At a press conference on November 12, after firing Head Coach Butch Jones, Tennessee Athletic Director John Currie made the following statement, “We will begin an exhaustive search for the person of the HIGHEST integrity and character, with the skills and vision to propel Tennessee to championships.”
This past Sunday, Currie tried to hire Greg Schiano the former Rutgers and Tampa Bay head coach and current defensive coordinator at Ohio State. Once word began to spread that Schiano would be the next head man at Tennessee, an outpouring of protests began on social media and on campus as Tennessee fans, former players, politicians, and local businesses almost 100% rejected that decision, causing Currie to back out of the memo of understanding with Schiano.
While many people in the media and the protesters focused on Schiano’s alleged role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, my first reaction to outright rejecting the idea of Schiano as the new Tennessee Head Coach had nothing to do with the scandal but rather because Schiano was never on my list of potential solid candidates to be head coach at Tennessee and I felt the athletic department could do much better.
Yes, Schiano did a wonderful job of turning Rutgers from a doormat to a competitor in the Big East Conference from 2001-2011, but his overall record in the conference was 28-48 and finished only one season (2006) ranked. The former Big East is no SEC when it comes to football. Add on to that the fact that Schiano is basically a more aggressive, defensive-minded Butch Jones known for bullying and rubbing his players the wrong way. That would not have flown here in Knoxville.
When rumors that Schiano would be the next head coach began to swirl, I told my friends and co-workers. Their response was mostly disappointment and annoyance. That initial reaction had nothing to do with the Sandusky Scandal (those details surfaced later), but it had everything to do with Schiano as lousy a choice and Tennessee AD Currie for making that lousy choice.
Another reason the national media has focused on is that Tennessee fans were going to reject everyone not named Jon Gruden becoming head coach at Tennessee. Honestly, I never believed Gruden was coming and, despite what many fan message boards would have you believe, most Tennessee fans did not believe that either. Honestly, just mentioning Jon Gruden in your article and the clicks will start pouring in. Again it is Schiano the fans did not want.
Yes, Tennessee is coming off its first ever 4-8 season and first ever winless season in the SEC, but the cupboard is not bare. There is still plenty of talent on Rocky Top plus the fanbase will get behind a coach they can believe in. There are still plenty of coaches out there who would have been a much better choice including, Mike Leach, Lane Kiffin, Kevin Sumlin, Bobby Petrino, Mike Norvell, Jeff Brohm plus many others who do not have the baggage or attitude Schiano would bring.
Would the fans be 100% behind any of these hires? Probably not, but there would not have been an absolute backlash like the one that happened on Sunday. Tennessee fans have become sick and tired of being stuck in mediocrity since Philip Fulmer was forced out at the end of the 2008 season. After bringing in Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, and Butch Jones, Vol Nation was not ready to accept another pretender head coach. Tennessee is a top 10 program all time in the history of college football and fans, administrators, former players, and even politicians should want a coach who can get us back to that level. Tennessee has the money and resources to get a coach like that. Remember, Alabama had been wallowing in mediocrity in the decade prior to Nick Saban arriving on campus.
Vol Nation became fed up with how things were going and made their voices heard and for once, the men in power listened to the people. Now AD John Currie has to bring in another coach to guide the Vols and the fans will be there in full voice when the 2018 season kicks off against West Virginia.