On Sunday, people took to the internet, the streets of Knoxville, and the phone lines to prevent Tennessee from making Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano its next football coach.
Word came out in the early afternoon that the Vols were closing in on Schiano, and the sudden backlash was massive, even by college football standards. Players, politicians, and fans all raged against Schiano’s hiring.
Many of them cited an allegation that former Penn State assistant Schiano had been aware of sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky. Other arguments by Vols fans included Schiano’s failed Bucs tenure, his one-game-above-.500 record as Rutgers’ 11-year head coach, the fact that his best year in the Big East was more than a decade ago, reports about many of his NFL players and even Peyton Manning hating him, his defense giving up 55 points to Iowa this season, and his perceived similarity to recently fired coach Butch Jones.
By nighttime, it was clear that Tennessee wouldn’t follow through with the hire. UT athletic director John Currie looked out of touch, careless, and incompetent.
That was an unusual day. Here were a few things about it that stand out.
1. It worked.
Tennessee fans, boosters, politicians, and alumni refused to accept the hire, and they found a way to take charge of the program.
2. Tennessee’s first-year AD, whose job is to hire coaches, might have gotten himself sidelined from hiring a coach.
Just asked a source familiar with the Tennessee search who might be offered next.— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) November 27, 2017
“Gotta see if Currie is still involved.” https://t.co/TUuJhweRq2….
3. There was in-person protesting.
One leader of the picketing in Knoxville said, “We’re reclaiming our program tonight.” That person was right.
4. Lane Kiffin, who once literally abandoned the Vols in the middle of the night, suddenly seems like a great idea.
5. One prominent Vol announced he’d choose a new college.
I’m just going to say this if we hire Greg Schiano as our next head coach my options will be open to which college program I will Be donating my TIME and MONEY to. (No disrespect to GS) but if UT leaders don’t take football serious then I will find the program that will!!!— Albert Haynesworth (@haynesworthiii) November 26, 2017
6. All of these local politicians spoke up.
@UTKnoxville if you hire him, the backlash will be insurmountable and devastating to the University and the state.— Jeremy Faison (@JeremyFaison4TN) November 26, 2017
Our Tennessee standards mean something, and a Greg Schiano hire would be anathema to all that our University and our community stand for. I sincerely hope that these rumors are not true, because even serious consideration would be unacceptable.— Eddie Smith (@RepEddieSmith) November 26, 2017
@John_Currie YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!! So you plan to hire you're close friend... someone who knew about the Penn State abuse? This says volumes about your judgement & lack of respect for Tennessee.— Dan (@DanHowell10) November 26, 2017
St. Rep Dan Howell pic.twitter.com/69TOlTTYQa
We expect the highest standards for our public institutions. The special few chosen to lead within those institutions should have a demonstrated history of integrity and character. I hope today’s rumors are not true, because protecting children is more important than anything.— Bill Lee (@BillLeeTN) November 26, 2017
7. This politician is the pro wrestler Kane.
Too many well-founded concerns about Schiano from our community. Hiring would be very unpopular and hurt UT.... https://t.co/MryvM8Qrfc— Glenn Jacobs (@GlennJacobsTN) November 26, 2017
8. A local coffee shop joined in.
Greg Schiano is not allowed in our establishment.— Remedy Coffee (@remedy_coffee) November 26, 2017
9. This is what was written on The Rock, a Tennessee icon.
The Rock on UT's campus. pic.twitter.com/aG3BXrkKOW— Louis Fernandez Jr (@LouisWBIR) November 26, 2017
The basis for this allegation was a reference to an alleged secondhand discussion. Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel, who’s covered the case, explains the origin:
From the deposition [of former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary]:
Q: “Did [former Penn State assistant Tom Bradley] tell you that he had had information concerning Gerald Sandusky and children?”
A: “He said he knew of some things. … He said another assistant coach had come to him in the early ’90s about a very similar situation to mine, and he said that he had — someone had come to him as far back as early as the ’80s about seeing Jerry Sandusky doing something with a boy.”
Q: “Did he identify who the other coaches were that had given him this information?”
A: “The one in the early ’90s, yes.”
Q: “And who was that?”
A: “Greg Schiano …”
Q: “And did he give you any details about what Coach Schiano had reported to him?”
