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Maisel: UT Administration Has Used Athletic Department “As An ATM”’s Ivan Maisel writes today that one reason Butch Jones was tabbed as Tennessee’s new football coach — in addition to Louisville’s Charlie Strong changing his mind at the last minute — was to help AD Dave Hart convince the academic side of UT to ease up on its practice of milking the athletic department dry.

Maisel writes:


“The university administration has used the athletic department as an ATM, saddling it with financial responsibilities that the Vols’ SEC competitors don’t have.  Hart wanted his new coach to be able — and willing — to explain how that financial burden translates onto the field.”


We’ve scoffed at the overblown notion emanating from Knoxville that Tennessee’s academics have become just too darn hard compared to its SEC neighbors.  One, the folks pushing that story are either fired ex-UT football coaches or friends of those coaches.  Two, even people who’ve pushed that stance like Phillip Fulmer and longtime defensive coordinator Keven Steele were willing to move back to the school if they could get enough booster support (in Fulmer’s case) or get a slick salary (in Steele’s case).  So things aren’t so bad that the folks moaning about academics wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to coach at the very school they say has become too tough.

Also, regardless of how true the academic issues are — and there’s a grain of truth there, not a silo full, but a grain — we haven’t heard James Franklin whine about academic issues hindering his recruitment of players to Vanderbilt.  In fact, he’s used Vandy’s academic standards as a plus, not a minus on the recruiting trail.

The same can be said for the coaches at Northwestern, Notre Dame and Stanford… all of which have just a tad tougher academic requirements than the Harvard of the Smokies, UT.

That said, Maisel is dead-on when it comes to his comments about Tennessee’s administration requiring the athletic department to give millions back to the school each year (as if being the advertising “front porch” for the university weren’t enough of a return).  There’s a reason UT’s athletic department currently has the smallest emergency cash fund in the Southeastern Conference and that’s the fact that the Vol athletic department returns an abnormally large portion of its revenue to the academic side of the school.

Jones has a reputation for running a sound ship academically.  That might make his words more impactful to a group of academicians who are dead set on “getting theirs.”

UT’s new coach might simply need to convince Tennessee’s top brass to pick up a copy of Aesop’s Fables.  “Killing The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs” might make for an interesting read.



I think the academic issue at UT was that there were specific standards that athletes were being held to that were higher than anywhere else in the SEC. Vanderbilt's academic reputation is certainly gaudy, but that doesn't mean that every athlete there is being held to a particularly high standard for admittance. As a private university, they probably have the most leeway of any in the SEC in admitting players.

db20207 1 Like

To be fair, the reason UT's athletic department has little to no emergency cash fund is because they are paying fired coaches and administrators, fan apathy has lead to a lack of ticket sales, and decided to fund a multimillion dollar practice facility.  Sure the academic contribution is a big part of that, but it's not like it is an unexpected cost. Also, it's not like Tennessee is the only athletic department forced to contribute to the academic side of things. Contributing factor? Absolutely. Sole cause? No way.  


As an aside is it really too much to ask that an athletic department bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars contribute to the academic side of things?  


"Harvard of the Smokies" love that comment. UT using academics as an excuse for poor sports teams while Vandy continues to rise in all sports is funny to me. Maybe the NCAA investigations played a part in that. As a Tennessee taxpayer I'm actually glad the athletic department is funding academics. 


Vandy is finally doing the opposite they are starting to use that huge bank account on the academic side and funding the athletics department..

SEC fan
SEC fan


This whole Vandy academics thing is a joke!  My friend played football for Vandy after 2 years in the 5th grade, graduating #78 in our senior class of 120 with a 2.8 GPA and took classes at Peabody like Health and Music Appreciation in which he simply had to show up until they took role and then he left.  So give me a break with this whole Vanderbilt education nonsense because it is a HOAX!!

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