Fan Outrage Appears To Have Scuttled UT's Hiring Of Greg Schiano

Backlash Explodes About Coach Linked To Sandusky Child Abuse Case

Sunday, November 26, 2017 - by Larry Fleming
Tennessee athletic director John Currie, visiting Chattanooga during the summer Big Orange Caravan, stirred up a hornet's nest Sunday when he was about to hire Greg Schiano as the Vols' new football coach. The reaction from fans was so ferocious Currie apparently has backed off hiring Schiano.
Tennessee athletic director John Currie, visiting Chattanooga during the summer Big Orange Caravan, stirred up a hornet's nest Sunday when he was about to hire Greg Schiano as the Vols' new football coach. The reaction from fans was so ferocious Currie apparently has backed off hiring Schiano.
- photo by Dennis Norwood

That afternoon shockwave people all across Tennessee felt Sunday wasn’t an earthquake centered in Oklahoma and caused by fracking.

It was Tennessee football fans collectively putting their feet down because of university athletic director John Currie’s trying to hire Greg Schiano as the Vols’ new football coach to replace the fired Butch Jones.

The mere fact that Currie, who is trying to make his first major hire at Tennessee, would even be considering Schiano, currently the associated head coach/defensive coordinator at Ohio State, caused a firestorm of angry reactions that would make California wildfires pale in comparison.

“I would rather go 0-12 with Butch Jones than win a natty (national title) with GS (Greg Schiano).” Cody Watkins tweeted. “Unbelievable.”

State Representative Eddie Smith, who represents Knoxville, wrote: 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.”

All the uproar began around 1 p.m. and soon after Dan Wolken, of USA TODAY, tweeted that, “Tennessee is wasting no time replacing Butch Jones as they’re reportedly finalizing a deal to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.”

Wolken also tweeted: “As the last 24 hours have evolved, Greg Schiano has emerged as the focus of Tennessee’s search. Vols have also been engaged with (Mississippi State’s Dan) Mullen, who has been trying to wait out Florida.”

Around 6 p.m. on Sunday, it was being reported that Florida had hired Mullen as its next head coach, succeeding the fired Jim McElwain.

Twenty-five or 26 years ago, Schiano might have made the perfect fit at Tennessee, but not when you drill down on Schiano’s history at Penn State.

In later testimony of former PSU assistant football coach Mike McQueary, Schiano and another assistant coach, Tom Bradley, knew that defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, their coaching colleague on Joe Paterno’s staff, was “acting improperly with young boys” years before law enforcement authorities were first notified.

That startling revelation came in testimony from McQueary that was unsealed by a Philadelphia court.

In June 2012, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 charges of sexual abuse of children and was sentenced to 30 to 60 years, basically a life sentence for the then-60-year-old. Sandusky is currently serving out his sentence at Pennsylvania’s SCI Greene prison.

In 2013, a Pennsylvania judge denied Sandusky’s request for a new trial.

Nobody even slightly linked to the horrific scandal resulting from Sandusky’s exploitation of young boys, escaped the wide net of scandal and outrage caused by the highly publicized Sandusky trial.

Not even Paterno, who reportedly knew of allegations against Sandusky as early as 1976. The Penn State Board of Trustees fired Paterno in November 2011, along with school president Graham Spanier due to their involvement in the Sandusky scandal.

Paterno died of lung cancer in 2012.

Clay Travis tweeted: Greg Schiano is a disaster of a hire for Tennessee. John Currie should resign if that’s his actual decision. Guy may have covered up child rape at Penn State. I would 1 billion % rather have (Lane) Kiffin back. (Mike) Leach would also be better. So would Bobby Petrino. Just awful.”

Andy Staples sent out this message on Twitter as the social media backlash reached tsunami proportions: “This Schiano/Tennessee thing is so weird. Fans: We hate this because of X. Traditional media types (yes, I know I am one): Nah, this is totally cool. John Currie is probably better off listening to his fans than us. They buy tickets. We don’t.”

Currie had been  silent during his search for a new coach after Jones was fired on Nov. 12 and defensive line coach Brady Hoke named as interim coach for the final two games of the season, both of which the Vols lost to finish 4-8 overall and 0-8 in SEC play.

That 0-8 finish was the first time since the conference was founded in 1933 the Vols had failed to win at least one game. The eight-loss season is the first ever recorded in 121 years of Tennessee football.

So, Currie, who was named the school’s athletic director on Feb. 28, 2017, came to Tennessee from Kansas State, where he held a similar position from 2009-17. His only two hires have been tennis coach Chris Woodruff and baseball coach Tony Vitello.

Currie and UT chancellor Beverly Davenport ran into fan discontentment when they tried to rebrand all women’s sports under the Lady Vols name. Before, the women’s basketball team led by iconic Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt had exclusivity of the brand since 2014.

This message came from Tennessee Representative Bill Lee: “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 (about Schiano) are not true, because protecting children is more important than anything.”

Lee is a candidate for governor in 2018.

