Jimmy’s blog: White will consult Vitello on where to play games

Jimmy Hyams

Danny White might be a new athletic director at Tennessee, but he knows how things work in the Vol Nation – and college athletics in general.

No. 1, he knows he has to figure out a way to keep baseball coach Tony Vitello from being poached by another school or White’s approval rate will dip drastically.

No. 2, he knows who to listen to when it comes to important baseball decisions.

Knoxville appears on the verge of building an 8,000-seat multipurpose facility downtown. Many have speculated that venue is where Tennessee will play SEC games while playing non-SEC games on campus.

During a Zoom call with the media Wednesday, White was asked which he is committed to.

“I’m committed to whatever our baseball coach says gives us the best opportunity to recruit and develop players to the best of their ability,’’ White said.

“We are the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the No. 3 team in the country. That’s pretty good. I’m going to listen to the person responsible for putting us in that position, and that’s Tony Vitello.’’

Brilliant answer.

White said he would not scrap previous renderings of Lindsey Nelson Stadium expansion because he said he could learn from them, but he is not opposed to putting his imprint or that of Vitello or an architect’s into finding the “right formula’’ for the baseball park.

“We know the stadium needs to be bigger,’’ White said.

Asked if boosters have stepped up to help pay for a raise for Vitello and/or his staff, White said “I’ve had great conversations with donors in investing in Lindsey Nelson Stadium.’’

White said he has had conversations for several months with Vitello about his contract and stadium improvements.

Vitello makes $600,000 a year (minus the paycut he took during Covid) and his deal runs through 2024.

A source said LSU was willing to pay Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan double his pay of $1.2 million to $2.4 million, and that LSU has cooled on O’Sullivan.

If LSU pursues Vitello and offers big bucks, how high is Tennessee willing to go?

Regarding other topics:

*White said he isn’t at liberty to say that Neyland Stadium will be at 100% capacity, but would be “surprised’’ if that isn’t the case, since baseball is already at 100%.

*White said it was “smart’’ to involve the NCAA “every step of the way’’ in UT’s internal investigation (led by attorney Mike Glacier) but he said he couldn’t put a timetable on when probe will be complete.

*White said the first two projects UT will undertake facility wise are renovations to Neyland Stadium, including lower West club seats behind the UT bench with premium amenities and a video board for fans on the South side of the stadium with a sports bar, party dec

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