KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek does not commonly voice criticisms where the Vols athletics are concerned, but Thursday he made an exception for his valued colleague.
“I just told (Dave Hart) that when you were asked about your legacy, you didn’t spend enough time,” Cheek said. “His legacy is much greater than he elaborated.”
Hart modestly said he wanted his legacy to be that those who worked with him felt they were treated with respect.
It was quickly evident that Cheek holds the 67-year-old Hart in the highest regard.
Cheek, who announced in June he is leaving his post as chancellor to go back to teaching, said he was “disappointed” when Hart told him of his plans to retire from the vice chancellor and director of athletics post on June 30, 2017.
“When Dave Hart came here we were in very poor financial condition, (and) he has stabilized us financially,” Cheek said. “He has also invested in the key enterprises on the campus, and he also has a plan moving forward that’s not quite finalized yet, to re-do Neyland Stadium.”
Cheek pointed to a “surplus” that UT athletics has this year — one that will be used to pay off debt and go into a reserve fund, which Cheek said the school has never had.
Cheek also praised Hart’s hiring of football coach Butch Jones, and credited the outgoing athletic director for pressing forward with plans and fundraising for the Pat Summitt Plaza amid a challenging financial environment.
Hart also is involved in the study for another renovation to Neyland Stadium.
“Dave has had to make some very tough decisions, but every decision he’s made has been built on, number one, what’s best for student-athletes,” Cheek said, “and secondly, what’s best for the future of the University of Tennessee athletic program and the university, and that’s what his legacy is.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee athletics for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.