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‘Everybody knows we need to get back’ – The Athletic

The University of Tennessee is the only school in the country that can claim a football bowl game, NCAA Tournament bids for men’s and women’s basketball and a College World Series appearance in baseball in the calendar year of 2021, all of which makes for a pretty successful first year for athletic director Danny White.

That anniversary is Friday, and right now the Vols also can boast about the No. 1 men’s tennis team in the country, two more pending NCAA hoops bids — with Kellie Harper’s team at No. 5 in the nation, 17-1 and perhaps on its way to special things — the highest Graduation Success Rate (91 percent) in school history and a lot of reasons for 2022 football excitement. The complaints about White’s decision to hire Josh Heupel, his football coach at UCF, have turned to commendations.

But the job remains massive. The numbers that best convey where White wants to take UT come from the USA Today 2020 database on college athletics budgets from the 2018-19 school year, the last one unaffected by COVID-19. Tennessee ranks 16th nationally and eighth in the SEC — and 10th if you want to include incoming members Texas and Oklahoma — with a budget of $143 million. Texas is tops at $223 million, followed by Texas A&M at $212 million, and that’s the neighborhood White is eyeing. It’s more than a few blocks of walking away.

He came to Tennessee with a reputation for discovering coaching talent, and in future years that will be put to the test. The reputation for being a fundraising dynamo required instant validation.

There are more than 260,000 living UT alumni, and the school reports 12,500 active members of the Tennessee Fund. That leaves a whole bunch of potential, as-yet untapped help. White launched the Shareholders Society in April, an upper crust of donors that requires a commitment of at least $25,000 over five years to belong.

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