Danny White and the First Family of College Athletic Directors

Tennessee's new AD comes from a family of college sports administrators, who are surely thrilled that one of their own has arrived at the big time.
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The White Family Group Text is always buzzing with activity.

Of Kevin White’s five children on the message chain, you can count on Maureen, the oldest of them, for the jokes. From everyone else, you can count on sports talk. After all, three of the children followed in their father’s footsteps as college athletic administrators—Danny, Brian and Mariah—and a fourth, Mike, is the head basketball coach at Florida.

Congrats on the win! is commonplace.

Good luck tonight! is, too.

And then there’s Maureen, the outlier in this group as the only sibling not working in college athletics (she’s a creative writing teacher in Arizona).

“She is the furthest thing from sports,” Danny says.

Today, the White Family Group Text must be ablaze.

danny-white-ucf-tennessee-AD-hire-family

The middle child of longtime college AD Kevin White, Danny has arrived at the big time. On Thursday, Tennessee hired him away from UCF, plucking a legacy in the college athletics world to revive a once proud and storied SEC football powerhouse. His task is tall: Hire the fifth head football coach on Rocky Top in the last 11 years, restore competence to an athletic department in shambles, maneuver around impending NCAA sanctions and appease one of the country’s most fervent fan bases.

There’s plenty of time to write about Danny White’s plan to restore order in Knoxville, but that’s not what we’re writing about today. Instead, you’ll read about who Danny White is, where he comes from and how he’s part of what might just be the first family of college athletic administrators.

After all, his dad was AD at three major college schools, his younger brother is AD at FAU and his younger sister is an assistant AD at SMU. His mother is a former coach, and his older brother has spent the last six seasons leading the Gators on the hardwood.

“We’re not smart enough to do anything else,” White said a few months ago from the club level of UCF’s football stadium. “We don’t know any better.”

White was born in a college town, Morehead, Ky. (his father was the track coach at Morehead State), and he was raised in college towns as dad Kevin hopped around as AD of Loras College, Maine, Tulane, Arizona State and Notre Dame. Danny was already in college by the time his father moved to South Bend and then took over at Duke in 2008. Danny left Towson’s basketball team—he wasn’t playing much and he had a bad knee—to finish his college career at Notre Dame.

“I saw I could get free tuition at one of the best business schools,” he says, smiling.

Sports in general were big with the Whites. The boys played hoops, and the girls swam competitively. Moving around so much, the White children bonded with one another rather than with other kids. They are two to three years apart, except for Mariah, who is the baby by seven years.

No matter where they moved, the Whites had some form of a home basketball court or goal. In Maine, where outside basketball wasn’t always ideal, the White boys created their own shooting area in the family’s basement.

“Remember the Jordan Jammer basketball hoops?” White asks.

The hoops were attached to a plastic or wooden poll. Danny and his brothers detached the goal from the poll and then nailed it to the basement rafters.

At their next stop, New Orleans, they spent Friday nights shooting the basketball on the concrete driveway until around 2 a.m., when neighbors would complain about the bouncing of the ball.

While in New Orleans, the White family grew close to Archie Manning and his family. In fact, the Manning and White kids, around the same age, would sometimes play together. Still to this day, Kevin and Archie are friends. Danny stays in touch with the Manning kids, one of who is, of course, Tennessee legend Peyton.

“Good hire!” Archie wrote to Sports Illustrated in a text Thursday.

The White kids, meanwhile, are as close as they ever were. They’re not kids any longer. They have a combined 14 children of their own. They all vacation each Fourth of July together on the east coast of Florida, each of them a self-proclaimed terrible surfer, Danny says, but they do it anyhow.

“We enjoy getting beat up by the ocean,” he says.

None of them really ever imagined they’d follow their dad into college sports. It just, kind of, happened. He talks about it with his siblings often. How did we end up here?

“You get to that point in your life, going into your senior year of college, ‘What the heck am I going to do?’ ” Danny says. “Now I couldn’t really imagine being away from it.”

Meanwhile, the White Family Group Text is probably as active as ever today, with jokes, congratulations and attaboys. Danny’s landed at the big time. And he’s got big-time problems to fix, too.