published Friday, April 19th, 2013

Fundraising big priority for UTC athletic director

Blue and Gold game

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Where: Finley Stadium

What's happening: The UTC football team will wrap up spring practice with a scrimmage. The No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense will take on the No. 2 offense and the No. 1 defense.

Extras: At 12:15, UTC will host a clinic for players 14-and-under. Starting at 1, free hot dogs and sodas will be available.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's search for a new athletic director went from three to two finalists Thursday after Wake Forest associate athletic director Mike Buddie withdrew his name from consideration.

That leaves two veteran candidates, both of them Tennessee natives: former Middle Tennessee State and North Carolina State athletic director Lee Fowler and University of Tennessee senior associate AD David Blackburn. Chancellor-elect Dr. Steve Angle is expected to make his decision any day now, if he hasn't already, and a UTC announcement of the new athletic director should come by early next week.

The first tasks for Fowler or Blackburn, which must begin right away, are hiring men's and women's basketball coaches. Tied to that is perhaps the most important role of any athletic director, but especially one at a mid-major school like UTC, and that's fundraising.

It's often called "development" on college campuses, and it's critical. During his campus visit Monday, the 47-year-old Blackburn said his time in Chattanooga over the years raising money for UT will serve him well in fundraising for the Mocs.

"Knowing and having the relationships with the constituents and the donors in this area, this region -- I've got great relationships that have already been built up," he said. "That gives me an advantage and I can go in and start targeting and growing the 'fanship' as well as the friendships and the donor base."

Fowler, 61, now the director of basketball operations for the Sun Belt Conference, also has experience in the area, as well as lots of experience raising money, especially for facility upgrades. During his decade at N.C. State, according to several reports, $120 million was spent on improvements.

UTC will replace the lower bowl seating at McKenzie Arena this summer, and there are many more planned improvements or construction projects on the university's campus master plan, including a much-needed football building that could cost $8-18 million.

"It seems to me that every group I met with felt like [more fundraising] was what we need to do," Fowler said Wednesday. "Being in college administration and knowing what's going on in higher [education] in North Carolina and Tennessee and all over the country, where we used to get more money from higher ed., that's being taken away and no more is going to be coming toward athletics.

"It's a combination of marketing and fundraising and getting people to support the program at a higher level. ... You want to get the entire city involved with UTC, because this campus means so much to the city."

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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