Tony Basilio, host of the The Edge radio program on WVLZ radio in Knoxville, TN, is reporting that Western North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler is considering taking a job as the athletic director of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he gained national attention as a top quarterback in the early 1990s.
The report comes as the Democratic congressman, who has represented the 11th district of WNC since 2007, faces an upcoming primary challenge from Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell ahead of the 2012 election. The lines and demographics of his district are also in question, as the first Republican N.C. General Assembly in 140 years prepares to release its redistricting plans on July 1.
Shuler’s possible interest in the athletic director position has not yet been confirmed by Xpress. But what do you think? Despite his powerful position on the House Budget Committee, his national prominence in the wake of his failed attempt to be minority leader, and his fundraising prowess, does this seem like a job that Shuler would potentially find appealing enough to leave his congressional seat for? Do you think he’s concerned that Bothwell could beat him in the primary and he’s exploring his options? Or do you think he’s concerned that the Republicans in the General Assembly might gerrymander his district to hurt his chances of reelection? (Some have speculated that Republicans will try to dilute Democratic voters in the 11th district by syphoning a slice of Asheville voters in to the more safely conservative 10th district, which is currently represented by Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry).
Please feel free to weigh in with any thoughts in the comment section below.
Here’s some of the highlights from Basilio’s blog posts:
Extremely solid sources (involved in the process) tell me that Heath was approached about the possibility of being AD @ UT right after Hamilton stepped down and he was receptive enough to do some personal due diligence.
From this end, Shuler has in the past 9 days gotten in touch with both Phillip Fulmer and Johnny Majors for the purpose of seeking permission/support. I was told last night that both leaders of UT faction families have given their verbal blessings to their former quarterback in seeking the UT AD post.
From where I sit, this would be a real home-run. He’s a guy who could unify the fan base and would we excellent from a fund raising capacity. He’s also got a tough, competitive side and would demand excellence that has slipped from UT’s programs in recent years.
I understand that Shuler has expressed the desire for a couple of concessions if he were to leave the US Congress to do this. One thing Shuler wants in a long-term contract that I’ve been told is in the 7+ year range.
When this breaks today, expect him and UT to deny this but believe me, he’s very much in play. Will it happen? Stay tuned.
Wasn’t it interesting that people were talking Heath Shuler yesterday after it broke in this space that he was in play for UT’s vacant Athletics Director position?
Yes, Shuler is in play. Yes he did call Phillip Fulmer and Johnny Majors to get their thoughts on this potential opportunity but he hasn’t been offered the job. In fact, Tennessee hasn’t ‘offered’ the job to anybody as of yet.
But, the memo here is don’t count out Shuler. He’s on the radar screen and anything can happen.