Johnny Majors endorses the recent hiring of John Currie as Tennessee’s next director of athletics for a variety of reasons.
Currie comes back to Tennessee after being Kansas State’s athletics director since 2009. Before heading to Manhattan, Kan., Currie earned his master’s degree and served in various capacities at Tennessee from 1997-2009. His job titles while in Knoxville included time in external operations, development, marketing and ticket operations.
During Currie’s introductory press conference March 2, Majors — the former Tennessee All-American and Heisman Trophy runner-up (1956) and three-time SEC championship head coach –was in attendance.
“I listened to Currie talk, and he has energy, intelligence and enthusiasm,” Majors told Saturday Down South.
One of the factors up for public debate was if the hire should be a Tennessee guy. Chattanooga’s athletics director and Tennessee graduate David Blackburn, and former Vols player, assistant and head coach Phillip Fulmer were among the front-runners. Non-Tennessee candidates included current North Carolina athletics director and former Ball State and Tulsa athletics director Bubba Cunningham, and former Wofford and TCU athletics director and Southern Conference commissioner Danny Morrison — who resigned as president of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers on Feb. 9.
“To me, I don’t think it’s near as important to be a Tennessee guy as it is in getting the right person,” Majors said. “I know people are talking about that, but Currie has a very good background.”
Part of Currie’s background includes raising money. Currie had Kansas State as the only university in Kansas and one of 24 schools in the country to operate with positive earnings after accounting for all expenses. He did so without any state tax or university tuition dollars or subsidies, saving an expense that had been about $3 million annually.
“He has a very good background in raising money at Kansas State,” Majors said. “Being the leader of their athletic program, Kansas State, is certainly a challenge – they’re all challenging – but Kansas State is a challenging place to build championships, and certainly in football.
“They have good basketball teams and other good sports, but I was in the Big Eight for five years at Iowa State and I know that is a challenging job. Currie’s ability to raise money is absolutely outstanding with the amount he raised there. He appears to be very aggressive, energetic, knowledgeable and very confident. He has a good, strong background to have a winning championship job here, in my observations.”
Part of Currie’s accomplishments at Kansas State included completing $210 million in facility improvements, all privately funded. During his tenure, the Vanier Family Football Complex, West Stadium Center, Basketball Training Facility, Intercollegiate Rowing Facility, Mike Goss Tennis Stadium, and soccer and football practice fields were built or renovated.
Athletic academics is also a top priority for Tennessee’s incoming athletics director. Kansas State saw all athletic programs with multi-year APR marks of at least .944 and one-half of all 450-plus Kansas State student-athletes earning a 3.0 GPA or higher in the past academic year.
Having Currie’s experience in making finances work with facility upgrades comes at a key time for Tennessee. UT completed a nine-month feasibility study in October 2016 for completing renovations to Neyland Stadium. The focus is to have the south side of the stadium on par with the renovated north side, with phase one set to begin after the 2018 season.
Currie officially takes the reins of Volunteers athletics on April 1.