No doubt Danny White is his own man with his own set of inexhaustible ambitions.
He transferred from Towson to Notre Dame as a senior, made the basketball team as a walk-on, and played a bit role on the 2002 NCAA Tournament team. He became director of basketball operations and an assistant coach while pursuing a master's degree at Ohio University so that when he became an athletic administrator he'd have had those experiences.
White's career in athletics has taken him from Ole Miss to Northern Illinois to Fresno and back to Ole Miss, each move expanding his responsibilities and know-how. And if he hadn't done enough by age 32, on Tuesday White was introduced as the new athletic director at the University at Buffalo, where he'll oversee a department needful of his greatest strengths: fundraising and community outreach.
While White's story is his own, there are inescapable parallels between him and the man who preceded him, current University of Connecticut AD Warde Manuel. Both were highest-level student athletes, Manuel having played football at Michigan. Both have been avid in their pursuit of advanced academic degrees, with White being a dissertation away from his doctorate. Both came to UB from the athletic administrations of BCS automatic-qualifier institutions where fundraising played a vital part in their work. Each rose to the job of athletic director while still in their 30s.
White, rumored as a finalist for the Ole Miss AD job two months ago, becomes the youngest AD among Football Bowl Subdivision institutions.
"You guys got a good one," said Lynette Johnson, executive associate AD and senior woman administrator at Ole Miss. "I've been here 20 years, so I've gotten to work with Danny both of his stints here. Dynamic, first of all. He's going to give it everything that he has. He's going to put together a fantastic plan for Buffalo athletics."
"The pool was very deep this time and had a lot of very good candidates," said Kathy Twist, UB's women's tennis coach and a member of the last two AD search committees. "Danny is one of the great candidates that we saw and I'm so happy that he's accepted this job. He brings a lot of enthusiasm to the job, a lot of energy, and he's had a wealth of experience. You love to hear that someone's been a student athlete, that he's been a coach, that he's been in administration. And also that he's done some fund raising. So he's been out in the community and he's had success at all those things."
White projected a confident ease during his introduction before an overflow audience in the screening room at the Center for the Arts. He pointed out his wife Shawn and thanked her for supporting "our" career as they've hop-scotched around the country with three children ages 2 to 7. He thanked his father, Kevin, who broke away from his job as the AD at Duke to witness his son's ascent. White was light on specifics regarding his new job, saying "I don't even know where the restroom is yet." His start date will be sometime next month and contract details must still be finalized.
"We're going to work from the very beginning on a strategic plan to present to the community, hopefully in short order," White said. "Those things take time. I want everyone to have input on that process, coaches and staff alike."
White said construction of a football practice facility/community field house remains a department objective, as it was under Manuel. And, like his predecessor, White will put a premium on strengthening ties between both the community and some 200,000 alumni.
"There's a population base here that we're going to work very [hard] to reach out to to take ownership over this athletics department," he said. "I feel like the foundation is in place. There's tremendous potential to make those strides, but it will only happen if this community takes ownership. That's something we'll be preaching daily."
White's fundraising background surely increased his appeal. Manuel came about halfway to realizing the $25 million needed to construct a field house and considered its absence the lone regret upon his departure to UConn. Also, the financial wars within the MAC continue to escalate, with institutions seeking new revenue streams to support their athletic programs. Akron recently hired Jim Tressel, the former Ohio State football coach, ostensibly to oversee fundraising and strengthen community ties. White's background in that arena caught the interest of men's basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon, a member of the search committee.
"He's got a tremendous background for raising money and increasing revenue," Witherspoon said. "He's passionate about it. He enjoys it so it's not '[sigh], Oh, we got to raise money.' You can tell he really enjoys it. His mind is always spinning, trying to think of ways to bring additional revenue in. I think he'll get to people and I think it's great because we're coming off a time where the Murchie family donated a million dollars, so there's some momentum going in that direction already."
Fortifying the athletic programs financially loom as the next phase in their development.
"I think so," Witherspoon said. "There's some things that we need and most of them are relative to increasing the revenue, whether facilities or what it is. It's that next step."
White returned to Mississippi from Fresno in 2009 to become executive director of the UMAA Foundation, which raised slightly more than $17 million each of his two years. But his contributions to athletics extended beyond the financial arena. He played an instrumental role two months ago in the hiring of Adrian Wiggins as Ole Miss women's basketball coach. The two had worked together at Fresno State.
"The way that we work here with our executive staff, we all work well together," Johnson said. "Even though he was our fundraising arm or our foundation arm, Danny was intimately involved with our programs and wanted us to be successful."
UB's emphasis on academics was part of its appeal to White.
"UB is an incredible opportunity," he said. "This is a world-class institution. . Because of that academic profile there is no limit to [how] high we can take UB athletics, and that's something that is very exciting to me."
He promised that UB athletics will operate with integrity and in the best interests of the student-athlete, hire the best staff and coaches and institute "an innovative and entrepreneurial business model" while striving to win championships.
"And that's the last piece, competing for championships," he said. "That's what we're in this thing for. That's what we want to do."
White owns "rising star" status, according to the UB news release which already begs the question: How long will he be around?
"The MAC conference is a stepping stone conference," said Dennis R. Black, co-chairperson of the AD search committee. "It has a great history and tradition of coaches and athletes and athletic administrators who are building their programs and then moving to the next level. UB's trying to drive to that next level as well so we're excited by that.
"It gives us the opportunity to attract people who are up-and-comers, people who are going to make a difference in their profession and for our university."
In other words: Not forever.