but Bob was at Iowa when the merger took place. And most recently, Jeff Long who is the Athletics Director at Arkansas when Arkansas' programs merged. That's a long-term proposition. It has to be done correctly. Again, I would want input from Joan and people in the department. I have some ideas and some concepts on how that should unfold but I want there to be good dialogue before we arrive at the final destination."

Q: What are your thoughts on SEC expansion?

DH: I'll do this (makes motion as if to turn it over to Dr. Cheek).

JC: "I think we said it real clearly when the SEC presidents and chancellors met recently, we would prefer to stay at 12. If something happens, then we have to reconsider that and we don't know what implications that would have for us."

Q: How difficult is it to expand a conference?

DH: "It is very difficult. It is so complex. It's not just moving in that direction (to) conference realignment. It's deciding on divisions. It's deciding on rivalries. It gets extremely complex, having been through the process in the Atlantic Coast Conference going from nine teams to 12. If indeed this becomes a reality, certainly it will cause a ripple effect without a doubt across the country."

 
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