KNOXVILLE - Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart broke his silence this afternoon.
Since Hart took the Volunteers' top position in September, UT's football program lost three blowouts and ended the season with an ugly loss to Kentucky for the program's first consecutive losing seasons in 100 years.
Hart sat down with the Times Free Press for interview on Thursday afternoon for nearly half an hour, and much of the discussion was the rebuilding football program and coach Derek Dooley.
"No season where you lose more than you win is acceptable because I think you do have to set standards, and I think the bar has to be high because if it's not, complacency sets in," Hart said. "I think people need to know what the expectations are, and we'll be very specific about expectations across the spectrum of our athletics program. Obviously when you have a season that results in more losses than wins, then no, that's not acceptable to anybody. It's not acceptable to Derek, it's not acceptable to anybody who touches the program: players, coaches, support staff. That's very obvious."
Hart spoke of an "expectation of winning," which he said was lacking for the Vols' football, men's basketball and baseball programs as they face the early phases of respective rebuilding projects. Growing up in an athletic family, Hart has seen the pressures of the win-now mentality and its effects. The former athletic director at Florida State said there has to be a balance of patience as an athletic director in handling the situation the Vols' football program is currently facing.
"I think you do have to be realistic because I think Derek and Cuonzo [Martin] and Dave [Serrano], they are facing rebuilding projects," Hart said. "This is not a magic wand, snap your fingers, it's fixed and let's move down the road. I think part of the success I've witnessed over the years being a part of those programs that have had a lot of success, they had a great foundation, they had resources, they built an expectation of success and confidence within those programs.
"I think this, we're not young anymore in football. We're not young anymore. While it is realistic and it is factual to say that we have fielded an inexperienced team the last year or two, we're not going to field inexperienced teams anymore. Those are the kinds of things you have to sit down, talk about and assess. I have thoroughly enjoyed Derek Dooley. I think Derek Dooley has the skill sets to be a highly successful coach."
Plenty more from the TFP's conversation with Hart is ahead. Follow Vols beat writer Patrick Brown on Twitter for more updates.