Tennessee had perhaps the biggest debacle of a coaching search in football history, needing 25 days to move from Butch Jones to Jeremy Pruitt, with multiple botched hirings and endless rumors along the way. It eventually cost athletic director John Currie his job. Months later, a UT document dump revealed it was all even worse than we realized at the time.
Let’s slog through what happened to Currie’s text message inbox once his phone number became public. It’s a cascading carnival of horrors, even by college football standards.
By the end, Tennessee fans will have bombed Currie with endless recommendations, with Jon Gruden finishing well behind Lane Kiffin in the unofficial ballot ...
I read 2,200 pages of emails to John Currie, counting every time a fan recommended a coach. Lane Kiffin got 160 votes. Some guys who got 1 vote: Doug Pederson, Steve Spurrier, Hugh Freeze, a middle school coach and...Greg Schiano? pic.twitter.com/vHrJEkBF38— Max Olson (@max_olson) March 26, 2018
... but more than a month earlier (the day after Tennessee got trampled by Alabama, in fact), the Lane train’s conductor is a person with the same name as an SEC consultant who used to be Mississippi State’s AD:
A few more days of calm.
Currie eventually responds to this former Vols QB with approval, but things are on pins and needles for a while:
And a few days after Tennessee lost to Kentucky, it appears a former Johnny Majors player has nominated his old head coach, who was once replaced by Phillip Fulmer (foreshadowing):
Otherwise, lots of normal business and discussions about scheduling meetings.
But then the armies of orange appear on the e-horizon.
The unrecognized numbers begin, arriving from Tennessee and Virginia area codes. The Vols are preparing to beat Southern Miss, though Jones’ job is already toast.
Those scouts disperse, and unfamiliar numbers are replaced for a while by the names of people Currie knows IRL. Recruits call him “Coach Currie.” Former QB Joshua Dobbs keeps in touch. A former UT player offers a pep talk:
Nov. 12: Currie fires Butch Jones.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey encourages Currie to “go get a good one.” Currie advises a recruit to hit the books. Meetings. Ainge wants help quelling Grumors.
Interim coach Brady Hoke, who’ll go on to star on Currie’s other phone by sending all-caps texts ...
JOHN I KNOW THIS HAS BEEN HARD DAVE BRANDON HAS GONE THRU THE MOB MENTALITY AS I HAVE IT MADE ME BETTER AND IT SUCKS. WE ARE BEHIND YOU AND IF I CAN BE OF ANY HELP LET ME KNOW
JOHN THIS IS BRADY IN ATLANTA RECRUITING
JOHN I HOPE YOU DO KNOW I WOULD LIKE TO BE YOUR HEAD FOOTBALL COACH I DO KNOW THE ENVIRONMENT WE LIVE IN AND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AT TENNESSEE!
JOHN VERY SORRY TO HEAR WHAT HAS HAPPENED THIS IS THE BULL CRAP THAT COLLEGE FOOTBALL HAS BECOME. IF I CAN BE OF ANY HELP PLEASE LET ME KNOW.
... makes his first appearance on the original phone, with a reminder about contacting recruits:
Currie sends someone a link to this very website:
Larry’s back with another idea:
And then this happens, right before this whole story launches into absolute chaos.
The Greg Schiano allegation sent by an unrecognized number is unverified and dubious, though it’s certainly a fair reason to question a hire and will soon be cited en masse by Tennessee fans, along with complaints about his head coaching record, lack of experience coaching offense, lack of ties to the South, losing record against Butch Jones, and so on.
Sexton is a star agent whose clients include Schiano, and Wolken is a writer for USA Today, adding some irony into this message from Currie to his coaches a month prior:
Thirteen minutes after the exchange with Wolken, here they come. Note the timestamps. Outrage continues at this pace for pages and pages and pages.
Within 30 minutes, Currie’s been added to at least one group chat. Alongside all the angry messages and calls for UT to instead hire Kiffin or Tee Martin or Gruden or literally anyone besides Schiano, people begin cataloguing normal life events: “Anyone see the wizards blow a 17 point fourth quarter lead last night?” Take note of that.
Things like this happen:
I really want to thank the Tennessee fan who put this in the middle of ten straight pages of screaming at Currie, no explanation, no follow-up, no preface pic.twitter.com/cCnmzOeskc— BUM CHILLUPS (@edsbs) March 26, 2018
After 60 pages’ worth of texts — not 60 texts, 60 pages of them — the first hour of the onslaught ends.
It then ramps up, with 161 pages’ worth of texts in the second hour alone. More calls for Kiffin, Gruden, Martin, Dan Mullen, Jeff Brohm, Chris Petersen, Kevin Sumlin, and so on.
Just checking the hour two mark, where the person who’s claiming to approve of the hire is calling from the hometown of the Kentucky Wildcats:
“Your trash” continues for six more pages after this one:
People are dumping in links, including tweets mocking the Vols, a fake Sarah Huckabee Sanders Facebook account that somehow fooled half of college football media, news about Schiano’s discomfort with the fan reaction, something about Memphis’ new poll ranking, a former local high school QB’s film (someone claiming to be the high school QB will also show up five days later, requesting to be hired as head coach), and video of a Georgia coach who can jump high:
He probably can’t:
Someone announces their fantasy football weekend depends on Doug Baldwin, who finishes with 25 yards and no touchdowns against the 49ers.
