When Tennessee senior associate athletic director David Blackburn visited the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Monday, he said that after 22 years at UT he felt ready "to be a leader and to run the athletics department" at UTC.
It appears he will have a chance to prove it. Sources familiar with the athletic director search told the Times Free Press on Friday that Blackburn has been offered the job. As of Friday night negotiations were ongoing, but a contract had not been signed.
An introductory news conference could be held as soon as Tuesday.
The three finalists for the position were Blackburn, former Middle Tennessee State and North Carolina State athletic director Lee Fowler and Wake Forest's Mike Buddie, who withdrew from the search Thursday. Blackburn, 47, is a 1990 UT graduate from Loudon.
UTC has been without a full-time athletic director since Rick Hart left for Southern Methodist University last July. Senior associate AD and senior woman administrator Laura Herron has served as the interim AD since Hart's departure.
Blackburn has had an extensive range of responsibilities in his two decades at UT, including working as Phillip Fulmer's director of football operations, directing the development office and serving as the senior associate AD for administration, which included overseeing the football program.
According to his UT biography, during his time in development total athletic gifts went from $19.5 million in 2003 to more than $41 million in 2007.
Blackburn said Monday that UTC and Chattanooga have a lot to offer.
"I see a lot of potential here as a vibrant school in a vibrant town, with an athletics department that's poised to make a huge step forward," he said.
The Tennessee athletic department has a budget of nearly $100 million, while UTC's is around $12 million. Those numbers are very different, but Blackburn said Monday that the "fundamentals on how to manage money and budgets are the same, whether you're talking about a lot of money or a little."
Former UTC football offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield, who left in December for the same job at Temple University, has known Blackburn for many years. Their fathers were high school football coaches in Loudon County, and Satterfield credited Blackburn with getting him a graduate assistant job at UT early in his career.
The UTC job is one that Blackburn has had his eye on for a while, Satterfield said.
"I remember being in Knoxville and him talking about how he'd love to be the AD in Chattanooga. He was always looking at it as a destination," Satterfield said. "He's got a plan and he's got the resources and experience to execute the plan. If this gets done, I can't wait to watch and see what happens over the next couple of years."
There won't be much of a honeymoon period for Blackburn. Right away he will have to begin the process of filling the men's and women's basketball coaching positions.
"That would be No. 1 because of the timing of it," he said Monday.
Blackburn also said he can get up to speed quickly on the Southern Conference's search for new members following the departures of College of Charleston, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. The league's nine remaining schools are expected to vote on new members at the spring meetings in Hilton Head, S.C., in late May.
UTC received more than 60 applications for the AD job after Hart's departure. The search was halted for several months after Roger Brown stepped down as chancellor in September. It resumed shortly after Dr. Steve Angle was approved as chancellor by the UT board of trustees on March 1.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.