The University of Tennessee at Martin is mourning the loss of former UTM athletic director Phil Dane, who passed away last week at the age of 68.
A Martin native who lived in Memphis in recent years, Dane landed his first of many positions at UT Martin in 1979. His job titles included internal auditor, director of financial affairs and assistant vice chancellor for business and finance before he was elevated to the role of vice chancellor for business and finance in 1987. He was appointed as the university’s director of intercollegiate athletics by Chancellor Philip Conn in 2000, a position he held until Dec. 31, 2013. Following his retirement, he returned to campus as a student-engagement consultant from 2014-19.
In his role as athletic director, Dane helped transform the Skyhawks into a perennial Ohio Valley Conference contender in mostly every sport. During his 14 years leading the athletic department, 10 different UT Martin sports programs combined for 34 conference or regional championships. That number includes 20 OVC championship squads – 14 of which came over his final five years in that role. Five Skyhawk sports programs (volleyball, football, men’s basketball, softball, soccer) won their first-ever OVC title under Dane’s watch as athletic director while UT Martin additionally produced 19 All-Americans during his tenure.
Academically, the Skyhawks set school records for OVC Medal of Honor (perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average) recipients and OVC Commissioner’s Honor Roll winners (at least a 3.25 GPA) in three straight years under Dane. He also oversaw 10 of UT Martin’s 18 all-time OVC Scholar-Athletes, an award which is considered as the league’s highest individual honor.
Dane was inducted into the UT Martin Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015 and was just enshrined in the OVC Hall of Fame last year – becoming only the third Skyhawk representative to earn that honor.
To this day, Dane’s impact is still felt on the UT Martin campus. A big part of his legacy was a $50 student fee increase in the fall of 2007, which generated roughly $600,000 annually and provided salaries for five additional positions within the athletic department. Almost $2,000,000 in private funding was raised while Dane was in charge of Skyhawk Athletics, leading to facility upgrades at Hardy Graham Stadium and the Rhodes Golf Center, amongst other amenities. The Graham Stadium pressbox, a facility that was spawned by Dane, opened in time for the 2016 football season and includes the “Phil Dane Athletic Director Suite” on the third floor.
An Air Force veteran, Dane was a three-year letterman in baseball at Tennessee Tech before graduating in 1978. He earned his Master’s degree from UT Martin in 1984. He is survived by his wife Debbie and daughters Shelly, Katie and Abbey.