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Danny White: Input from football team leaders needed before coaching search can begin

A smart approach.

Mike Bianchi: After UCF scrutiny, Florida politicians kill FAU naming rights deal with Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Danny White has arrived on Rocky Top. Tennessee’s new director of athletics was introduced today and faced questions from the media. Of course a lot of those questions had to do with his upcoming search for a new head football coach.

It’s something White has been very good at during his career, dating back to his days at Buffalo. White hired six-time D3 champ Lance Leipold, who has since turned the Buffalo program around and attended three consecutive bowls. He then went to UCF and hired Scott Frost to turn around an 0-12 football program. Two years later, that group went undefeated. Josh Heupel has since kept the winning ways going at UCF after Frost left for Nebraska.

Now he’s set to take on his greatest challenge yet — hiring the man that will fix Tennessee football. The Volunteers went 3-7 in 2020, firing Jeremy Pruitt after an internal investigation into his staff’s recruiting. Since 2008, the Tennessee football program has churned through five different head coaches. Finally though, it certainly feels like the University has the right leadership in place up top to find some stability — that goes for both White and Chancellor Plowman.

So how will White approach such a crucial hire? He wants to go to the source — the student-athletes on the football team — to find out what it is that they need.

“I’m meeting with the football team later this afternoon,” White said. “I’ve never started a coaching search without meeting with the student-athletes. They know what’s going on. What’s going well, what’s not going well. I want them to vote on team leaders, I can’t meet with 100 people and have a meaningful meeting. I want to meet with six, seven, eight, nine of them. I’ll ask that group to share with me what the thoughts are, what’s they think they need in terms of attributes. That’s helped me in every search that I’ve been a part of.”

That’s a brilliant and refreshing answer. Sure, he probably already has a few names in mind, but getting the opinion of those players that have been inside of the program over the last few years is an important detail to know.

This interaction could also go a long way in keeping the roster together at a tumultuous time. We’ve seen a ton of transfer portal entries already, perhaps this gesture stops the bleeding and maybe even sways a couple of players back to Knoxville.