The Tennessee Football Debacle: Misfiring on Greg Schiano

By now, everyone is aware of the crazy day that affected University of Tennessee football. On Sunday, news broke that Tennessee Athletic Director John Currie was nearing an agreement with Ohio State Defensive Coordinator Greg Schiano to become Tennessee’s next head football coach. He would replace the recently fired Butch Jones.

The Tennessee Football Debacle: Misfiring on Greg Schiano

Greg Schiano
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on during a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Ohio Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State won 48-3. – Getty Images

When it comes to the college game, Schiano is best known for his time as the coach of the University of Rutgers. The New Jersey native took the perennial doormat, and made them a relevant football team during his tenure there. While he did not win any major titles at the school, he did take Rutgers to an 11-2 record in 2006. Plus, they won the Texas Bowl against Kansas State that same year. His ability to do well at Rutgers is a major point on his resume.

However, it wasn’t something that happened right away. If you look at his record there a bit more closely, it took him four years to finally turn the team around. Making his first bowl game in 2005 at 7-5. Past the 2006 year, Rutgers made four more bowl games under Schiano (2007-2009, 2011) all wins. Schiano finished with a 5-1 record in Bowl games, and the team’s success under Schiano led to Rutgers joining the Big Ten starting in 2012.

Going to the NFL

Greg Schiano
Greg Schiano, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, watches action during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Tampa, Florida. San Francisco won the game 33-14. – Getty Images

After leaving Rutgers in 2011, Schiano was hired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He coached there for two seasons. Posting a 7-9 record in 2012. Then, a 4-12 record in 2013. After the 2013 season, he and the general manager were fired. However, it wasn’t only for the team’s play on the field. Schiano also gained a bad reputation in the National Football League. Particularly, for a bad attitude and treatment of his players. Even being called a bully.

Back to College

Then, in 2016, Greg Schiano was hired by Ohio State as their defensive coordinator and associate head coach. However, it didn’t all come up roses. Shortly, after the hiring, a report surfaced regarding Schiano’s time at Penn State. There, he served as a graduate assistant, and later, a defensive backfield coach. In July 2016, Washington Post reporter Cindy Boren reported that Schiano knew about Jerry Sandusky acting improperly with children years before law enforcement was first notified. The following are quotes from the linked article:

“Former Penn State assistant coaches Greg Schiano and Tom Bradley knew that Jerry Sandusky, their colleague on Joe Paterno’s football staff, was acting improperly with young boys years before law-enforcement authorities were first notified, according to testimony from former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary that was unsealed Tuesday by a Philadelphia court. McQueary, who testified in Sandusky’s 2012 criminal case that he had told Paterno of seeing Sandusky rape a boy in 2001, said in the 2015 deposition that he had “briefly” discussed with Bradley what he had seen.”

“He said another assistant coach had come to him in the early 1990’s 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 1980’s about seeing Jerry Sandusky doing something with a boy,” McQueary said. According to McQueary, Bradley identified Schiano, now the Ohio State defensive coordinator, as the other assistant. In response to a question about whether Bradley had shared details of what Schiano had said, McQueary related a conversation with Bradley. “No,” McQueary replied, according to the documents, “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.”

This account in the court documents made it appear that Schiano was aware of Sandusky’s actions. Schiano later told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Bradley also denied those allegations. However, the allegations are now public record. This is what mostly led to the actions of Tennessee fans on November 26, 2017.

Full disclosure, I am a Tennessee fan.

Greg Schiano
The Tennessee Volunteers Pride of the Southland Band marches into Neyland Stadium prior to the season finale against the Vanderbilt Commodores on November 25, 2017 in Knoxville, Tennessee. – Getty Images

I have grown up rooting for Tennessee football all my life. I have followed the team through the Heath Schuler and Peyton Manning high points. Not to mention, the low points of Derek Dooley’s tenure. And even this year’s historic (for Tennessee) eight loss season. On Friday night, I started following the coaching search rumors regularly. Paying close attention to the Tennessee Volunteers subreddit. And watched as people worked themselves into excitement discussing various names in the Tennessee head coaching search. One name, however, was met with universal negativity. Greg Schiano.

Tennessee fans did not seem to like the thought of Schiano being the next head coach. Whenever someone would ask why the negativity towards Schiano, they were told of the allegations mentioned above. Tennessee fans, not deciding on right and wrong, but just plainly did not want someone with those allegations as their next head football coach. Rumors built over the weekend that Schiano was the leading candidate. Thus, the extreme displeasure expressed by fans saying they would not support the team if he’s named the head coach. Not helping matters either, self-identified boosters saying they would withhold donations if Schiano was hired.

Sunday afternoon, news broke that Schiano was indeed negotiating with Currie on a contract. Protests began outside the stadium. The Rock on UT’s campus, (a rock open for graffiti for students to decorate) stated, “Schiano covered up child rape at Penn State.” State representatives tweeted and otherwise expressed their displeasure with the hiring due to the allegations. Even local businesses tweeted about not allowing Schiano in their establishments. This type of uproar was unheard of at Tennessee, or in college football for that matter, over a possible head coaching hire. Tennessee fans wanted to make a statement about this decision. There’s an old adage that says

“football fans would support Charles Manson as long as it helped them win.”

This shows there are things fans do not support, for the sake of a winning team.

Not Knowing

What did John Currie say during all this uproar? Nothing. There wasn’t even a statement from Currie saying he was negotiating with Schiano. Nor, was there even anything about if he had asked Schiano about the Sandusky trial allegations. Currie said he did after the fiasco. However, why not be more clear beforehand? Or even during all of the things happening at the school? At the end of the day, this failed more because Currie didn’t do the proper work. He didn’t check with those above him, or even put out a trial balloon. Had he done these things, perhaps this entire thing could have been avoided. Instead, you just get the end result.

The Aftermath: It was a Disaster

Sunday evening saw the news that Tennessee fans’, boosters’, and alumni’s outrage was heard by the school. Schiano was no longer a candidate for Tennessee’s head coaching job. Although, an agreement was signed by Currie and Schiano, the University of Tennessee backed out of the deal. So, the big response caused an uproar big enough to cause waves. Now, the university could face a lawsuit from Schiano over money owed due to the contract. However, is that the only thing? Could Currie be fired for not doing due dilligence? And most of all, who difficult does this make the coaching search going forward?

The fact that there is a sector of fans wishing for the return of Lane Kiffin should show how bad this was handled. There many saying that the backlash came because Schiano was not Jon Gruden. Although, Currie painted the fans a pretty picture of Gruden coming, I have to respectfully disagree, on why the fan uproar happened.

Five years ago when Butch Jones was hired, he was greeted with huge levels of warmth and optimism. Gruden was first choice then as well. Perhaps, it wasn’t as loud a voice then, but he was. The allegations against Schiano, (although unfair, since nothing has ever been proven), is what derailed his tenure at Tennessee. However, this whole debacle, ultimately lies at the feet of John Currie for letting it get this bad in the first place.

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