Dave Hart was introduced as Tennessee’s new vice chancellor and athletic director Monday night.

“Everyone I called about Dave Hart started out and said his character, his integrity and his honesty is superb,” UTK Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said. “He has 20 years of experience as athletic director at two major institutions.”

Hart was the athletic director at East Carolina from 1987-95, then at Florida State from 1995-2007. Most recently, he was the executive director of athletics at Alabama.

“He knows how to manage and lead athletic programs, coaches and staff,” Cheek said. “He has a strong commitment to academics. He has seen many national championships and he wants to see a lot more right here in Tennessee. He committed to Tennessee for the long-term.”

Hart was the Athletic Director of the Year for the Southeast Region in 2000 and 2005 while at FSU. He also is a recipient of the Robert R. Neyland Award, named for the former UT football coach, which honors lifetime achievement.

“It’s a privilege — I want to stress that word — it’s a privilege to be named vice chancellor and director of athletics at the University of Tennessee,” Hart said. “Being trusted to lead one of the elite programs in America. I don’t take that position lightly. There aren’t very many programs in the United States, a handful at best, who have the rich history, tradition and resources that exist here in Knoxville, Tenn.”

Hart will replace Joan Cronan, who served as the school’s interim athletic director following the resignation of former men’s athletic director Mike Hamilton in June. Cronan will return to her role as women’s athletic director until June 2012.

“I’ve known Dave for a long time. I’ve had a lot of respect for him as a colleague and as a leader,” Cronan said. “I think he’s the right person to take Tennessee to the next level.”

Hart said he’s excited to inherit an athletic program with a legend in Pat Summitt, as well as three relatively new coaches in football (Derek Dooley), men’s basketball (Cuonzo Martin) and baseball (Dave Serrano).

“You could look down the road five years and be talking about three of the greatest coaches in the country,” Hart said. “I think you’ve got three young people who have all the right tools that you need to be successful.”

He said one of his first goals will be to bring back the people who have made UT athletics what it is today.

“I know the history and I’m aware that there are still wounds out there for a variety of reason. But I think that’s not where your focus should be. Your focus should be on getting those people back. They all love Tennessee to the fullest degree possible.”

But at the end of the day, Hart believes athletics is just a part of a university.

“Athletics has never been, should not be and never will be the most important thing of a university campus,” he said. “But it is absolutely the most visible element within that university’s structure.”