KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The University of Tennessee announced Thursday that Athletic Director Dave Hart is retiring.
The university said Hart’s retirement was his decision and will be effective June 30, 2017, 14 months before his contract his up. Hart has served in the position since 2011. He makes $622,000 per year and $800,000 in total compensation.
Hart said his focus won’t change and he feels like he has left the department in good shape. He said the move was partly based on Chancellor Jimmy Cheek’s retirement. He wanted the new person who steps into the roll of chancellor to pick who they want in the leadership roll.
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“Sometimes you just know when it’s time,” said Hart. “It was extraordinary important to me to tell our staff first. We were able to do that this morning. We had a terrific staff meeting this morning and I’m appreciative it happened that way. Not easy in 2016 with social media!”
Talking about some of the issues that have plagued his career, Hart said some of his biggest challenges included the merger of the men’s and women’s athletics programs and the elimination of the Lady Vols name. He also talked about the challenges he faced getting Tennessee’s football program back in a good place.
“We knew number one that we needed to get football healthy and Butch Jones has done that,” said Hart. “I think sometimes people don’t realize how difficult it was to get this program back in shape.” He says he believes football will lift all sports at the university.
“As I thought about finishing this job well and how extremely proud I am of what everyone in our department has contributed collectively to get us to where we are today, I decided that this was a good time to set a target to wrap up my career as a Director of Athletics,” said Hart. “My intent is to retire from the role as Athletics Director on June 30, not to retire in the purest sense of the word. There will be another challenge out there. I plan to continue to assist and inspire people in some manner moving forward. Right now, I am excited about what this year has in store for us on Rocky Top.”
Hart said the school will finish its three-year fundraising campaign in the fall which has helped facilities on campus. Chancellor Jimmy Cheek accepted Hart’s decision. The school will be selecting a new director at the end of the academic year.
“Dave’s greatest accomplishment is making UT a student-athlete-focused department. His drive for comprehensive excellence has touched all facets of athletics,” said Cheek. “Our student athletes have the highest overall grade point average in the history of the program, exceeding a 3.0 and fundraising is having a record year. He has restructured the department for greater efficiency and created a long-term sustainable financial model.”
UT President Joe DiPietro said, “I appreciate Dave’s decision and his willingness to work with us as we recruit a new Chancellor and a new athletics director.”