John Currie officially began his tenure as Tennessee’s athletic director on Saturday, April 1st. Coincidentally, April Fools Day is also Currie’s birthday, and now it will go down in Tennessee history as the day Currie took over from the Dave Hart regime.
Currie already has a lot on his plate as Tennessee’s new athletic director, and his biggest responsibility will be making sure Tennessee’s athletic programs are up to par with the rest of the SEC and the country.
One of Currie’s main jobs as athletic director is to evaluate Tennessee’s current head coaches across all sports. Currie has not had the chance to sit down and communicate with all of Tennessee’s coaches yet, but he offered up his take on some of them in an interview with Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal on the eve of his first day as UT’s AD.
Currie was asked his thoughts on where Tennessee’s football program stands right now and the job Butch Jones has done thus far. His response spoke favorably of Jones:
I’m excited to get to know Coach Jones. I know Friday was Pro Day on campus and people are talking about how many NFL scouts and coaches and general managers are at Tennessee. And a number of folks have remarked to me in the last 24 hours that four or five years ago there weren’t so many. So clearly Coach Jones has done a great job of getting the program going in the right direction and I’m excited to continue to get to know him better and find out how I can support him more.
Calkins would go on to ask Currie what he believed were reasonable expectations for Tennessee’s football program, and Currie would respond by saying Tennessee’s history is of “a championship-level program” and added that “that’s where you want to get to.”
“We’ve got to focus on where we are today,” Currie said, “and will we be better tomorrow, and continue to build through that process. We all know how competitive the conference is, and how competitive college football is.
“I think Coach Jones is on the right trajectory.”
But Butch Jones wasn’t the only coach Currie voiced confidence in. He also gave his support to current Lady Vols basketball head coach Holly Warlick.
“I’ve enjoyed reacquainting with Coach Warlick,” Currie stated. “Had a cup of coffee with her this week in her office…certainly the legacy of that program brings enormous pressure and enormous expectations.
“I think she’s going to continue to do a great job. We had a recruiting class that had four players in the McDonald’s All-American game, all in double figures, so I’m excited to get to know how I can help that program.”
Currie may be speaking highly of his current coaches now, but Vol fans have seen how quickly circumstances can change in just a year or two. Praise and support in the present can always turn into broken promises and loss of confidence in the future. And Currie is aware that his tenure will ultimately be defined by the men and women he hires and fires to lead Tennessee’s athletic programs.
“The reality of it is, as an athletic director, a friend of mine used to say athletic directors are never celebrated, only tolerated,” Currie said. “The heroes are going to be our coaches and our student-athletes.
“You just hope to make the decisions the right way, with the right priorities, and you live with what happens. If I wasn’t willing to make those decisions, I wouldn’t be in this job. But as we make those decisions, we’ll continue to be guided by what’s in the best interests of the university and the student-athlete.”