KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — John Currie celebrated his 46th birthday and officially started his tenure as Tennessee’s new athletic director on Saturday.
Yes, it was April 1 — April Fool’s Day — but Currie has a reputation for not fooling around when it comes to his duties as an athletic director.
During his 8-year tenure as Kansas State’s A.D., Currie tripled the fundraising, built more than $210 million in facilities and won Big 12 titles in football, men’s basketball and baseball.
If Currie can accomplish those things at Tennessee during the next eight years, he will have resurrected Vols athletics to the “glory” years of the 1990s.
Currie had plans to meet with football coach Butch Jones and watch parts of the Vols’ baseball and softball games, according to an interview he did with the Commercial Appeal while in Memphis earlier this week.
The Gannett-owned Memphis paper had columnist Geoff Calkins sit with Currie for a question-and-answer session.
Here are some of the questions from Calkins’ interview with Currie:
Q: What’s your thought about where Tennessee football is right now?
A: “I’m excited to get to know Coach Jones. I know Friday was Pro Day on campus and people are talking about how many NFL scouts and coaches and general managers are at Tennessee. And a number of folks have remarked to me in the last 24 hours that four or five years ago there weren’t so many.
“So clearly Coach Jones has done a great job of getting the program going in the right direction and I’m excited to continue to get to know him better and find out how I can support him more.”
Q: What are reasonable expectations for football at Tennessee?
A: “The expectations are defined by the history. Tennessee is a championship-level program and that’s where you want to get to. But one of the things I’ve learned from Coach (Bill) Snyder at K-State is what you have to focus on, and that is, are we getting better today than we were yesterday? If you get away from that principal and think about where you want to get to eventually, you’re doing it wrong. We’ve got to focus on where we are today, and will we be better tomorrow, and continue to build through that process. We all know how competitive the conference is, and how competitive college football is. Who would think that Kansas State University would have the best facilities in the Big 12 conference, better than Texas? Kansas State does. The reality of it is, as universities have been able to generate more revenue, everybody has been able to build good facilities, everybody has been able to provide great academic support, and as all those things have happened around the country in all the leagues, it becomes even more competitive. I think Coach Jones is on the right trajectory.”
Q: Have you spoken to Phil Fulmer since you got the job?
A: “As you know, Coach Fulmer is the architect of the greatest period of Tennessee football in the modern era. He’s been an inspiration to me throughout my career and he’ll continue to be honored in all the right ways. And that’s the period of time, and the kind of accomplishments, that we want to be. That represents what we want to be, and we’re going to work hard to get back to that level.”
Q: How about Memphis and Tennessee in football? Memphis has historically liked to link football and basketball. Any overarching thoughts on whether Tennessee and Memphis might play in football?
A: “I haven’t started yet, so I haven’t had a chance to consider that. I have enormous respect for (Memphis athletic director) Tom Bowen and how the program has continued to get better here. You’ve got a great coach, who replaced a great coach, so we’ll look forward to whatever needs to come down the road. But the responsibilities we have in the Southeastern Conference, where we have to play at least one game against a Power 5 school in addition to our eight conference games, and then the need to have seven games every year in Neyland Stadium, and now we’re playing a neutral-site against Georgia Tech.”