After the unprecedented twists and turns that transpired with the Tennessee coaching search on Sunday, Vols athletic director John Currie released a statement.
On Sunday afternoon, news emerged that Tennessee was finalizing a deal to make Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano its next head coach. However, after a tidal wave of backlash from the Tennessee community, the deal was taken off the table Sunday night, even after, as Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported, a Memorandum of Understanding between Schiano and Currie was signed earlier Sunday in Columbus.
In the statement, Currie said Tennessee “carefully interviewed and vetted” Schiano, who “received the highest recommendations for character, family values and commitment to academic achievement and student-athlete welfare from his current and former athletic directors, players, coaching colleagues and experienced media figures.“
Much of the contention with the Schiano hire stemmed the coach’s time as an assistant at Penn State from 1990-1995, when Jerry Sandusky, convicted in 2012 on 45 counts of child molestation, was defensive coordinator.
As detailed by Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel, former PSU assistant Mike McQueary, who has said he walked in on Sandusky with a boy in 2001, said in an August 2015 deposition (unsealed in July 2016 as part of Penn State’s civil case with its insurance company) that he once discussed Sandusky with another PSU assistant, Tom Bradley. McQueary said Bradley said another assistant in the early 90’s, Schiano, mentioned “seeing Jerry Sandusky doing something with a boy.”
Currie said Tennessee “carefully reviewed the 2012 investigation report” into the Penn State scandal by former FBI director Louis Freeh and “confirmed that Coach Schiano was never deposed and never asked to testify in any criminal or civil matter.” Currie said the school also “conferred with” Ohio State, “who had conducted a similar inquiry after the 2016 release of testimony.”
After McQueary’s deposition was unsealed, Schiano released this statement: “I never saw any abuse, nor had reason to suspect any abuse, during my time at Penn State.”
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Here is Currie’s full statement:
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 athletic 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.
As Wetzel detailed, Schiano was never close to being brought up on charges:
McQueary is merely repeating a story he says he heard from Bradley about what Bradley said Schiano said to him. This is multilayer hearsay and not immediately admissible in any court of law. McQueary never asked Schiano about it and the two never worked at Penn State at the same time.
Bradley testified under oath that he had no knowledge of Sandusky’s actions, meaning it’s his sworn testimony against McQueary’s. This is a non-specific allegation based on a second-hand account recalled at least a decade after the fact. It’s also possible McQueary never mentioned it to anyone else despite years of being a cooperating witness for prosecutors desperately seeking just this kind of information. Yet it’s taken fire.
No charges were ever brought against Schiano. No victim sued him for not reporting it at the time, despite dozens of Sandusky victims having active legal representation and Schiano being a very rich and famous football coach. No victim ever came forward alleging Schiano witnessed he and Sandusky in a shower.
With Schiano, the former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, no longer an option, Currie, hired away from Kansas State in February, will carry on with his search to find Butch Jones’ replacement with the scrutiny at an all-time high.
With Schiano out of the picture, Tennessee’s search will now become the most followed in all of college sports. Considering Currie, who is in his first year as athletic director, received considerable criticism for not firing Butch Jones earlier in the year, he already has a rocky relationship with the Tennessee fan base.
Currie’s credibility as athletic director will be tied to the quality of candidate Tennessee can bring in, as Tennessee’s switch on Schiano won’t be attractive to potential candidates. Currie’s accountability for the failed hire will likely come into focus, as prominent politicians around the state got involved in speaking out against Schiano.
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