University of Tennessee: How they Botched The Hiring of Greg Schiano

Sunday, November 26, 2017, should have been a happy day in the life of Ohio State Defensive Coordinator Greg Schiano. He had just begun to put the final touches on a contract that would make him the head coach of the University of Tennessee. What happened next would become one of the most egregious meltdowns by an academic institution ever in the history of college sports.

In what was an absolutely wild day, Greg Schiano will not be the head coach of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Reports surfaced Sunday morning of Schiano taking the job. Nevertheless, things fell apart after Tennessee fans, boosters AND politicians absolutely melted down on social media. The meltdown at Tennessee was due to a fan base that has had a fantasy for months that former Oakland Raider and Tampa Bay Buccaneer head coach Jon Gruden would leave his cushy job on Monday Night Football to come to Knoxville. Actually, there was never anything out there in the realm of reality to support that idea.

Volunteers’ Athletics Director John Currie was put in a terrible spot of hiring a coach who wouldn’t be Gruden. This would end up being a disappointment to the Volunteers nation. As the story goes, Currie had looked at Iowa State’s Matt Campbell. However, the $9 million buyout was too rich for his liking. Currie then looked at Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, but SEC rival Florida snatched him up. These failures put further limits on Currie’s options. So, he knew he had to make a move.

Enter Schiano into the fold. Schiano is a serious ball coach. One who ran a disciplined program on and off the field at the University of Rutgers. As head coach from 2001 to 2011, Schiano made a dead-end program relevant. He got to six bowl games in his last seven seasons. Thus, making the program attractive enough that it was acceptable to join the Big Ten. He was a relentless recruiter, tapping into Florida and Ohio and putting players in the NFL. Also, Urban Meyer and Bill Belichick endorsed him as one of the game’s finest defensive minds. He would have been Tennessee’s most accomplished head coaching hire since they lured Johnny Majors from Pittsburgh in 1977.

Tennessee officials worked on finishing a deal with Schiano on Sunday. Meanwhile, students, alumni, and even politicians began making anti-Schiano statements. Some were even mobilizing a protest on campus.  The purported reason behind Tennessee fans’ anger has to do with his time as a 25-year old assistant just starting his career at Penn State. Supposedly, Schiano was the “unnamed assistant” in the Jerry Sandusky scandal in Mike McQueary’s 2015 deposition. This was NEVER corroborated by anyone and complete hearsay. However, that did not matter to Vol Nation, and they scuttled contract talks.

However, Tennessee fans must understand that their behavior Sunday might have completely hurt the program. Their fan base will forever carry the stain inside the profession of scuttling a deal for a competent head coaching candidate. They may have also tarnished the image of Greg Schiano going forward. Especially, as a candidate for ANY job that opens up around the country. All in all, the University of Tennessee completely botched the hiring process. Consequently, they will be very lucky if they will find someone to even want to coach their program going forward.


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Nick Ficorelli
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