published Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Lee Fowler offers UTC experience

Lee Fowler, the third candidate considered for athletic director at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, makes a statement to the press Wednesday inside the university center.
Lee Fowler, the third candidate considered for athletic director at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, makes a statement to the press Wednesday inside the university center.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Last but not least, there's Lee Fowler.

The third finalist for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic director job made his visit to campus Wednesday. Now the decision is up to chancellor-elect Steve Angle, with input from interim chancellor Grady Bogue. An announcement from UTC naming the Mocs' new athletic director is expected to come by early next week.

For Fowler, a 61-year-old Columbia, Tenn., native, coming to UTC isn't about one last job before retirement, he said. Fowler was the athletic director at Middle Tennessee State from 1994-2000 and then spent a decade at North Carolina State.

Getting back to Tennessee is just one of Fowler's goals. After serving as the director of basketball operations for the Sun Belt Conference the past few years, following his split with the Wolfpack in 2010, the former Vanderbilt basketball player said he missed the college atmosphere.

"Doing that [at the Sun Belt] made me realize that I wanted to be back on a college campus," he said during his news conference Wednesday. "I really missed the interaction with student-athletes and getting to know them and seeing them start as wide-eyed 18-year-old freshmen and then seeing them graduate and becoming young professionals. ... I missed not being engaged like that."

Of the three finalists, Fowler is the only one that has been atop the masthead of an athletic department. He's also the only one that has been responsible for hiring and firing. Two of the initial things the Mocs' next athletic director will have to do is hire men's and women's basketball coaches.

Fowler, who had mixed results with his hires at N.C. State, said he didn't know if his experience will separate him from the other finalists -- Tennessee senior associate athletic director David Blackburn and Wake Forest associate athletic director Mike Buddie.

"You'll have to ask who's making the decision," he said. "I don't know if it does or not. ... I've had a lot of experience, a lot of good experience at great universities, so hopefully that helps me."

One of the hires Fowler made at N.C. State was Kellie Harper as the women's basketball coach, in 2009. Harper, the former UTC assistant under Wes Moore, beat out Moore for the job. Harper was fired in March, after four seasons, by athletic director Debbie Yow, who hired Moore away from UTC.

"I should have thrown away my file [on Moore] when I left," Fowler joked, "because [Yow] must have gone in my desk where I left all those files and realized how good he was."

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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