Tennessee needs to get this hire right

The early word out of Tennessee is that chancellor Jimmy Cheek favors bringing somebody in from the outside as the Vols’ new vice chancellor/director of athletics.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean somebody with Tennessee ties will automatically be ruled out, but it does mean that Cheek will initially set his sights on established athletic directors at other schools.

Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart told The Lexington Herald-Leader that he has no interest in the Tennessee job, but four others to watch could be Missouri’s Mike Alden, South Carolina’s Eric Hyman, Louisville’s Tom Jurich and Wake Forest’s Ron Wellman.

All four were mentioned as possibilities when Tennessee promoted Mike Hamilton in 2003 to replace Doug Dickey.

Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer has received strong support from former players and some high-profile boosters, but there’s also a faction of people out there who don’t want to see Fulmer back as athletic director.

He very much wants to help his alma mater and would certainly listen, but he’s made it clear that he wants it to be right for everybody.

In a lot of ways, bringing in a Tennessee insider or somebody that truly understands Tennessee and has a feel for its inner-workings could help speed up the process of uniting what is clearly a fragmented “Tennessee family” right now.

Mark Dyer would certainly be one of those guys. He’s a Tennessee graduate who came up through the ranks with Host Communications and the Vol Network and is now a senior vice president with IMG Worldwide. He was formerly an executive with NASCAR.

Former Tennessee defensive back Charles Davis, now an analyst with FOX Sports, is somebody else who may get a call and has been recommended to members of Tennessee’s board of trustees.

Whoever it is, one thing had better happen on this new athletic director’s watch, or Tennessee will find itself in this same position five or six years from now.

The football team has to get back to playing for and winning championships and doing it the right way.

Former Tennessee president Joe Johnson (who incidentally got it) used to say that the athletic department, and specifically the football program, was the front porch of the university.

Well, that porch in Knoxville lost its curb appeal some time ago.

The pressure’s on Cheek to find the right person to help Derek Dooley get it back.