By Steve Williams
It’s time to take a look at John Currie’s first 100 days as the University of Tennessee’s new athletics director.
I like him … so far. And I was pulling for Phillip Fulmer and/or David Blackburn to get the gig.
Kudos to UT-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport on her selection, even if Currie wasn’t her first choice. Bev, you know, sometimes it’s good to be lucky.
Anyway, Currie made a good first impression when he actually stopped in Memphis and did a little AD work the day before April 1 when his contract officially went into effect and he had that early morning cup of coffee with football coach Butch Jones.
Currie may not be from nearby Loudon as Blackburn is or even Winchester where Fulmer grew up, but he did go to school at UT and he previously worked in the UTAD, so he qualifies as a UT guy, which this fan base longed for and this department much needed. Furthermore, he didn’t go to Alabama.
I’ve never met Currie, so all I know about him is what I see and hear. He is in the prime of his career, young enough to be energetic and experienced enough to make good decisions, which his job requires. He even has a sign on his desk that guides him when faced with tough decisions – “Will it help us win?”
Most Tennessee fans I believe are pulling for Currie to make UT athletics prominent once again on the SEC and national all-sports scenes. I was glad he said UT’s 46th place finish in the Directors’ Cup was unacceptable.
It’s refreshing how Currie has opened communication lines with Tennessee fans with his open “Hey John!” letters, and I hope he will get back with us soon with more on the Lady Vol nickname controversy. What would Pat want? That’s worth taking into consideration.
Currie already has made a couple of coaching changes. The one in men’s tennis was rather surprising, but I believe it sent a message through the entire athletics department.
His new baseball hire appears to be a good one. Even Chris Burke, a VFL and candidate for the position, said so.
Some say Butch Jones is on the “hot seat,” but Currie appears to be in his corner for now. Jones has done a lot of good in improving the football program since he started. An excessive amount of injuries to key players really hurt the team last season.
But in my opinion, Butch also has lost some games during his time here that he should have won because of his game day decisions. Hopefully, he will improve in this area. Stability would be much better for the football program than another coaching change.
Maybe with Fulmer being officially around the program as a special advisor to the president for community, athletics and university relations will present an opportunity to exchange ideas and coaching philosophy with Jones.
Basketball – the men’s and women’s programs – is another sport that needs to show greater success and I expect Currie will be monitoring the two closely.
A recent report revealed UT’s athletic budget ranked in the Top 10 nationally. This university has the resources, the facilities and the fans to support big winners in all sports.
I believe Currie knows that and how to make it happen.
So far, so good.