Wiedmer: UTC makes right hire with Mark Wharton

Wiedmer: UTC makes right hire with Mark Wharton

August 24th, 2017 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

New UTC athletic director Mark Wharton meets Mocs mascot Scrappy after Wharton's introductory news conference Wednesday.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Mark Wharton is new UTC athletic director

more photos

Related Article

Stretch of big changes for UTC ends with introduction of athletic director Mark Wharton

Read more

Long before Mark Wharton accepted his new job as University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic director, he began hearing what a special place it was from the most successful men's basketball coach the Mocs have ever had — Mack McCarthy.

"Every conversation with Mack always came back to Chattanooga," said Wharton, who worked with McCarthy during Mack's stint as the East Carolina University men's basketball coach, then worked over him when the architect of UTC's 1997 Sweet 16 run transitioned into fundraising at ECU.

"And he always had great things to say about this place," Wharton added.

Early Wednesday morning, with Wharton still six hours from being introduced to the public and the media, McCarthy had some equally great things to say about his former boss, who succeeds David Blackburn, who resigned in June to pursue other interests.

"First, he's a really nice guy," McCarthy said. "He couldn't have been better to me and for me during the time we were together here. But more importantly, he's very supportive of coaches. He listens. He understands what obstacles they'll need to overcome to be successful. He's really a coach's AD."

Related Article

New UTC athletic director brings experience with budgets big and small

Read more

He certainly sounded like it shortly after his formal news conference. Asked about the stalled fundraising for the athletic complex all of the UTC coaches want and need — but especially the football staff — Wharton replied, "Number one, we need to finish that."

And after that?

"A needs assessment for the whole department."

This is routine stuff for any new AD. Especially one with the fundraising history of Wharton, who has raised impressive money everywhere he's ever been, be it East Carolina, UNLV, UNC-Asheville, James Madison or his most recent gig at Penn State. At the latter, he helped raise $38 million in total cash despite the school's struggles to overcome the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal that rocked the entire university just before Wharton arrived.

And just so people understand he knows at least a little bit about the state he'll now call home, Wharton earned a master's degree from the University of Tennessee.

But while McCarthy deserves much credit for at least subliminally planting a seed that Chattanooga was a great place to live and work, UTC chancellor Steven Angle also deserves much praise — along with search committee chair Debbie Ingram — for recognizing Wharton's skill set and fundraising experience were crucial to this job at this time.

And in all fairness to Blackburn, the school had moved athletic department fundraising under the wing of the UTC Foundation and its director, Bryan Rowland, long before Blackburn left. This isn't to say the $12 million to $14 million needed for the athletic complex would have been raised had Blackburn remained in charge of acquiring donations for that project. It doesn't mean Rowland should have done more.

It does mean a fresh face and ideas — McCarthy praised Wharton as a "creative revenue generator" — couldn't have come along at a better time.

Beyond that, as McCarthy noted, "the rest of the athletic department has never been in better shape. There are a lot of talented people already in place who've done a tremendous job."

Perhaps that's why Angle observed: "(Wharton) brings the perfect match of experience, personality and vision. His skill set is the right one for us at this time."

Raising money isn't all he's good at, of course.

Wharton's 14-year-old daughter Taylor — she will attend Signal Mountain High School and hopes to be both a cheerleader and a track and field athlete — said her father is "very social."

His wife Angela — like Wharton, she is a North Carolina native — said her husband is "a great storyteller." She said he likes to have "a project going all the time. He has a lot of energy."

She also touted his grilling skills, which he said leaned toward, "Kabobs, seafood and steak."

All of this versatility is bound to come in handy as Wharton takes over the UTC athletic family. And he does not sound like a man who intends to slowly make his mark.

"I want to do something in the first 100 days that shows we're serious," he told the welcoming crowd of 100 or so at the University Center. "I haven't figured out what that is yet, but I will and you'll see it."

That single quote, a plan to make an immediate statement about his leadership, is both refreshing and re-invigorating for all who fear this athletic department has grown stale, despite all of its recent winning on its various fields and courts.

"I haven't mentioned anything about winning," Wharton noted at one point. "Winning's not a goal, it's an expectation."

For now, of course, these are all just words, powerful and promising though they may be.

But McCarthy knows the man behind those words far better than most of us.

"Mark's obviously great at fundraising, but he's so much more than that," McCarthy said. "He's the perfect hire for UTC right now."

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

Related Article

UTC hires Mark Wharton from Penn State as new athletic director

Read more
Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com