HART IMPRESSED BY TENNESSEE'S COMMITMENT TO ATHLETICS
By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - It is often said that a major athletics department can serve as kind of a "front porch" for a prestigious university.
That statement holds true for the University of Tennessee and it's one of the primary reasons that Dave Hart was drawn to his new job.
Hart was introduced on Monday evening in the Stokely Athletics Center as the school's Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics, becoming the first person to direct a combined men's and women's athletics program at the University of Tennessee.
He is also the first athletics director of the Vols to have the title Vice Chancellor associated with his duties. Chancellor Jimmy Cheek expressed the importance of that new title on integrating a strong synergistic athletic and academic program.
"What we have to do is look to the future and I think our future on the academic side and the athletic side is very positive," Cheek said. "I think having this last piece, the new Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics, is a critical part so that he and his team can focus on being the very best athletic program in the country. And at the same time, the very best academic program that we can have in the country."
Hart understands the responsibility that a visible FBS athletics department has on shaping the image of a university.
"Athletics has never been, should not be and never will be the most important thing on a university campus, but it is absolutely the most visible element within the university structure," Hart said. "With that comes accountability and responsibility from everybody who touches the athletics department at the University of Tennessee because that is how people form their impressions come to the image that they want to apply about the university. Unfortunately, it's not through the many great things that the university has going on in many cases, but it is driven by the image that is demonstrated by the department of athletics."
That commitment to athletics is precisely one of the primary reasons that Cheek and his search committee were interested in bringing Hart aboard. His track record on the field also spoke for itself.
"He is a seasoned administrator," Cheek said of Hart. "He knows how to manage and lead athletic programs, coaches and staff. He has a strong commitment to academics. he has seen many championships and he wants to see a lot more right here in Tennessee."
Hart's dedication to academics was characterized during his time at Florida State by his initiation of a multi-faceted Student Development/Life Skills program for all student-athletes, an endeavor that was nationally recognized as a "Program of Excellence" by the Division I-A Athletics Directors Association. He spearheaded the rewriting of the department's mission statement to put the student-athlete at the core of the athletic department priorities in its goal to build comprehensive excellence throughout all components of the department.
A record number of FSU student-athletes made the Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll, were recipients of NCAA post-graduate scholarship awards and obtained degrees during Hart's time at Florida State. Student-athletes also contributed more than 5,000 hours in community service projects during his tenure.
What Tennessee has done with Hart's hire is to ensure not only success across the various athletics programs, but to guarantee achievement in all areas of the complete student-athlete experience. That type of commitment is the essence upon which collegiate athletics was founded.