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Tennesee hires Danny White as AD. What does it mean for Vol football?

A college athletics director does a lot more than hire football and basketball coaches. But there's nothing an AD does that's more important than hire football and basketball coaches, and that's especially true in this situation.

Tennessee is hiring Danny White away from UCF to be its AD, and there's few things White does better than hire coaches. There's few ADs who do anything better than White hires coaches.

He hired Lance Leipold from Wisconsin-Whitewater to be the head coach at Buffalo. After a slow start in his first three years, Leipold has Buffalo at 24-10 over their past three seasons with two MAC East titles and an AP Top 25 finish in 2020.

He promoted Nate Oats to be Buffalo's head men's basketball coach when Bobby Hurley left for Arizona State. Oats took a good program and made it better, reaching three NCAA tournaments in four years, winning first-round games and 59 total games in 2018-19 before leaving for Alabama.

He made Scott Frost a first-time head coach at UCF, then watched Frost turn in an undefeated season in his second year on campus before leaving for Nebraska.

He then made Josh Huepel a first-time head coach when Frost left; Heupel is 28-8 with a conference title in three seasons.

None of those four had any head-coaching experience at the Division I level, all four either turned around struggling programs or improved upon existing ones.

What does this mean in the immediate context of Tennessee football?

Well, it means the Vols can reasonably expect their next football coach to be a good one. The proof is in the pudding here. It doesn't necessarily mean the hire will be an unknown with little big-time experience -- in fact, I'd bet against that -- but it may mean the hire comes off the beaten path of usual suspects.

It also means Kevin Steele shouldn't get too comfortable in the head coach's chair.

Tennessee appointed the former Vol acting head coach upon sweeping out head coach Jeremy Pruitt and AD Phillip Fulmer on Monday, and the smart money was on Steele shepherding the program through an extended interim period as the UT brass conducted an extended search for an AD.

That search lasted all of three days.

White is a mover and shaker, and it's unlikely he sits on his hands for 11 months while Steele leads the program. Either Steele leads Tennessee to another sub-.500 season, which makes White's job harder, or he exceeds expectations, which also makes White's job harder. White was hired to move Tennessee football into a new era, and letting the 62-year-old Steele move the furniture around for a year does nothing but delay the inevitable.

The Vols lost four starters to the transfer portal just yesterday, and letting Steele coach this season guarantees the 2022 team would be the program's third coach in as many seasons. The program needs stability, and keeping Steele as head coach prolongs instability. No one said that more clearly than White's predecessor.

"I knew we need stability and continuity at Tennessee, and our next football coach needs to be on our sideline for 10 years or more, and I am confident that we will find that coach," Phillip Fulmer said Monday.

That search begins in earnest today.