A: “No, only that he had — I can’t remember if it was one night or one morning, but that Greg had come into his office white as a ghost and said he just saw Jerry doing something to a boy in the shower. And that’s it. That’s all he ever told me.”
Bradley and Schiano denied it when it came out.
In response to media reports from earlier today:— Greg Schiano (@OSUCoachSchiano) July 12, 2016
I never saw any abuse, nor had reason to suspect any abuse, during my time at Penn State.
10. This fake Twitter account seemed believable for a second, because this is the kind of staggering incompetence Tennessee could pull off.
Sources close to #Vols AD John Currie tell me he wasn’t aware Greg Schiano coached at Penn State - nor was he aware of the sworn testimony identifying him as having witnessed the abuse of minors -— Jimmy Hyams (@JiminyHyams) November 26, 2017
Currie only vetted Schiano’s time from his days at Rutgers thru present day
Again, that’s not real.
11. A fake Facebook account pretending to belong to the White House press secretary weighed in and got widely cited in sports media.
Also, the fake page has since been deleted or something. It’ had been posting daily for months with tens of thousands of followers. A Tennessee coaching search is what got it removed from public.
At least, I think it’s fake, but in this particular moment in both the United States and the Tennessee football program, I can’t say with certainty. The thing about the Vols is that I don’t think anyone has a firm grasp on where fantasy ends and reality begins.
12. Tennessee got itself blasted for trying to hire a former Buccaneers head coach.
This after a search that had included the following Jon Gruden-related things:
- A continuation of a decade of Knoxville infatuation with the former Super Bowl winner.
- Thousands of UT fans tuning into a live stream of an airport parking lot in the hopes that it’d reveal Gruden getting off a plane and heading to an introductory press conference at Neyland Stadium.
- A local ribs joint confirming false reports that Gruden was dining in Knoxville one night, then walking back that confirmation in an apologetic tweet.
- A fan following Currie around the stadium hollering Gruden’s name for the better part of a minute, as the AD masterfully pretends not to hear him.
13. Tennessee might owe Schiano money.
This tweet is almost certainly not correct ...
There are reports that TN will owe Schiano $20 million in a buyout for a contract that was signed but TN backed out of it. But only speculation on this. Fox Sports Knoxville mentioned this.— Brad Jones (@BradJonesBBBTV) November 27, 2017
The two sides reportedly signed a “memorandum of understanding” or MOU. As explained below, an MOU for a college coach is a formal record of the understanding between the coach and the school as to the key terms and conditions under which the university would employ the coach. Could Schiano sue the university for breach of contract, fraud or other claims? If all of the necessary parties signed an MOU, the answer would be yes.
14. Currie seemingly thought a hire of Schiano to replace Jones would go over fine.
His statement the next morning:
As we began our search for our next head football coach earlier this month, I promised that I would pour all my energy and effort into this process.
I have followed Coach Schiano’s accomplishments throughout his career and have been fortunate to get to know him and his family over the last several years. As reported by the media, he was a leading candidate for our position. Among the most respected professional and college football coaches, he is widely regarded as an outstanding leader who develops tough, competitive teams and cares deeply about his student-athletes.
We carefully interviewed and vetted him, as we do candidates for all positions. He received the highest recommendations for character, family values and commitment to academic achievement and student-athlete welfare from his current and former athletics directors, players, coaching colleagues and experienced media figures.
Coach Schiano worked at Penn State from 1990-1995. Consequently, we, of course, carefully reviewed the 2012 investigation report by Louis Freeh. Coach Schiano is not mentioned in the Freeh report and was not one of the more than 400 people interviewed in the investigation. We also confirmed that Coach Schiano was never deposed and never asked to testify in any criminal or civil matter. And, we conferred with our colleagues at The Ohio State University, who had conducted a similar inquiry after the 2016 release of testimony. I know that Coach Schiano will continue to have great success in his coaching career and wish him and his family well.
I am grateful for your patience as our search for the next leader for the Tennessee football program continues, and I look forward to making that introduction soon.
15. Now the Vols still have to hire a coach.
16. And while this was all happening, SEC East rival Florida was hiring a great head coach who happened to be the one Currie actually wanted.
Other than that, Tennessee had a smooth and positive day.