KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee planned to cut ties with athletic director Dave Hart and not renew his contract when it concluded, according to correspondence between school officials.
“While the Jane Doe, Title IX lawsuit was pending, we agreed that any action with respect to Dave Hart’s contract and employment should be delayed because of our significant concern about the impact on the lawsuit and settlement discussions,” UT President Joe DiPietro said in an Aug. 10 email to a number of top school leaders, including Cheek, who made the initial decision not to extend the contract.
DiPietro added: “For the reasons we have discussed concerning what is in the best interests of the University, including the fact that a new Chancellor will assume office within the next year, I agree with your decision not to extend Mr. Hart's contract for two years with increased compensation.”
The UT president sent the email to Cheek, UT deputy general counsel Matthew Scoggins, UT general counsel and secretary Catherine Mizell and UT Board of Trustees member and local developer Raja Jubran. WBIR 10 News obtained the email under the state’s open records law.
Hart announced Aug. 18 he was retiring effective June 30, 2017, in part to allow Cheek's replacement to select a new athletic director. Hart's contract was set to expire Sept. 20, 2018.
Cheek announced in June he was stepping down.
The announcement of Hart’s retirement came after multiple sexual assault cases against university football players, a $2.48 million settlement due to a federal gender discrimination lawsuit, the removal of the Lady Vols name for all sports except women’s basketball and the departures of a number university leaders in the athletics and academics departments.
UT named Hart vice chancellor and director of athletics on Sept. 5, 2011.
Hart hired football coach Butch Jones, soccer coach Brian Pensky, men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes, women’s basketball coach Holly Warlick, track and field coach Beth Alford-Sullivan and named Matt Kredich to lead a combined swimming and diving program.
Prior to coming to Tennessee, Hart held leadership in the athletics departments at East Carolina University, Florida State University and the University of Alabama.
Hart played basketball at Alabama and graduated in 1971. He earned his master's degree from Alabama in 1972.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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