(This is the first in a two-part series on an interview with Kevin White, father of Tennessee’s new athletic director Danny White. You can hear the interview at 991thesportsanimal.com)
Kevin White has worked in athletic administration for 38 years.
An athletic director at Maine, Tulane, Arizona State, Notre Dame and Duke – he is retiring from Duke in August – White advised his five children not to follow in his footsteps.
Four ignored him.
“If Jane (Kevin’s wife) and I had encouraged them to come into this space,’’ Kevin White said in an exclusive interview with WNML radio, “we’d be 0-for-5 instead of 4-for-5.’’
Kevin wanted Mike and Danny to explore Wall Street and Brian to look beyond the education sector. He hoped Mariah would go to law school.
Mike is the men’s basketball coach at Florida, Danny the recently hired athletic director at Tennessee. Brian is athletic director at Florida Atlantic. Mariah is assistant athletic director at SMU.
Danny is a rising star in the profession, having great success at Buffalo and Central Florida before landing the Tennessee job.
“I could not be more proud of Danny,’’ said Kevin, “and quite frankly, I thought he did a brilliant job at UCF in Orlando. And my strong sense is he will bring that same degree of passion and intensity to the University of Tennessee.’’
Kevin White has high praise for Tennessee. As a high school track coach in the 1970s, Kevin brought his team to UT when the Vols track coach was Stan Huntsman. He was smitten with everything about UT.
“It was goose bumps for me just to be on that campus,’’ Kevin White said.
Danny White said Tennessee is still a great brand – it just needs some polishing.
Kevin White agrees.
“Tennessee is still Tennessee,’’ Kevin White said. “It’s one of those magical places. It’s a magical institution with a pinnacle level.
“It’s special, it’s incredibly special. And that’s why I’ve assigned the tag to it: Magical. It’s that and more.’’
It might take a magical effort by Danny White to restore a football brand that has been tarnished recently by eight losing season in 13 years — it had four in the previous 43 years. And in the past dozen years, Tennessee has had six football coaches and five athletic directors.
It has been a model of instability.
And it is currently conducting an in-house investigation into NCAA violations that were serious enough to fire third-year football coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Kevin White is confident his son can get the job done at Tennessee.
“I think he is the right guy at the right moment and, in my view, it’s a commensurate challenge with the kind of skills and aspirations that he brings to your community,’’ Kevin White said.
Asked the best advice he has given to his children, Kevin White said it was to allow them to “chart their own path,“ saying he and his wife have not been “helicopter parents.
“We’ve worked really hard to not drive them to a certain set of decisions. And we’ve tried to get them to think about things on their own and make their own choices.
“There’s a lot of areas where I wish I had done a lot of things differently and better, but that’s one thing I would say (I did well is) allowing them to be who they are, to be comfortable in their own skin, and quite frankly, to be authentic., and to follow their dreams.’’