The concurrent searches for new University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's and women's basketball coaches are progressing and should be wrapped up within the next week or so, new athletic director David Blackburn said Monday.
Speaking to an attentive audience of more than 100 Chattanooga Quarterback Club members and guests, Blackburn talked about his past, his goals for UTC and more during a 40-minute talk in the Stadium Club at Finley Stadium.
Before anyone could ask a question about the searches, Blackburn gave a brief and nameless progress report. He declined to mention names to protect "the integrity of the search and I wanted to protect the candidates' names also," he said afterward.
In his first public address since his introductory reception on April 24, Blackburn said of the searches, "It's all I've done" since starting work on April 25.
After the lunchtime address, Blackburn spoke with the media for several minutes. He said he still is interviewing candidates for the men's and women's jobs. He also said no candidates have been brought onto UTC's campus, and they may not before the hirings.
"That's not atypical in the athletic world," he said.
Blackburn, who is working with the Charlotte-based search firm Collegiate Sports Associates, said he hopes to have the searches down to the final two for each job in the next day or so.
"We want to get it down on both sides really tight here in the next 48 hours, and we hope to finalize it sometime this week," he said, adding that he's reluctant to put a specific timeline on it.
Of the quality and quantity of the coaches interested in both vacancies, Blackburn told the audience, "I've been very surprised - overwhelmed, to be honest with you - on both the men and the women's sides."
Blackburn said his first few weeks on the job have been "a bit of a whirlwind." During the Q&A portion of the talk, the Loudon native, who spent more than two decades at the University of Tennessee, didn't hesitate to say, "I don't know," when asked about something he hasn't yet had time to study. That happened on several occasions.
"It's a bit embarrassing, actually, but I'm not afraid to say, 'I don't know,' if I don't know," he said. "I don't want to fake it, and there's so many things that I haven't had the chance to know yet."
Among the topics covered either in his address or during the Q&A were scheduling and fundraising. Blackburn did a lot of fundraising during his time at Tennessee, and he said that's a high-priority area at UTC.
Speaking to a group that gives to UTC and is interested in the Mocs, Blackburn said "you guys are what allows us to do what we do." At the end, club president Doug Dyer handed Blackburn a donation to the athletic department from the Chattanooga Quarterback Club.
Like many other areas, Blackburn said he wanted to study UTC's fundraising before saying much publicly about what needs to be done in the future. He did say UTC needs to be a little more aggressive.
"It's not offensive to ask someone to give," he said. "In fact, I find that most people find that flattering if they care about the product."
When asked about the chances of playing against Tennessee more often - in all sports, but especially football and basketball - Blackburn said he hopes his UT connections can help facilitate matchups with numerous major-conference schools.
"I'd love nothing more than to get them in the arena and beat them," he said, drawing many murmurs of approval from the crowd.