University of Tennessee senior associate athletic director David Blackburn, one of three finalists for the UTC athletic director job, visited campus Monday. The Times Free Press asked him three questions, which also will be posed this week to fellow finalists Mike Buddie of Wake Forest and former Middle Tennessee State and North Carolina State athletic director Lee Fowler.
1. What draws you to UTC?
"One, after 22 years of experience, I feel competent to be a leader and to run the athletics department. Two, I'm somewhat from here - I'm from Loudon, which is fairly close - and I'm familiar with the area. I know a lot of people in the area, and I relate to and am very familiar with the culture. I see a lot of potential here as a vibrant school, a vibrant town, and I see an athletics department that is poised to make a huge step forward."
2. How big of a challenge will it be to go from a big-time school with a big budget to an athletic department with an operating budget of about $12 million?
"The challenge is a couple of things. Your fundamentals on how to manage money and budgets are the same, whether you're talking about a lot of money or a little. The fundamentals have to be there, and you have to have the courage to be fiscally responsible. Having said that, though, there's a large growth potential here for revenue generation and resource growth. And there's a large potential for marketing and promoting the programs. I certainly think we can grow those revenues significantly."
3. What's the biggest challenge or issue in college sports today, especially for mid-majors like UTC?
"Right now I think it's some of the conference conversation. We'd need to make sure that Chattanooga has a large stature in whatever league it's in - certainly in the Southern Conference it needs to have a place and be in a league that's very healthy. I think that's one of the front things."