White replaces Phillip Fulmer, who announced his retirement Monday. White's first order of business will be to hire a new head football coach after Tennessee fired Jeremy Pruitt for cause on Monday amid an investigation into alleged widespread recruiting improprieties.
White took over as UCF's vice president and director of athletics in late 2015. He has experience in the SEC and was senior associate athletic director at Ole Miss from 2009-12.
He said the decision to leave UCF was a difficult one.
"While I am very excited about the opportunity to become the next Director of Athletics at the University of Tennessee, this was an excruciatingly difficult decision for us as we have absolutely loved our time here at UCF," White said.
"I am thrilled to be headed to Knoxville and to a university with a great competitive tradition and a spirited and devoted fan base. Volunteer fans have an expectation to win, and my first task will be taking on the search for a new head football coach. But I want all Vols to know that I am deeply committed to excellence in all of our athletic programs."
"Danny White is an innovative leader in college athletics with a strong track record in recruiting and developing leaders," Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman said. "He brings the combination of winning attitude, competitive drive, and dedication to integrity and academics that we are looking for."
A former college basketball player at Towson University and Notre Dame, White is the son of former Duke athletic director Kevin White. Danny White's brother, Mike, is Florida's head basketball coach.
White's salary at Tennessee will be $1.8 million with an annual increase of 5%. He will be eligible to receive up to $300,000 annually based on team athletic performance, team academic performance and departmental operational goals.
In addition, Tennessee and/or White are responsible for a $2.5 million buyout that White owes UCF. Also, Tennessee will continue to pay Fulmer $450,000 annually through the remainder of his contract, which runs through Dec. 31, 2023.