Danny White is leaving the UCF Knights program to become the new athletic director at the University of Tennessee. The story was first reported by Dan Wolken of USA Today:
BREAKING: Tennessee hiring UCF's Danny White as AD. Deal is done. https://t.co/jNQFf6xu9r— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) January 21, 2021
The news may not be a surprise, but it is a shock to UCF.
The University of Tennessee welcomes Danny White as its new Director of Athletics.— Tennessee Athletics (@Vol_Sports) January 21, 2021
White came to UCF from the University at Buffalo and took over for George O’Leary, who resigned as interim A.D. and head football coach following the dreadful start to the 2015 football season.
He immediately oversaw the hiring of several new head coaches who quickly turned around their respective programs, including Scott Frost, Johnny Dawkins, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, John Roddick, Greg Lovelady, and several others.
White also oversaw UCF’s dramatic move into the national spotlight with its 2017 national championship claim, as well as College GameDay coming to UCF in 2018. UCF’s elevation to a national brand grew tremendously due in part to this:
UCF AD @UCFDannyWhite says they're the national champs pic.twitter.com/quXYvQuCgl— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) January 1, 2018
Money was definitely no object for Tennessee as White is receiving a king’s ransom to move to Knoxville. His annual salary at Tennessee is set to be $1.8 million dollars, which is double what his predecessor, Phil Fulmer, made. Including annual performance bonuses, White could end up at $2.1 million per year, more than double what he was making at UCF. White’s $1.8 million is slated to be more than any other athletic director in the SEC and one of the top five in the country per the athletic director salary database.
While at UCF, Danny White was the highest paid athletic director in the state and in the Group of Five. He made $1.08 million in salary and another $250k in other compensation. The Knights won’t go away empty-handed though. Since White is bring hired away prior to May of this year, there is a $2.5 million dollar buyout due that Tennessee is willing to pay. Considering the budget issues arising from COVID-19, the buyout will help lessen the blow.
As White departs UCF, he leaves a farewell note to Knight Nation. Here it is in full:
“While I am very excited about the opportunity to become the next Director of Athletics at the University of Tennessee, this was an excruciatingly difficult decision for us as we have absolutely loved our time here at UCF.
“As I stated when I took the job, our goal was to become one of the nation’s premier destinations for coaches and student-athletes. I also had a goal to excite our student body, staff and faculty, alumni and the Central Florida community. With the tremendous support of our student-athletes, coaches, staff, donors, students and all of Knight Nation, we certainly accomplished those goals. I want to especially thank all of our Shareholders Society members who really stepped up over the past five years to help us build a monster Athletics Department.
“I’d like to thank President John Hitt for giving me the opportunity to come to UCF, President Dale Whittaker and Interim President Thad Seymour for all of their support, and, obviously, President Alex Cartwright. Under Alex’s leadership, the future is very bright at UCF. It was extremely difficult to tell Alex that I was leaving as he is a tremendous leader and friend. UCF is definitely in great hands, and I look forward to watching continued success of this phenomenal University. The White family will always be Knight fans!”
January 21, 2021
UCF says it will now begin the search for a new athletic director.
UCF will immediately begin a national search for a new vice president and director of athletics following Danny White’s departure to the University of Tennessee.— UCF (@UCF) January 21, 2021
This story is developing and will be updated.