Tennessee backing out of deal with Greg Schiano after fan backlash

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Tennessee officials have called Greg Schiano’s representatives and told them they are backing out of their agreement to make him the next football coach at Tennessee. There’s a signed Memorandum of Understanding between Schiano and athletic director John Currie, which they agreed to and signed in Columbus earlier today.

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Tennessee’s reverse course came after significant backlash online and on campus to Schiano’s hiring. Some of the backlash was tied to Schiano’s link to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, which Tennessee officials vetted while pursuing Schiano. In a deposition, former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary said he was told by another assistant coach, Tom Bradley, that Schiano had told Bradley that he had seen Sandusky “doing something” with a boy in a shower. The allegation was hearsay and Schiano was never charged with a crime or sued in civil court. Schiano and Bradley have publicly denied the allegations. Bradley has testified under oath he knew nothing of Sandusky’s actions.

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But the backlash exploded on Sunday afternoon, including vitriol on Twitter and a painted rock on Tennessee’s campus.

Tennessee was closing in on a deal with Greg Schiano on Sunday afternoon before fan backlash. (AP)
Tennessee was closing in on a deal with Greg Schiano on Sunday afternoon before fan backlash. (AP)

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like this,” said a veteran athletic director. “Within the industry, there was an understanding that he’d been cleared. But now with the way the fan base has responded, who will be willing to take that job?”

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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