And this was sent out on Twitter by @ESPNBooger: “Was told by a source I trusty nasty rumors you guys are spreading about Schiano aren’t true, he is a college coach who loves to recruit and can coach the hell out of defensive  football(.) Not a sexy hire but I like it for Tennessee(.) you fans need to get a grip on reality.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders got into the act as well: “Guess who’s the new head football coach at the University of Tennessee. Yup. The guy who covered for Jerry Sandusky.” #GregSchiano.

And former UT defensive standout Albert Haynesworth, who went on to play with the NFL Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wrote bluntly: “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!!!”

Then, this one from @BarstoolClemson: “We are accepting Tennessee fan refugees on two conditions: 1. Keep allowing us to take your state’s best recruits 2. Never utter the words “this is our year” ever again.”

The recruiting impact on UT’s 2018 class has been under assault since before Jones was fired. Four-star cornerback Jaycee Horn, of Alpharetta, Georgia, said Sunday he has de-committed to Tennessee. What was once a  19-player class, is now hovering around 10.

This tweet came from @FeelsLike98 and is directed at Currie: “If you hire a man who saw a young boy get moslested and did nothing I am permanently out on anything Tennessee related. I doubt you care but I also doubt I’m alone.”

Between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., hints started coming that Currie’s deal to hire Schiano might be falling apart under the pressure of UT fans and followers that detonated all over social media, emails and pigeons. Well, actually no one saw pigeons delivering messages, but they were seemingly falling from the sky for hours.

From Everything_TN: “Just in: Due to fan backlash, the deal between Greg Schiano and the University of Tennessee is reportedly off.”

And this from @WVLT: Breaking: Vols, Greg Schiano no longer talking deal to make Schiano UT head coach.”

This from @BuckeyesNews: Sources are saying that Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and Tennessee will walk away from each other and that Tennessee’s coaching search will continue elsewhere.”

And @AllanBell247: “Tennessee football does not belong to the Administration anymore. The fans have taken it back.”

Others were still chiming in to make sure their voices were heard.

For instance, @cammashburn wanted to say: “I am being told that the Schiano deal is falling part. My source also says that Currie has lost all support within the athletic department. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s out as AD after this situation.”

Schiano had a 68-67 record at Rutgers, but has been credited with turning around what had been considered as one of the nation’s “most downtrodden programs.” Schiano was 11-21 in two years at Tampa Bay.

State representative Jeremy Faison wrote the university: “If you hire (Schiano), the backlash will be insurmountable and devastating to the university and the state.”

(A reference was made on Sunday that Jimmy Hyams, a well-respected Knoxville radio talk show host, tweeted if Schiano were hired by Tennessee the Knoxville mayor said Sciiano would have to register as a sex offender. That came from a fake Jimmy Hyams account and has been removed from this story. Apologies to Hyams, the mayor and Schiano.)

Someone at Capitol Hill in Nashville sent: “Kiffin’s too toxic but we’ll hire someone linked to Sandusky mess.”

Again, from Jimmy Hyams: “I am told Tennessee was going to have a press conference tonight to announce the hiring of Schiano but canceled due to the protests. Unsureif it will be rescheduled tomorrow (Monday) of if the deal has fallen through. One prominent booster wasn’t happy with the Schiano hire.”

Hyams also quoted an ex-member of the Tennessee board of trustees on the matter: In the current environment you couldn’t have done anything worse than perceived to have known about Jerry Sandusky (and said nothing). You (UT) can’t take the chances. I’m speechless. Unbelievable.”

A former UT player and Vol For Life, Chad Fields sent this to the social media orbit: “Best part of all this, they just kicked (Jauan) Jennings off the team for being a “bad representation of the University of Tennessee.” Then is less than a week, hire a guy who knew of child rape, and is by all accounts a terrible person to work for and with. Tennessee football is dead.”

Several Knoxville businesses made their feeling toward Schiano known. Remedy Coffee’s Twitter account said this: Greg Schiano is not welcomed at our establishment.”

Currie may have more trouble than just his embarrassing pull-out from the memorandum of understanding he and Schiano signed. Currie, who used a third party to inform he was backing out of the deal with Schiano, also may have to work with Schiano about a compensation for the MOU that both signed. That total could be in the millions of dollars, some say as high as $20 million.

There are mixed reports as to whether Currie had knowledge of Schiano’s one-time link to Penn State, a disturbing fact since Currie said after firing Jones that he would be a “one-man” search committee. In the days since, it’s believed that former Vol quarterback Peyton Manning has had input into the search.

It will be interesting on Monday, if Currie is called on the carpet by Davenport for the amateurish handling of the Schiano weekend. Currie’s job security could be as shaky as Jones’ in his final days two weeks ago.

One last item on the subject, and it’s from @PeteThamel: Source: Tennessee has informed Greg Schiano’s reps that they are backing out of signed MOU, not hiring him.”

According to reports, Currie flew to Columbus, Ohio, to work out a deal with Schiano and the two would fly back to Knoxville for a press conference. The fans’ indignation wrecked the deal and Currie backed off.

Those same fans sent an unmistakable message to Currie. They’re watching you.

(Contact Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)



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