Several backlashers send Currie this tweet about the backlash against Currie:
Tennessee Comm staffer: “Currie knows about backlash & it’s not going as planned”— Trey Wallace (@TreyW_SEC) November 26, 2017
We’ve now reached 287 pages’ worth of texts in three hours.
“KANE IS WITH US,” someone shouts, as the WWE wrestler and Tennessee politician weighs in:
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
About a billion messages later, a chunk between 6:06 p.m. ET and 9:53 p.m. ET disappears from the records.
And the volume is only increasing, because group chats are now fully underway.
Well after midnight, NFL debates take over:
It’s now Monday morning, and Currie’s replaced his phone with a new one, to which Hoke will send all-caps texts.
Currie will be recorded using Phone 1 at least once more, so there’s still a chance he happens to see anything on Phone 1 from this point forward.
So what’s happening on Phone 1? Well, someone shares facts about sloths as some fans discuss novelty rapper Lil Pump and the following two tweets compete for group chat attention:
don’t fuckin call urself festive if u can’t fit an entire christmas tree in ur ass— RAY (@LUClDITY) November 26, 2017
We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2017
Followed by science class:
All-caps round-earth skeptic “Bill” is actually not Brady Hoke. “Bill” later says the all-caps strategy is meant to impress “median voter” Kane on Twitter, but the yelling just reminds his buddies of a Bernie Sanders parody account. I’m just reporting what’s in the document.
Back on Earth, news breaks of Texas A&M hiring Jimbo Fisher. One group chatter recommends “BOBBY MOTHER FUCKING PETRINO!!!!!!!!!!!!!” for the Vols as another shares a Domino’s Pizza deal. The idea of hiring Kiffin, with Martin as his OC, remains a ceaseless drumbeat.
Finally, some talk about the 2014 Bitcoin Bowl:
The single wildest detail from any of this: someone recommends Jeff Fisher.
Topics: pizza, more bitcoin, Tee Martin, porn, the Loch Ness monster, and at least the third different podcast. These kids (at this point, it’s definitely kids) have so many podcasts.
Someone recommends Pruitt! The guy Tennessee actually hired! The 423 area code who texted late Monday night is the first one I noticed who recommended the real-life thing that happened. I don’t think it happened again after that, at least not on Phone 1.
If Currie happens to look at Phone 1, he watches as strangers live-text video game commentary to him. A different 336 number says some stuff I only understand well enough to know that it’s racist. Another podcast.
They’ve essentially created a whole message board in Currie’s inbox, as horrible as that sounds.
Tuesday. At this point, at least one of the who-knows-how-many live chats has almost accepted the silent Currie as a peer.
Another podcast is posted.
Remember that message from Schiano agent Jimmy Sexton back on Sunday, right before the world collapsed? Exactly three days after it, here are the shambles of that very same inbox:
Back in the regular universe, Tennessee’s connected to Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm, part of a flurry of like 293 different coaches being tied to the job. The group chats talk themselves into Brohm, who had “more SEC wins than Tennessee this year,” via beating Mizzou. Arguments for Kiffin continue. Brohm falls through, so it’s on to NC State head coach Dave Doeren.
Hiring a Kiffin/Martin combo right at this moment on Wednesday would’ve gotten Currie promoted to governor, I think.
Around the time a “fire Currie” chant breaks out at a Vols basketball game, followed by “we want Kiffin,” someone notes a Hire Kiffin petition has reached 4,000 names.
Now it’s time to live-text Property Brothers.
This shows up:
As does this:
SING US A SONG YOUR A SCHIANO MAN pic.twitter.com/Q2aMYZNry9— PFTCommenter (@PFTCommenter) November 30, 2017
Oh, here comes emoji-heavy, Christmas-themed porn spam.
By now, Doeren is spoken of in the same “if you hire this guy, I will cancel my season tickets” terms as Schiano once was. This gets dropped into like four different chats ...
... as at least one group pivots to live-texting Tiger Woods’ round at the Hero World Challenge. Here’s the first time I’ve ever seen FOIA proposed in a FOIA dump:
Some Vols suggest going rogue:
Nothing redeemable has happened on Phone 1 in nearly a week. Suddenly, this appears to be the Arkansas State head coach’s agent shooting a shot:
More porn spam.
Early morning, day six: “Fuck this shit ‐ I’m drinking fireball.”
Later that day, Currie is fired.
Some people taunt Phone 1. Some, including Butch Jones, wish him well. Some call for Fulmer to replace Currie, which happens. Fulmer hires Pruitt, bringing the whole screeching disaster to a bland halt. Fantasy football debates continue throughout.
Currie’s final straw, we’ll learn, has something to do with trying to hire Leach while hampered by faulty Delta wifi.