UTC hires Mark Wharton from Penn State as new athletic director

Mark Wharton

Going into last weekend, it was evident to many around the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus that Mark Wharton was the right choice to become the school's new vice chancellor and athletic director.

Wharton, already named as one of the four finalists, was the second candidate last week to get his chance to tour the school and meet the staff. Georgia's Jim Booz was first, coming on Aug. 14; Wharton a day later, followed by Duke's Gerald Harrison the next day and Marshall's Jeff O'Malley on Friday.

Yet some people's minds were made up Wednesday, once they had met with Wharton.

"He had a presence," one UTC official said.

"I thought he was the most polished, by far," said another.

photo Mark Wharton

Ultimately, the university agreed, naming the Penn State associate athletic director for development UTC's new athletic director Tuesday. He succeeds David Blackburn, who resigned in June after four successful years with the school.

Wharton will be introduced today at 2 p.m. at the Chattanooga Room in the University Center, with community members, fans and supporters invited to attend.

"I am extremely excited that Mark and his family are joining the Chattanooga community," UTC chancellor Dr. Steve Angle said in a school release. "He brings a wealth of knowledge and experiences in collegiate athletics administration to our university, and his expertise in fundraising fits perfectly with the needs of our athletics program."

During his four years at Penn State, Wharton was a member of the executive committee for the departmental strategic plan, the facilities master plan committee and the communications committee and developed revenue generations plans for the athletic department leadership team. According to UTC's release, he oversaw a staff of 23 who catered to the 23,000-member Nittany Lion Club. He helped bring in $38 million in total cash and support at Penn State, including $17.35 million in annual fund donations.

He also had specific sports responsibilties for wrestling and men's basketball. The wrestling program won three NCAA championships during his tenure, while the men's basketball team has had two top-30 recruiting classes in the last three seasons.

Wharton thanked Dr. Angle and Dr. Debbie Ingram, the search committee chair, while stating he was "humbled" by his new position.

"UTC has a strong history of athletic success and high academic achievement in the classroom," Wharton said in the announcement release. "I am excited to work with an outstanding group of coaches and administrators to ensure sustained excellence for all our student-athletes in the classroom, on their respective fields of play and in the community. My family and I cannot wait to call Chattanooga home."

Penn State student-athletes posted a 3.11 aggregate grade point average during his time there, with an 89 percent graduation success rate. All athletic programs at Penn State exceed the NCAA Academic Progress Rate standards.

From 2006 to 2013, Wharton was the assistant athletic director/executive director of the East Carolina University Educational Foundation (Pirate Club). He helped grow the club into one of the strongest mid-major booster groups in the country, now totaling more than 17,000 members.

From 2004 to 2006, Wharton was the associate athletic director for development at UNLV. His implementation of a new annual giving campaign in 2004, entitled the "The Representative Program," increased annual giving nearly 22 percent and resulted in a 15 percent climb in Rebel Athletic Fund donors.

Prior to his stint at UNLV, Wharton spent 13 years in full-time development, ticketing or marketing roles in upper administration positions at UNC-Asheville (2003-04), James Madison (2000-03) and East Carolina (1996-2000). He was a front-office member of the Kinston Indians baseball club from 1991 to 1994.

Wharton earned his bachelor's degree in leisure studies from East Carolina in 1993 and a master's degree in human ecology with an emphasis in sport management from Tennessee in 1995. He is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and the National Association of Athletic Development Directors.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.