David Blackburn is the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's new athletic director. His hiring was made official Saturday after he was offered the job Friday, and he's ready to get to work.
The longtime Tennessee senior associate athletic director will start Wednesday and there's much work to be done, he told the Times Free Press.
"Chattanooga's very familiar to me. I grew up an hour from there, and I've always thought it would be a great place to live and to work," the 47-year-old Loudon native said in a phone interview. "I just never in my wildest dreams anticipated that my first few days on the job I've got to hire a men's and a women's basketball coach."
Blackburn, who spent 22 years working in UT's athletic department, is a first-time athletic director as well as a UTC vice chancellor. He replaces Rick Hart, who left UTC in July for the AD job at SMU.
Chancellor-elect Dr. Steve Angle said Blackburn was everything he and interim chancellor Grady Bogue were looking for in a candidate.
"We looked at the whole package -- compliance, ability to live up to the intent and spirit and letter of the NCAA, and what's expected by the Chattanooga community and the university -- and David had on every level excelled," Angle said in a phone interview. "It was just the total package, and he fit with the position and the community."
Angle said Blackburn will have a four-year contract and a salary of $185,000. Blackburn was making $170,000 at Tennessee, according to a Knoxville News-Sentinel report.
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. Angle praised the search committee for its extensive work and for picking three high-quality finalists.
"It was a really strong pool and I think David excelled in every category," Angle said.
After being introduced at a reception Tuesday, Blackburn will turn his attention to running the athletic department. Laura Herron, UTC's interim AD since July, said the to-do list is already rather long.
Starting the coaching searches is the first priority. UTC already has sent out bid requests to search firms, Herron said. Blackburn has a plan, he said, but not a specific timeline for the searches.
"It's more important to get it right than to get it quick, although timing is of the essence," he said. "It is a tough time of year to be doing this, so we do need to move fairly quickly. I've already begun formulating a strategy for how to execute it in a quick fashion.
"I think we'll get some great candidates for both the women's job and the men's job. We just need to be diligent about picking the right ones."
Blackburn said he has no immediate plans to make any changes in the athletic department's staff.
"I think it would be wise for me to just come in and listen to them and live in that world and assess," he said.
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