Nov. 16, 2011
BY JOHN PAINTER
Christine Scollay knew a good thing when she saw it -- or at least when she heard about it.
Tennessee's director for the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatics Center came to UT in 2008 even before the swimming and diving showplace was completed. She said it sounded like too great an opportunity to pass up.
"I was at the University of Georgia and (UT assistant athletics director) Todd Dooley did a cold call there asking if I knew anyone who would be interested in applying for a job," Scollay said. "That day, I told him I wasn't interested but I kept him on the phone for about a half-hour talking about the job."
Scollay hung up the phone, thought about Dooley's comments over the weekend and then changed her mind.
"That Monday morning I sent in my application and the rest is history," she said. "I sent an email to Gary Wyant saying, `Please, please, please will you accept this application? I know it's the last second but I'm really interested.'"
Wyant was Tennessee's senior associate athletics director at the time in charge of the aquatics center project. Apparently, Wyant liked what he read from Scollay's résumé.
"It all went really fast from there," Scollay said of the interview process. "I decided this would be a really cool place and I'm glad it all worked out."
"One of the nice things for me was the building was still under construction," she said. "I enjoyed coming in and opening up a new facility and starting the staff from scratch, putting it all together and seeing what I came out with as an end result."
The outcome is 30 weekends of events a year inside the $24 million facility.
"We do a lot of major events and we do some small ones," Scollay said. "We have high school swimming, so we'll have dual meets between high schools on the weekends. We also host birthday parties.
"Large and small, it's probably 30 weekends out of 52."
"It's a huge deal and we're really excited about it," Scollay said. "UT last hosted SECs in 2006, before I got here, but that was in the old building so this will be a completely new experience for everybody."
Scollay says hosting so many big-time competitions during her three years here has prepared not only her but her staff for the upcoming SEC meet.
"We hosted the NCAA Division III national championships last year, and that event probably had more people than we will get for SECs," Scollay said. "But it definitely was a good warm-up for my staff as far as what to expect. It's going to be a great event."
UT's state-of-the-art facility boasts a 50-meter competition pool, separate diving well, strength training center, sports medicine facility and high-tech timing room. The separate competition diving well features five platforms varying in height from 1 to 10 meters.
Other amenities include permanent seating for 1,284 spectators, with a spacious deck area to accommodate up to 2,000 additional individuals, teams and other personnel comfortably during meets.
"Ours is also the only facility we know of that is athletics owned. Everyone else shares with recreational sports and physical education. We are on our own, which is an excellent feature for us."
Scollay grew up in Simsbury, Conn., about 10 miles northwest of Hartford. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of New Hampshire and completed graduate school at Georgia. Her first fulltime position in collegiate athletics was at Miami of Ohio before she returned to Georgia's swimming and diving facility for eight years.
Scollay's responsibility at UT covers nearly everything inside the walls of the Jones Aquatics Center, from oversight of maintenance, custodians and life guards - which are always on duty when swimmers are in the water - to just keeping the building operational.
"I also bring in events whenever possible. It's a little bit of everything," Scollay said.
As for the job's most rewarding aspect, Scollay says it always comes down to the students.
"I enjoy the logistics of events, but I really love working with the student employees," she said. "We have about 50 and it's really rewarding to see them take on responsibility and watch them grow. That's one of my favorite parts."