Tennessee has new AD: Up, up and away they go

Marvin Westwestwords

I salute Randy Boyd and Donde Plowman. Tennessee has an almost-instant athletics director with valid credentials three days after the housecleaning. That says university leadership isn’t sleeping much and is clearly focused on the future.


Wouldn’t it be something if Danny White, 40, has a short list of capable coaching candidates and can immediately contribute to Phase 3 of Volunteer recovery? White may not be a miracle worker but he accomplished some interesting things at Central Florida.

Danny White

Tennessee has never had a sports manager like this. Danny’s dad is just finishing up as athletics director at Duke. His brother is basketball coach of the Florida Gators. Another brother is athletics director at Florida Atlantic. His sister is assistant AD at SMU.

Danny played basketball at Towson State and Notre Dame. He majored in business administration at South Bend. He has a master’s degree from Ohio University’s famous school of sports administration. He earned a doctorate at Ole Miss.

Before Central Florida, White was athletics director at Buffalo. He hired Bobby Hurley and then Nate Oats as basketball coaches. Hurley went on to Arizona State. Oats is now coach at Alabama.

White brought in Scott Frost as football coach and Johnny Dawkins as basketball coach at Central Florida. Frost went undefeated and moved on to Nebraska.

Exciting, isn’t it? Who wants to be the Tennessee coach?

What comes after that won’t be so nice and easy. Boyd and Plowman are demanding integrity in Tennessee athletics. Integrity is very expensive. Some key sophomores are hitting the road – with good reason. Things are going to be different from now on. Well, for a while, anyway.

The NCAA will have an opinion. Some prospective coaches may shy away. Recruiting will be challenging. Losing may continue for a day or three.

I am old but I am not totally out of touch. Naïve, maybe, to some extent, but don’t tell me everybody is doing it, you have to cheat to win. There are probably three or four regulars in the top 25 who are clean. Enough.

Flaunting the rules and flagrantly cheating is simply not acceptable. It is thumbing the nose at the establishment – and payday. Cheating and losing is really dumb.

In Tennessee’s case, there is more than enough dumb to go around.

Start at the beginning. Phillip Fulmer made a poor choice. Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t ready for prime time. He had heard all about how Bear Bryant did it and he had up-close knowledge of the Nick Saban way. Jeremy decided he would be one, in charge, firm in his convictions, a champion to be.

Pruitt was stubborn without portfolio. He didn’t know what he was doing and he was blunt about it. He made no effort to adapt. He cuffed around our language and didn’t give a snap. Take it or leave it. From what I hear, he had a comparable regard for associates. They came and went.

Jeremy was 90 percent wrong to try to play as Alabama played a decade ago. He didn’t have Alabama-type players. The second offensive coordinator might have delivered an offense if the head coach had gotten out of the way. There is no such explanation for defective defense. Pruitt was the resident expert.

Halftime in this case study: You ain’t seen nothing yet.

It could be only a coincidence but three of those sophomores who are moving on had direct recruiting connections to Brian Niedermeyer, one of the assistant coaches suddenly unemployed.

Brian was credited as the primary or secondary recruiter for seven signees in the 2019 class. He was the main man in closing the deal for five-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright of Huntington, W. Va., four-star linebacker Henry To’o To’o of Concord, Calif., and four-star linebacker Quavaris Crouch of Charlotte.

Niedermeyer was national recruiter of the year. Amazing. How did he do that?

It is too early to guess what NCAA punishment Tennessee will receive. We hear the original fire alarm came from inside the walls. The investigation went from conscientious to professional. Full confession and remedial action followed. UT will eventually impose other penalties.

Tennessee has limited experience with NCAA justice. The historical main event was a double-header featuring Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl. Among the sidelights were Vol Hostesses, Willie Mack Garza, a backyard barbecue and assorted falsehoods.

Football got three years of probation. Garza got a three-year show-cause penalty. The girls’ group was disbanded. Pearl got five yearsAssistants suffered for trying to cover for the boss.

In 1986, Tennessee was handed one year of probation for improper benefits during campus recruiting. That was low-key.

There was an investigation in Mobile of how Tee Martin got to Tennessee. There was a Bernard King transcript question in New York. Both were explained away.

Tennessee was once called onto the NCAA carpet about summer camps. John Majors wasn’t particularly impressed with the UT defense. The coach announced that he would take charge of “how we handle it” the next time Tennessee had a problem.

Dr. Joe Johnson, then UT president, stopped the conversation: “John, if there is a next time, you won’t be part of we.”

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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