Tennessee hires UCF's Danny White as AD at $1.8 million annually

AP file photo by Willie J. Allen Jr. / UCF athletic director Danny White, who has helped oversee a football program that has gone 41-8 since 2017, has agreed to become the new athletic director at Tennessee.
AP file photo by Willie J. Allen Jr. / UCF athletic director Danny White, who has helped oversee a football program that has gone 41-8 since 2017, has agreed to become the new athletic director at Tennessee.

The University of Tennessee didn't take long to find an athletic director, and a very recognizable one at that.

Danny White, who has overseen the University of Central Florida's rise to national prominence in college football, was hired Thursday to replace Phillip Fulmer, who announced Monday afternoon that he would be retiring. The 41-year-old White hails from quite the athletic family, with father Kevin having served as Duke's athletic director since 2008 and with older brother Mike navigating through his sixth season as Florida's men's basketball coach.

"Danny White is an innovative leader in college athletics with a strong track record in recruiting and developing leaders," Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman said Thursday through a university release. "He brings the combination of winning attitude, competitive drive, and dedication to integrity and academics that we are looking for. We undertook this search with urgency and found strong interest from a robust candidate pool, enabling us to act quickly and with great confidence.

"I'm proud to say we found our leader, and I'd like to thank President (Randy) Boyd, our trustees, and our staff for their support and hard work."

Boyd welcomed the hiring by stating, "The greatest decade in UT Athletics begins now."

White arrived at UCF in December 2015 from the University of Buffalo, where he had served as AD since November 2012. In March 2020, he signed a five-year extension that made him the Sunshine State's highest-paid AD at $1,081,500, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

His contract, per the Orlando Sentinel, calls for a $2.5 million buyout should a school hire him away before May 11, 2021. White will make a robust $1.8 million annually at Tennessee.

"I am thrilled to be headed to Knoxville and to a university with a great competitive tradition and a spirited and devoted fan base," White said in the release. "Volunteer fans have an expectation to win, and my first task will be taking on the search for a new head football coach, but I want all Vols to know that I am deeply committed to excellence in all of our athletic programs."

Fulmer, who announced his stepping aside in the same news conference in which head football coach Jeremy Pruitt and assistant coaches Shelton Felton and Brian Niedermeyer were terminated for significant NCAA rules violations, will receive $37,500 monthly through 2023, according to the university.

White produced right away on the coaching front at UCF, hiring Scott Frost in December 2015 to guide the Knights. They went 6-7 in 2016 before erupting for a 13-0 run during the 2017 season that was capped by a 34-27 topping of Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Since Auburn had whipped Alabama and Georgia - the teams that vied in that season's College Football Playoff final - several weeks earlier, White irked Crimson Tide and Southeastern Conference football fans by claiming UCF as the real national champion.

Frost left after the 2017 season for Nebraska, so White hired Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Huepel, who is 28-8 through his first three seasons. Huepel took the Knights to the Fiesta Bowl after the 2018 season, where they lost to LSU.

The UCF men's basketball program is headed by former Duke standout and former Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. The Knights made the most recent NCAA tournament in 2019 with a 24-9 record and have knocked off Auburn, Cincinnati and Oklahoma this season.

Respected also from a fundraising standpoint, White received $35.5 million in commitments for the 2020 fiscal year, which was more than four times what UCF athletics had raised four years earlier.

White played basketball at Towson University and then at Notre Dame, where he graduated in 2002. He earned master's degrees in business administration and sports administration from Ohio University before earning a doctorate in higher education from Ole Miss in 2016.

photo AP photo by Butch Dill / Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien looks up from the sideline during an NFL preseason game against the host New Orleans Saints on Aug. 26, 2017.

Bama hires O'Brien

Alabama confirmed the hiring of Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator Thursday night, with the former head coach for Penn State and the NFL's Houston Texans replacing Steve Sarkisian.

"He has a wealth of experience as both an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL and college," coach Nick Saban said in a release. "Bill is one of the brightest offensive minds in football, an outstanding teacher and excellent recruiter. He will strengthen our coaching staff and give our players the best possible chance to be successful."

Said O'Brien: "I have an incredible amount of admiration for the rich football tradition at this university and the success Coach Saban has had during his time in Tuscaloosa. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work with some of the best football players in the country, while helping to continue the success this program has enjoyed for many years."

O'Brien was 52-48 during his time with the Texans, leading them to four AFC South titles.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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